Eshkol Refuses to Back Lavon for Candidate in National Elections

Negotiations for an alignment of Premier Levi Eshkol’s Mapai with the Achdut Avodah, another labor group, were snagged today over what initially had been a secondary issue.

The issue was the place of Pinhas Lavon, a Mapai leader and central figure in a 10-year controversy over responsibility for a disastrous security mishap which occurred when he was Defense Minister. Forced out of office in the controversy, he continued his fight for vindication. That fight led to a head-on clash with then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.

The complicated alignment proposal called for an independent Achdut Histadrut faction within a joint Mapai-Achdut electoral bloc and Mapai consent to postpone electoral reforms to which Mapai had been committed under Mr. Ben-Gurion’s leadership as Premier.

The snag was the disclosure that Mr. Eshkol was not prepared to fight to have Mr. Lavon’s name included in the joint Mapai-Achdut list for the next general elections to Parliament and to Histadrut. Non-inclusion in turn raised the prospect that Achdut would not continue with alignment talks and that Lavon’s followers in Mapai might quit their party and join Achdut which has consistently championed Mr. Lavon’s case in the simmering controversy of the 1954 mishap. Mr. Ben-Gurion’s followers in Mapai and Histadrut oppose alignment if Mr. Lavon’s followers walked out of Mapai.

Meanwhile, the opposition left-wing Mapam party called on Achdut to discontinue the talks with Mapai and to join with Mapam. Lavon followers in Mapai will meet next week to decide on a final course of action.

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