TEL AVIV (Nov. 8)
A group within the pro-Government Mapai Party, headed by Pinhas Lavon and known under the name Min Hayesod (“From the Roots”), broke away last night from the Mapai and proclaimed itself as an independent movement dedicated “to the reformation and realignment of the labor movements in Israel. “
The secession was voted by members of Min Hayesod after an all-day meeting, by a vote of 136-2. All who voted for the split from Mapai turned in their Mapai Party membership cards on the spot or pledged to send their membership cards to the Mapai Secretariat. Earlier in the day there had been 160 at the meeting, but about 22 of the Min Hayesod members had left before the voting.
The split had come just as Prime Minister Levi Eshkol had hoped to patch up differences between Min Hayesod and Mapai. He had written a letter to Min Hayesod, virtually canceling the ouster of Mr. Lavon from leadership in the labor movement. Mr. Lavon was removed from the post of Minister of Defense in 1955, when David Ben-Gurion held him responsible for a major “security mishap” that had never been explained publicly. In 1961, Mr. Ben Gurion, then Prime Minister, had Mr. Lavon removed also from the secretary-generalship of Histadrut, Israel’s Federation of Labor.
Sharp differences have developed between Mr. Eshkol and Mr. Ben Gurion, during the last few weeks over the move by Mr. Eshkol to reinstate Mr. Lavon as a Mapai leader. Mr. Ben Gurion has threatened that he would not permit his name to be placed on the Mapai list for the elections to the next Knesset, if Mr. Lavon’s name were to appear on that list. Mr. Eshkol was ready to compromise on this issue by indicating that while backing Mr. Lavon in general, he would not commit himself to placement of Mr. Lavon’s name on the Mapai candidates list.
The Min Hayesod secession move was made following an address by Mr. Lavon who presided over the all-day meeting of the group. Circles close to Mr. Eshkol expressed anger and surprise today at the secession of the Lavon group. They said Mapai was about to achieve greater unity and labor integration by realigning its forces with those of Achdut Avodah, the left-wing labor party. A meeting of the Mapai Secretariat has been scheduled for Wednesday night, when Deputy Prime Minister Abba Eban is to plead for Mapai approval of the realignment with Achdut Avodah, as proposed by Mr. Eshkol.
The secession from Mapai gives Mr. Lavon the opportunity to press Mr. Eshkol to agree to place him as a candidate on the Mapai list for the national elections, or to face the possibility that the Lavon group will join Mapam in the forthcoming elections, thus reducing the strength of Mapai and increasing the strength of the Mapam party.