Achdut Stand in Knesset Dooms Prospects for Alignment with Mapai

Achdut Avodah abstained twice today in voting on opposition motions against the Government in Parliament and by so doing apparently doomed prospects for a limited alignment between it and Premier Levi Eshkol’s Mapai party.

Both motions involved the 10-year controversy between former Premier David Ben-Gurion and Pinhas Lavon, who was forced out as Defense Minister in 1954 in connection with a disastrous security mishap and later forced out of his post as secretary-general of the Histadrut, Israel’s Labor Federation.

One of the motions claimed that Mr. Ben-Gurion violated state security laws in his possession of information which he submitted several weeks ago to Justice Minister Dov Joseph with a request for another investigation of the circumstances leading to the 1964 mishap. Mr. Lavon had been cleared by at least two official inquiries of responsibility for the mishap.

In the Knesset debate today, Mr. Joseph said Mr. Ben-Gurion’s possession of the documents was not illegal and the Herut and Mapam motions for debate were defeated, with Achdut abstaining. A Liberal motion to refer the matter to the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee was defeated only by two votes with Achdut abstaining again.

The abstention reportedly caused much bitterness among Mapai leaders, including Premier Eshkol, who apparently viewed the abstentions as a serious breach of coalition responsibility and a step which weakened his position in relation to Mapai elements supporting Mr. Ben-Gurion and opposing the alignment proposal for which Mr. Eshkol won Mapai central committee approval recently.

According to a 1962 agreement, a vote by a Cabinet member in the Knesset against the Government, or abstentions from voting on such a bill without prior agreement is tantamount to resignation by the Cabinet member so voting, as of the date when the Government announces it to the Knesset, the announcement to be made within two weeks of the voting date. The Premier was regarded as unlikely to press the issue and cause a Cabinet crisis but informed sources said the abstentions undermined what slight prospects had existed for alignment.

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