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New Israeli Labor Party Officially Launched Amid Pleas for Unity

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Israel’s new united Labor Party which was launched here last night and festivities and the well wishes of 2,250 delegates and guests from all over the world, began its first task today-the search for effective leadership to govern it.

The new party, created by the merger of Mapai and twi former dissident labor factions, Rafi and Achdut Avodah, will command 58 set as out of 120 in the Knesset (Parliament). But the party leadership is yet to be defined. As of today there is still no secretary general. Mrs. Golda Meir, who held that post in Mapai, relinquished it and so far has declined to serve the new party in the same capacity; but Prime Minister Levi Eshkol hopes to persuade her to change her mind. Proposals were made to establish a five-member secretariat as the party’s supreme governing body. It would be composed of three former Mapai members and one each from Rafi and Achdut Avodah. Meanwhile, a 3-man committee was formed to recommend practical measures to cement party unity.

Another prominent figure who opposed the merger, former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, took his usual seat in the Knesset this afternoon as other Rafi members moved over to the former Mapai section of the chamber. Mr. Ben-Gurion, who has declared that he would not join the merged party under its present leadership, has not announced his secession. But the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was reliably informed that Mr. Ben-Gurion has inquired about the facilities granted to one-man factions of which there are others in the Knesset.

Mr. Ben-Gurion was the only major Israeli labor party leader absent from last night’s merger conference held in Jerusalem’s 3,300-seat convention hall. The occasion had all the trappings of an affair of state. President Zalman Shazar was present in the auditorium, decorated with blue and white Israeli flags and the red flags of the Socialist International which were raised in honor of the presence of its chairman, Bruno Piterman, former vice chancellor of Austria.

ESHKOL STRESSES NEED FOR UNITY AND CONSTRUCTIVE INITIATIVE

Also present was a French Socialist delegation headed by former premier Jules Moch, who received a tremendous ovation when introduced, and Jan Haeckerrup, of Denmark, secretary general of the International Union of Socialist Youth. Socialist delegations from numerous Asian and African countries, from Malagasay to Singapore, were also on hand. The Socialist parties of 22 countries were represented.

The need for unity, particularly in face of the danger confronting Israel since the June war, was the main theme of the new party’s inaugural. It was stressed by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol who was present with his entire cabinet, to deliver the keynote address. Mr. Eshkol declared that the spirit of national unity that emerged before and during last June’s war tore down all barriers, narrowed differences and revived labor unity in Israel. The new party, he said, will require every constructive initiative from whatever source. Mr. Eshkol said that Israel’s economy is pluralistic and will remain so, meaning that it is a distillation of Socialist endeavor and private enterprise.

The secretary-general of each of the three parties to the merger-Mrs. Meir for Mapai. Shimon Peres for Rafi and Israel Galili for Achdut Avodah-declared in turn that the merger was undertaken to provide strong leadership for the nation. They stressed, however, that freedom of discussion will prevail and all members will abide by majority decisions.

Inauguration ceremonies began yesterday afternoon when a “scroll of unity” was signed by the 187 members of the new party’s secretariat. Appeals were voiced by veteran party members for the remaining dissidents to return to the fold, particularly Mr. Ben-Gurion. Calls were also issued to Mapam, the left-wing labor party which had announced previously that it would seek alignment with the new party and present a common list of candidates in the next Knesset elections. But the religious workers faction Haoved Hadati-which had joined the Mapai-Achdut Avodah alignment when it was formed three years ago, announced that ti would re-establish it self as a separate faction.

The new party’s charter, read at the inaugural convention, called for the establishment of permanent peace, the reawakening of Jewish consciousness in the diaspora, the maintenance of a creative partnership between Israel and world Jewry, continuation of the struggle against racialism, anti-Semitism, Fascism and the remnants of colonialism and solidarity with the Socialist parties and labor movements throughout the world.

The charter also urged Israel to prepare for the economic, social and cultural absorption of immigrants and to cultivate in each Israeli citizen, a sense of obligation to help new immigrants adjust.

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