TEL AVIV (May. 13)
Former Premier David Ben-Gurion posed the danger of a split in Israel’s dominant Mapai party with a blunt charge last night that Premier Levi Eshkol was not fit to lead the country.
The rift within the party stemmed from differences between Ben-Gurion and his Mapai supporters and Premier Eshkol as party leader over two issues. One was an alignment between Mapai and Achdut Avodan for the forthcoming national elections, negotiated by Eshkol and opposed by Ben-Gurion because the alignment included a pledge by Mapai to drop its former stand for electoral reforms to end the multiplicity of parties in Israel.
The other was the explosive Lavon Affair, involving a long fight over responsibility for a disastrous security mishap which occurred when Pinhas Lavon was Defense Minister in 1954. Lavon was exonerated by a number of investigations, including one by a Ministerial Committee of which Eshkol has been a member. Ben-Gurion has strongly opposed those findings and demanded a new probe.
Prior to Ben-Gurion’s blunt attack on Eshkol, made at a meeting of the 70-member Tel Aviv branch of the Mapai secretariat, Ben-Gurion’s followers had prepared a platform rejecting the alignment platform adopted by a Mapai majority headed by Premier Eshkol.
When a number of the secretariat protested to Ben-Gurion that he should not have attacked Eshkol, Ben-Gurion retorted: “I will not be dictated to as to what I can say. I will say what my common sense and feelings dictate.”
He assailed the alignment with Achdut Avodan, asserting that it would lead into “a narrow class framework” and that its aim was perpetuation of classes within the nation by continuation of the present election system. Charging that “Mapai of today is not what it has been for years,” Ben-Gurion charged Premier Eshkol with creating factions within the party.
He touched on the Lavon Affair, assailing the Premier for fearing to take up the issue because of the possibility of opening a “Pandora’s Box.” He said he had been in the Israel Cabinet with Eshkol for 12 years and never heard him speak of a Pandora’s Box. “One who is afraid of Pandora’s Box cannot be at the wheel of the state even if elected by the party.” he declared.