Mapai Vote Backs Eshkol Against Ben-gurion on ‘alignment’ Issue
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Mapai Vote Backs Eshkol Against Ben-gurion on ‘alignment’ Issue

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Prime Minister Levi Eshkol emerged victoriously this morning from a turbulent eight-hour meeting of the Mapai Secretariat on the issue of alignment with Achdut Avodah.

Eighteen members of the Secretariat voted for the Prime Minister’s proposal which stated that negotiations to the present time formed a basis for alignment between the two labor parties. The lone vote against the proposal was made in a letter by former Premier David Ben-Gurion.

The complex understanding called for an independent Achdut Histadrut faction within a joint Mapai-Achdut electoral bloc. Mr. Ben-Gurion bitterly opposed what he called an arrangement giving the Achdut party the status of a minority dictating to a majority in Israel’s Federation of Labor. The agreement also provided for Mapai readiness to postpone electoral reforms to which Mapai had committed itself under Mr. Ben-Gurion’s leadership as Premier.

Two Secretariat members, Justice Minister Dov Joseph and Knesset Member Yona Kesse–the latter a follower of former Histadrut Secretary-General Pinhas Lavon–abstained. Agriculture Minister Moshe Dayan reportedly took no part in the voting though he attended the meeting which lasted from 6:30 Monday evening to 2:30 this morning.

Joseph Almogi, Development and Housing Minister, threatened initially to vote against the proposal. He voted for it after he was promised that the question of assuring Mapai’s majority in the Histadrut was still to be taken up with Achdut negotiators.

The vote ended one stage of the Mapai internal conflict. The Secretariat resolution will now be brought before the Mapai central committee with a recommendation that it be approved. It was agreed at the same time that the question of electoral reform, which Mr. Ben-Gurion had insisted was inseparable from any alignment pact, will be discussed at the next Mapai convention.

Supporters of the Eshkol proposal included Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir, Foreign Minister Golda Meir, Knesset Member Akiva Govrin, Deputy Premier Abba Eban and Tel Aviv Mayor Mordechai Namir. Jewish Agency Executive Chairman Moshe Sharett and Mrs. Meir sent their supporting votes in writing.


In ending the debate, Premier Eshkol said he hoped that Lavon’s followers would not break with the party. If they did, he added, and joined Achdut Avodah, there would be no alignment. Mr. Lavon, who was forced out as Israel Defense Minister and later as Histadrut Secretary-General, as an aftermath of a disastrous Israeli security mishap in 1954, did not react to Mr. Eshkol’s warning.

Achdut leader and Labor Minister Yigal Allon welcomed the vote. He said it would result in a “great change” in Israel’s society. The Liberal party’s Izhar Harari, however, saw a danger in the alignment to private initiative in Israel. He said the alignment efforts were “signs of weakness” in the two Labor parties. Binyamin Avniel of the right-wing Herut party also described the prospective alignment as “destructive” to Israel’s economic affairs.

During an earlier debate in Jerusalem, Premier Eshkol had warned Mr. Ben-Gurion against renewal of “affairs” which he said might endanger the State. This was a reference to Mr. Ben-Gurion’s seeking to reopen the smouldering “Lavon Affair” by presenting a “White Book” to Justice Minister Joseph and asking for a new investigation of the celebrated case, in which Mr. Lavon was repeatedly exonerated by a variety of committees of responsibility for the 1954 mishap. The case was reportedly under review again, this time by Minister Joseph. A report is expected within a month.

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