JERUSALEM (Dec. 14)
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol tendered the resignation of his Government tonight to President Zalman Shazar.
Mr. Eshkol’s resignation came just before a second meeting was to have been held by the central committee of the Mapai Party, to consider the request by former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion for a reopening of an inquiry into the 10-year-old Lavon Affair.
This afternoon, Mr. Eshkol went to the home of the President, presumably to inform the Chief of State that he would resign. Then he summoned a special meeting of Israel’s Cabinet, most of whose members did not know he had already committed himself to quitting. Mr. Eshkol told the Cabinet that he was resigning, and went back to Mr. Shazar to submit his resignation formally. He appeared pale and weary as he left the President’s home after resigning.
Prior to his first trip to Mr. Shazar’s home, the Prime Minister appeared before the Mapai’s central committee’s first meeting of the day, where he told the leaders of his own party: “If anyone thinks he can do better to bring together the various elements in the Government, let him try.” The committee took no action for the time being, summoning a second meeting for this evening. That second meeting was cancelled when it became known that Mr. Eshkol’s resignation was a fait accompli.
PRESIDENT SHAZAR TO ASK MAPAI LEADERS TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT
The President is now expected to summon the leadership of Mapai and to entrust the government party with the formation of a new Government. There was no doubt whatever that the party would call on Mr. Eshkol to form another Government. But, in that case, it was predicted here, Mr. Eshkol would accept the call only on his own conditions, the full nature of which is yet to be disclosed. One of the major decisions he will have to make, it was said, was how to deal with the Ben-Gurion request.
Mr. Ben-Gurion has been insisting that a new inquiry be launched into the case of Pinhas Lavon, who was ousted from political power after being held responsible for a 1954 “security mishap.” In 1955, he was dismissed from the post of Defense Minister. Five years later, after a Cabinet committee had absolved him of responsibility for that “mishap,” Mr. Ben-Gurion quit the Government, refusing to accept that Cabinet decision. Mr. Eshkol had been a member of the Ministerial Committee which cleared Mr. Lavon in 1960.
BEN-GURION MAKES DRAMATIC ENTRANCE AT MAPAI MEETING
Today’s developments followed a series of hectic meetings held in this city and at Mapai’s Tel Aviv headquarters yesterday and last night. As these moves developed, it became clear that the rift between Mr. Eshkol and his predecessor in the Premiership surpassed all hopes of a possible compromise.
When Mapai’s central committee met last night at Tel Aviv, Mr. Eshkol adjourned a Cabinet meeting on the Lavon issue without a vote. The central committee was in session seven hours. Mr. Ben-Gurion, who recently resigned from this committee, due to his disagreement with Mr. Eshkol, stayed out of the meeting for more than three hours. Then he made his entrance.
Mr. Ben-Gurion joined the meeting in his capacity as a member of Mapai’s faction in the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament). After his dramatic entrance, he told the meeting that Mr. Eshkol should have resigned after receiving a report from Justice Minister Dov Joseph. The latter had recommended the adoption of the Ben-Gurion proposal for a new Lavon inquiry. “The purity of the State, “said Mr. Ben-Gurion, “is more important than the Government.”