JERUSALEM (Jan. 16)
Moshe Sharett, former Prime Minister and ex-Foreign Minister of Israel, now chairman of the Jewish Agency executive, made public today a sharp letter to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, criticizing the latter for some remarks on the Jewish Agency made by Mr. Ben-Gurion during a debate in the Knesset (Parliament) here last week.
In the Knesset debate, a representative of Agudat Israel had reprimanded the Government because an El Al passenger plane, bringing some Bar Mitzvah boys to Israel, had landed at Lydda Airport on a Friday evening, after sundown, thus violating the Sabbath. Angered by this attack, Mr. Ben-Gurion told Parliament that the flight of the boys had been sponsored not by the Government, but by the Jewish Agency.
“The Government is not the Agency’s master,” Premier Ben-Gurion continued. “The Agency is an autonomous institution. I do not know what this institution does–the Government is no more responsible for this institution than it is for the activities of Agudat Israel.”
In his rebuking letter to Mr. Ben-Gurion, Mr. Sharett stated: “It is one thing to be not responsible for acts of certain institutions, and another to claim ignorance of its activities.” Recalling that, for 13 years prior to the establishment of the modern State of Israel, Mr. Ben-Gurion had been chairman of the Agency, Mr. Sharett held that the Premier “could hardly be ignorant of what the Agency does.”
He pointed out that Mr. Ben-Gurion himself has presided over the periodic meetings of the Agency-Government Coordinating Board, set up under an agreement between the Government of Israel and the Word Zionist Organization, citing the fact that Mr. Ben-Gurion had been “the spons or and principal architect” of that agreement.
The Agency chairman cited a long list of activities in the field of immigration, absorption of newcomers, settlement, education and other spheres to the credit of the Agency. “Has it not come to your knowledge, ” he asked the Premier, “or. have you forgotten what the Jewish Agency, through Keren Hayesod, had done to increase the voluntary efforts of the Jewish masses toward the upbuilding of the country, the financing of its activities, and first and foremost immigration absorption and settlement?”
The letter concluded by stating that “heavy responsibility” for the Knesset statement rests on the Premier “even if the remarks were a slip of the tongue in the course of a heated debate.”