Ben Gurion Resigns from Mapai Central Committee; Objects to Decisions

Former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion resigned last night from the Mapai Central Committee after that body voted to approve Premier Levi Eshkol’s proposal for an alignment with Achdut Ha’avodah and decided to shelve, for the Duration of the next Knesset term, Ben-Gurion’s proposal for electoral reform.

Mr. Ben-Gurion had long sought to change Israel’s electoral system of proportional representation in favor of a district constituency system similar to that in use in Britain or the United States. The former Premier favored such an electoral change in the hope that it would lead to a two-party system.

The Central Committee vote of 182 to 8 with 25 abstentions in favor of alignment by Mapai with Achdut Ha’avodah now opens the way for the two parties to present a joint list of candidates for the forthcoming elections to the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, as well as in municipal balloting and elections to the Histadrut, Israel’s labor federation. In the latter case, however, the Mapai negotiating committee was instructed to secure a working majority for Mapai in the Histadrut.

An attempt by Housing and Development Minister Yosef Almogi to secure the adoption of a resolution that the question of electoral reform would be referred to a party convention, failed by a vote of 109 to 51 with 18 abstentions.

This morning, Reuven Barkatt, Mapai secretary, expressed the hope that Mr. Ben-Gurion would reconsider his decision to quit the Mapai Central Committee. Mr. Ben-Gurion was reportedly preparing today an appeal to the party convention against last night’s action by the Central Committee. In announcing his resignation, the former Premier claimed that the Central Committee was not empowered to change a decision by a party convention to include electoral reform in its platform for the next Knesset elections. Mr. Barkatt, however, maintained that the Committee had not changed a fundamental position, but had only suspended one plank of the platform for one Knesset term.

During the seven-hour meeting in which 20 members of the Committee spoke, Mr. Ben-Gurion called for full disclosure of all details of the alignment agreement. Premier Eshkol however, read only excerpts from it.

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