JERUSALEM (Mar. 2)
Acting Prime Minister Yigal Allon said today that his interim “caretaker” Government would act as a unified body in the aftermath of the death of Premier Eshkol and would continue to assume collective responsibility for the nation’s policies, even though, according to Israeli law, coalition discipline is no longer binding. Mr. Allon spoke at the first Cabinet meeting since Mr. Eshkol’s death. His words appeared to be more of a plea for unity than a statement of fact, observers said. He said he hoped his view was shared by all members of the Government. The caretaker regime will continue to function until a new Government is formed with Knesset approval. Mr. Allon urged the various Knesset factions to do all they could to ease the task of President Shazar in naming a Premier-designate.
It appeared virtually certain today that the reins of Government until next November’s national election would be placed in the hands of Mrs. Golda Meir, 70, former Foreign Minister, former Labor Minister and Israel’s one-time Ambassador to Moscow. Mrs. Meir, though out of active political life for several years, is still regarded as a major power in the dominant United Labor Party. She was reportedly under heavy pressure from friends and Labor Party leaders to accept the interim Premiership in the interests of unity within the party and the nation. She was said to have promised a reply following the seven-day mourning period for Mr. Eshkol, but not before next Sunday at the earliest.
Mrs. Meir appeared to be the choice of Labor Party secretary general Pinchas Sapir, former Finance Minister and Minister-Without-Portfolio in the Eshkol coalition who was lobbying strenuously on her behalf with other coalition partners. She was considered acceptable to other elements in the coalition since her age and reported poor health indicate she is not likely to have political ambitions beyond next fall’s elections. Her influence in the Labor Party inner circles was also believed capable of preventing a bitter show-down struggle for Mr. Eshkol’s mantle between Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and acting Prime Minister Allon. Mrs. Meir was openly opposed to the appointment of Gen. Dayan as Defense Minister by Mr. Eshkol on the eve of the June, 1967 war. She represents the “old guard” of the Labor Party, the generation of the late Mr. Eshkol which many Israelis believe must relinquish power to younger. Palestine-born leadership. The Government announced today the appointment of a special ministerial committee to plan the construction of a memorial to the late Premier.