TEL AVIV (Feb. 19)
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan has decided not to participate in the next Cabinet. He informed his close friends within the Labor Party of his decision and it was confirmed today by one of them–Transport Minister Shimon Peres–who told the Labor Knesset faction that he was authorized by Dayan to convey his decision to the Party. Peres intimated that Dayan’s decision was prompted by criticism against him within the Labor Party.
Dayan’s decision came as a bombshell amid Israel’s current political turmoil and its effects on Premier Golda Meir’s so far fruitless efforts to put together a new governing coalition could not be immediately gauged. Dayan said only last week that he would not resign from the caretaker government under pressure from his critics because that would be tantamount to confessing responsibility for Israel’s military deficiencies at the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. He said at the same time, however, that he would not serve in a new government unless that government had absolute confidence in him.
There is no new government, but apparently Dayan was convinced that he does not enjoy the full confidence of his own party. He has been the target of bitter attacks within the Labor Alignment, notably from Mapam and its affiliated Hakibbutz Haartzi movement, but also from various Labor MKs. Many of them publicly endorsed a one-man campaign for his ouster conducted by a Yom Kippur War veteran, Capt. Mordechai Ashkenazi, outside the Prime Ministers Office last week. The MKs who signed Ashkenazi’s petition calling for Dayan’s resignation were not reproved by the party.
FAR-REACHING POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS
Dayan’s move may have far-reaching political implications. The Defense Minister would be a key figure in any Labor-led coalition government and his refusal to participate in the next Cabinet could fracture Mrs. Meir’s Labor Party. There was speculation here tonight that Dayan’s old faction–Rafi–would pull out of the party if Dayan did. Without Rafi, Labor would lose its slim Knesset majority. Some circles expressed the view that Dayan’s disclosure of his decision not to join the next government was a dramatic move to propel the Labor Party toward a national unity coalition with Likud.
Dayan has differed with the Labor Party leadership’s position against a national coalition and his views are shared by his former Rafi colleagues. He refrained from pressing them until now because he thought the decision was Mrs. Meir’s to make and didn’t want to put forth obstacles in her path toward a new government. Mapam has made it clear that it would not join a government that includes Likud.
Likud leader Menachem Beigin appeared elated at the news of Dayan’s decision. He told reporters at the Knesset today that Dayan’s move climaxed the crisis of confidence in the country. He said it proved that the Labor Party no longer enjoyed the nation’s support despite its numerical majority in the Knesset. If
Mrs. Meir cannot produce a government by the Wednesday deadline. President Ephraim Katzir should call on Likud to attempt it, Beigin said.
When Dayan’s decision was announced, the NRP was embroiled in a stormy internal session over whether to accept a compromise on the “Who is a Jew?” issue. After hearing the news, Zevulun Hammer a leader of the NRP’s “young guard” proposed that the party adopt a resolution refusing to join any coalition government that did not include Dayan. The NRP meeting continued on through the night and there was no report of its outcome. (By Yitzhak Shargil.)