Ben-gurion Faces Mapai Court of Honor; Says Party is ‘on Trial’
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Ben-gurion Faces Mapai Court of Honor; Says Party is ‘on Trial’

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David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Mapai Party for many years, appeared here today before the party’s Court of Honor, which had summoned him to show cause why he should not be expelled from the party for attempting to split it through formation of “Rafi.” The name is made up of the Hebrew initials of the Israel Workers List, an independent group which has announced it will run its own nominees in the November elections for the Knesset (Parliament), against the official Mapai list to be headed by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.

The Mapai Secretariat had already ruled that Mr. Ben-Gurion and six of his leading adherents had “expelled” themselves from the party.

Defying the Court of Honor, Mr. Ben-Gurion delivered a 90-minute address in which he turned the tables. He rejected the role of defendant; declared himself, instead, the accuser; and insisted he was placing both the party and its topmost court on trial for “lack of moral values.”

In opening the session, the chairman of the Court of Honor thanked Mr. Ben-Gurion for accepting the summons to appear. The head of the court requested the attorneys for both sides to put their questions to Mr. Ben-Gurion “in a style which is in accordance with his rights.”


Mr. Ben-Gurion promptly replied that he expected no special rights for his services to Israel but that, on the other hand, he did not want “the opposite.” He then launched into an attack on Premier Levi Eshkol’s leadership. In the “battle between the party machine and moral values,” he declared, “the latter will win.” He added that, while he had been called to the court as a defendant, he was in fact “the accuser.”

Charging that Mapai today was not what it was in the past, the 79-year-old leader told the court; “I cannot work with colleagues who are yesmen.” He assailed the limited alignment which Premier Eshkol had worked out with Achdut Avodah for the parliamentary elections, declaring that “the party is now not Mapai but an alignment. Rafi is the real Mapai.”

Noting that he had been a member of the party for 59 years, he said that “if Mapai does not stand for moral values any more, I am unprepared to accept this. Lately, there has been a reign of fear and terror in the party. Thousands of officials in the party machine depend on this state of affairs. But honest people like Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres were unprepared to agree to this.”

Gen. Dayan resigned earlier this year as Minister of Agriculture in support of Mr. Ben-Gurion’s challenge to Premier Eshkol but has not formally joined Rafi. Mr. Peres resigned as Deputy Defense Minister and is one of the six Rafi leaders declared “self-expelled.”

Because of the situation within Mapai, Mr. Ben-Gurion said, “we were brought to this trial. But there are cases when majority decisions are wrong, and this is one of them. I will not agree to be expelled from Mapai as long as I live.”

There were indications that the court hearing may last several more weeks, and that Mr. Eshkol may also be called as a witness.

The Secretariat action in suspending Mr. Ben-Gurion and his followers was challenged by Rafi on grounds that the Ben-Gurion backers had not been invited to that meeting. The challenge was sustained by the Tel Aviv district court. In response the party’s central committee dismissed the 64-member Secretariat last Sunday night and then re-elected all of its members except 11 supporters of Rafi. One of the members re-elected to the Secretariat was Gen. Dayan, whom Mr. Ben-Gurion identified before the Court of Honor today as an opponent of the Mapai leadership.

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