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Mapai Party Leaders Decide to Back Eshkol in Dispute with Ben-gurion

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The Mapai Party Secretariat, after two days of deliberations, today decided to express full confidence in Prime Minister Eshkol and to back him in his dispute with former Premier David Ben-Gurion which came to a head last week, when Ben-Gurion called Mr. Eshkol “unfit” to lead the party and the country.

In a resolution adopted by the party Secretariat, the Mapai leaders pointed out that Mr. Eshkol had been elected unanimously by the Mapai Center for the post of Premier and as such enjoys the fullest confidence of the party. The resolution also expressed regret over Ben-Gurion’s statement last week against Premier Eshkol.

The Secretariat also warned local party branches against dealing with the composition of the list of candidates for the forthcoming elections to the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, noting that such action was entirely in the hands of the Party Center and its Knesset faction. While superficially, Mapai seemed to be on the verge of a split, party leaders today expressed confidence that no split would develop.

Thus far, no Mapai member of the Cabinet has responded to Premier Eshkol’s demand last week that those sharing Mr. Ben-Gurion’s opinions of Premier Eshkol, should resign from the Government. In issuing the challenge last week, Mr. Eshkol declared: “If there are members of the Government who think about me the way ‘that man’ does, I suggest they free themselves from their posts.” He added that despite the sharp attack on him, he intended to continue his policies until the end of the Government’s term.

Housing and Development Minister Yosef Almogi was reported today ready to resign but was prevented by his friends–members of the pro-Ben-Gurion Mapai minority–who published a statement here declaring that Premier Eshkol had no right to demand the resignation of members of the Cabinet delegated to their ministerial posts by the party.

In addressing the Mapai Secretariat during the weekend, Premier Eshkol took up Ben-Gurion’s charge that he had opposed a renewed investigation of the Lavon Affair on grounds it would open a “Pandora’s Box” of issues involving Israel’s security activities. Ben-Gurion had said that any individual afraid of Pandoras Boxes should not be Premier even if the party’s center elected him. In a showdown over the Lavon issue, Premier Eshkol resigned last year and was re-named by his party and coalition partners. In reply to that charge, Mr. Eshkol told the Secretariat “one should respect party institutions.” He added that Ben-Gurion’s interpretations over the “Lavon Affair” were not correct.

GOLDA MEIR ATTACKS BEN-GURION; DEPLORES ‘MERCILESS SLANDER’

Also attacking Mr. Ben-Gurion, Foreign Minister Golda Meir told the Secretariat that, while there were no actual differences between the majority and the minority on the issue, there was “merciless slander and libel and personal war directed at eliminating certain comrades.”

She criticized the Tel Aviv branch of the party for going to Sde Boker and suggesting that Ben-Gurion head the election list and asking him to agree to the nomination for the Premiership. “What is the present Premier to do until elections, and will other countries want to deal with him meanwhile?” Mrs. Meir asked.

Education Minister Zalman Aranne deplored the “evil spirit” that was hovering over the party and charged that Ben-Gurion was treating Premier Eshkol the way he treated former Premier Moshe Sharett ten years ago. The Mapai Center, meanwhile, will convene soon to decide who will head the Mapai list and who will be the party’s nominee for the Premiership.

According to an agreement on the designation of places on the combined election list to be shared by Mapai and Achdut Avoda, the latter party will receive the third and tenth places with Mapai getting the remainder of the first ten places for the Knesset election.

The Mapai-Achdut alignment agreement–to which Ben-Gurion is strongly opposed will be signed officially on Wednesday at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the site where the Histadrut was founded in 1920.

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