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New Knesset Convenes Today; Eshkol Proposes Full Mapai-achdut Merger

Israel’s Cabinet will formally present its resignation to President Zalman Shazar at noon tomorrow and, immediately afterward, the Knesmer Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion will preside at tomorrow’s opening session of the Knesset as the oldest member of the Parliament. He will announce the resignation of the outgoing Cabinet.

The Cabinet’s resignation, however, will not end the responsibilities of the members of the Government. They will continue in office as a caretaker Government, until the new coalition, under the leadership of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, is formed. That task is expected to be completed in about three weeks.

In a proposal for full merger of the Mapai Party and Achdut Avodah, which had formed an alignment that won a dominant role in Israel’s political life as a result of the November 2 elections, was made in Tel Aviv last night by Mr. Eshkol. At the same time, he expressed the hope that a united Mapai-Achdut Avodah Party would “eventually” include also those members of Rafi “who would return to the fold.” Rafi is the name of the dissident group of former Mapai members who ran their own Israel Workers List in the elections, under the leadership of Mr. Ben-Gurion, winning 10 seats out of a total of 120 in the next Parliament.

Mr. Eshkol made his proposal for a full merger between Mapai and Achdut Avodah at a post-election rally of members of the alignment. The merger idea had first been broached at the meeting by Minister of Labor Yigal Allon, then spelled out concretely by the Premier. Mr. Eshkol suggested that Mapai and Achdut Avodah members of the Knesset form a faction which would act as a “central committee” of the projected united party.

ESHKOL TERMS BEN-GURION’S REMARK A ‘BURNING INSULT’ TO THE VOTERS

While welcoming a return to the Mapai ranks by members of Rafi, Mr. Eshkol at the same time took sharp issue with Mr. Ben-Gurion’s characterization of the Mapai-Achdut Avodah alignment as a “corrupt and stupid regime.” Such labeling of the alignment, Mr. Eshkol said–without naming Mr. Ben-Gurion–was “an insult” to the 500,000 voters who had cast their ballots for the alignment’s ticket. He stated that the alignment’s votes had included the ballots of the majority of kibbutz members in the country, and declared that “this slander, this burning insult, awaits reparation.”

Meanwhile Mapai secretary-general Reuven Barkatt met today with Aryeh Bahir, a member of the political committee of Rafi, to discuss “normalization” between the two groups. The meeting coincided with a reported remark by Mr. Ben-Gurion to key Rafi members that, with publication of his book on the Lavon Affair soon, he would consider the interparty issue closed. This was a reference to the battle between him and Pinhas Lavon, a Mapai leader, who was forced out as Defense Minister in 1955 as a result of a never-disclosed security disaster.

In Tel Aviv, Mordechai Namir was assured today of continuing in office as mayor, as a result of decisions by Rafi, Mapam and the Independent Liberals to join his coalition. Mr. Namir is a member of Mapai.

While there were still conflicting reports here today on whether Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir and Education Minister Zalman Arrane would continue in their posts in the new Cabinet, Foreign Minister Golda Meir is insisting on going through with her plans to resign from the Cabinet. She is expected to be replaced by Deputy Premier Abba Eban.

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