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Decision on Fate of Israel Cabinet Postponed Till Sunday;talks Continue

December 26, 1957
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A decision on the future of the Ben Gurion Cabinet–torn in a dispute between the Premier and the left-wing Socialist Achdut Avodah–was postponed until next Sunday following an indecisive three-hour meeting of the Cabinet yesterday. The Premier has given the left-wing party the choice of publicly apologizing for violating Cabinet secrecy on the question of sending a “leading personality” to Bonn to negotiate security arrangements, or quitting the coalition.

Today, the Prince Minister discussed the Cabinet crisis with Minister of Posts Dr. Joseph Burg and Minister for Religion Moshe Shapiro, Orthodox leaders. Afterwards, Mr. Ben Gurion paid a visit to President Itzhak Ben Zvi, immediately giving rise to speculation that the meeting between the two dealt with the Cabinet crisis.

At a press conference called after his visit to the President, the Premier announced that the plan to send a mission to West Germany, which touched off the current Cabinet dispute, had not been abandoned. The only thing that had been changed, he said, was the person who was being sent to Bonn to negotiate.

The Premier reiterated at the press conference the statement he had made in Knesset yesterday that arms from any source were acceptable to Israel. He said that while there was no defense against atomic attack, Israel had to make every attempt to defend itself from aggression in any other form–land, sea, air, undersea and space.

Mr. Ben Gurion insisted that no political conditions were attached to an arms deal with Germany and that no such conditions had been attached to any other arms obtained in the past from any source. The arms would not be paid for through the reparations agreement, he said. He reported that there were no reservations within the Cabinet about a mission to Germany to obtain arms. He called the Achdut Avoda leak about the mission sabotage, though possibly not wilful, and expressed the hope that the situation would be remedied.

Yesterday, Mr. Ben Gurion beat back an opposition move in the Israel Parliament against his attempt to send a mission to Bonn to secure West German security support, but the parliamentary victory only aggravated the Cabinet crisis and brought a coalition split nearer to being.

The vote came after a statement by the Prime Minister in which he warned the house that Israel was being progressively overtaken by the Arab states in arms. He said the Arabs had “unlimited” sources which Israel was unable to match. This, he said, obliged Israel to place stress on the quality of arms it obtained, rather than the quantity. It was to obtain vital equipment to replace obsolete equipment in use by Israel, that he had planned to send a mission to West Germany, he declared, describing that country as the only one in the world where Israel could obtain what it needed.


The Premier defiantly justified his move and told the Knesset that he appeared before it “unrepentant” – he used the English word – in connection with his decision to obtain equipment vital to Israel from the only source open.

The motion to debate the issue was introduced by the opposition Herut Party It was defeated by a vote of 46 to 14 with 17 abstentions. The Achdut Avoda, the coalition party whose cabinet representatives precipitated the current crisis, abstained. The other left-wing member of the coalition, the Mapam Party, walked out of the chamber before the vote. The stand thus taken by the two left-wing partners in the coalition indicated that Mr. Ben Gurion would have to force a showdown on the composition of his government.

Mr. Ben Gurion spoke twice, once in his opening statement and a second time in response to Moshe Sneh, a Communist. In his second speech, the premier indicated that among the arms sought by Israel from Germany were submarines.

Dr. Sneh created something of a storm in the house when he charged that Israel was seeking to obtain submarines from Germany and charged that this was a threat to world peace. In reply, Mr. Ben Gurion told the house that, assuming Dr. Sneh’s disclosure that Israel was seeking submarines was true, Dr. Sneh well knew that Syria and Egypt were obtaining the underseas craft from Russia. He told Dr. Sneh that if Russia willed it, both Syria and Egypt would embark on a peace policy instead of buying submarines.

In his opening statement, Mr. Ben Gurion described the proposed mission to Germany as most essential for the security of the state, for the absorption of immigration and for the promotion of Israel’s international trade. The decision to send the mission, he said, was dictated by Israel’s vital need to obtain vital equipment which was obtainable from only one country in the world – West Germany – in view of Israel’s danger to security by a new dimension which rendered obsolete current defense weapons.


The Premier took cognizance of strong feelings against relations with Germany and vigorously told the house that if all ideals were placed in the balance against Israel’s security, he would select the latter. He declared that any government which would not make an effort to obtain vital supplies from the only source open to it would be betraying its country. On this motivation, he explained, he had decided to designate a mission to Germany of personalities who were likely to succeed in explaining the needs and negotiate the acquisition of these supplies.

The attack on the Prime Minister was launched by the Herut Party spokesman who linked the episode of the secret mission to what he described as unsuccessful efforts by Mr. Ben Gurion last July, without prior consultation of his cabinet, to establish diplomatic relations with the West German Federal Republic. The “mysterious mission,” he asserted, was a further humiliation and represented a danger which, he insisted, the Knesset had to explore in a full dress debate.

Mr. Ben Gurion heatedly defended his actions and expressed his view that normal relations with the Bonn Government would be perfectly proper since West Germany occupied an important role and was one of the most important powers in Europe with whom Israel was on friendly terms and maintained close, friendly contact.

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