JERUSALEM (Jun. 19)
President Shazar entrusted Finance Minister Levi Eshkol tonight with the task of forming a new Government required by the surprise resignation of David Ben-Gurion as Prime Minister and Defense Minister. Mr, Ben-Gurion also resigned last Sunday as a member of Parliament but reversed that decision under pressure of his Mapai colleagues.
The President acted after completing consultations with leaders of Israel’s political parties, all of whom took the position that Mapai, as the nation’s biggest party, should have the Premiership. After receiving his mandate to form a new Government, Mr. Eshkol told the President that he hoped to complete that task by Friday.
Mapai formally named Mr. Eshkol for Premiership when a deputation called on the President last night in the first round of Presidential consultations on formation of a new government. The deputation told the President that it regarded the makeup of the existing coalition Government as most suitable. At an earlier Mapai executive session yesterday, Mr. Ben-Gurion again indicated that his decision to resign as Prime Minister and Defense Minister was final.
A Herut deputation told the President that the right-wing party wanted to remain in the opposition and did not desire new elections. The deputation said that the party would weigh its future stands on the projected new Government’s position on the issue of West German scientists working on advanced weapons system for Egypt.
The Liberals told the President that they did not wish to join the next Government. The National Religious Bloc said the situation presented an opportunity to widen the coalition and to invite other parties to share the responsibility of government.
MAY HOLD DEFENSE PORTFOLIO FOR SEVERAL MONTHS
There was a general belief that Mr. Eshkol would hold his Finance post and add the Defense portfolio for two or three months as the only way to sidestep difficulties blocking quick formation of a new Government. Such arrangements would be based on an understanding that the disposition of the two portfolios would be considered at a later date.
The problems arose from the fact that Mr. Eshkol wanted to retain the Finance Ministry which would mean that he could not succeed Ben-Gurion as Defense Minister. The availability of the latter Ministry would cause a crisis, observers felt, because both Shimon Peres, the Deputy Defense Minister, and Moshe Dayan, Agriculture Minister–both are members of the Mapai party–would probably seek that Ministry. Both would be opposed by Achdut Avodah and some factions within the Mapai party.
Mr. Peres has not, so far, indicated he would continue as Deputy Defense Minister, but it was assumed he would do so if the portfolio was retained by Mr. Eshkol as the new Prime Minister. Another unexpected problem arose when Mr. Dayan informed the Mapai secretariat he did not wish to serve in the next Cabinet as Agriculture Minister. Mr. Eshkol indicated he would seek to persuade Dayan to change his mind but the former Chief of Staff said his decision was final and that he wanted to devote the next two years to study and to writing a book.