Ben Gurion Presents Reconstituted Cabinet to Knesset; Wins Approval
Menu JTA Search

Ben Gurion Presents Reconstituted Cabinet to Knesset; Wins Approval

Download PDF for this date

Premier David Ben Gurion submitted to Parliament today his reconstituted five-party coalition government and, after a four-hour debate, won Knesset approval.

The new Cabinet held no surprises. The same parties–Mapai, Mapam, Achdut Avoda, Progressive and Religious–will have 15 Ministers, including Mapai’s Peretz Naphtali who holds no portfolio and Mr. Ben Gurion who holds two–Premier and Defense Minister. The only Minister not present in the House today was Moshe Shapira, renamed Minister for Religion, who is recuperating from severe wounds suffered when a madman hurled a bomb in Knesset last November 20.

The five-party coalition musters a safe 75 vote total in the 120-member House. Included among its supporters are five Arab deputies elected on three slates affiliated with the Mapai Party. The opposition includes the Herut and General Zionists on the right, the conservative Orthodox Agudas Israel parties and the Communists on the left.


In a brief address to Parliament, Mr. Ben Gurion said that the five partners had agreed on the following platform:

Collective responsibility–binding all Ministers and coalition parties to vote for decisions of the government and laws proposed by the government to Parliament; the government may permit a party to abstain from voting under certain circumstances and a party may also allow one or several of its deputies to abstain, but the details of such abstentions and the circumstances under which they are permitted will be determined by the government;

If one or more Ministers feel compelled to abstain without government permission, he or they must resign; A vote by a party against a government decision will be regarded as the equivalent of abstention by a Minister without the agreement of the government;

The Ministers bind themselves to preserve complete secrecy in matters of security and foreign policy, without exception; If the government decides that secrecy shall apply to deliberations on other matters, the Ministers shall also be bound by secrecy;

In order to guarantee the required secrecy, a state secrets law applying to and person revealing and any newspaper publishing such secrets will be submitted to Parliament at the earliest moment, on behalf of the coalition parties.

The Premier also read his letter of resignation to President Itzhak Ben Zvi a week ago, in which he reviewed the reasons for his resignation and his pledge to seek a coalition dedicated to the principles of collective responsibility and preservation of secrecy on security and foreign affairs.


The first opposition address was a scathing attack by Herut leader Menahem Beigin on Mr. Ben Gurion’s disclosure of military secrets when he told the Knesset that the mission to which the Achdut Avoda objected was concerned with the purchase of arms from West Germany.

If Mr. Ben Gurion spoke the truth regarding the nature of these weapons and their availability in West Germany alone, then he “sabotaged” Israel’s security and laid Bonn open to Arab blackmail and attack, the Herut leader noted. If, or the other hand, this was untrue, the Premier had “lied” to Parliament and the Israeli people.

On the matter of secrecy, Mr. Beigin, sarcastically told Mr. Ben Gurion: “Physician heal thyself.” He scored the Premier for asking for a vote of confidence in a government in which the Premier had little confidence. Else, he asked, why should the Premier require jail threats to keep his partners in line. He hit the projected secrecy law as “shameful” and one which threatened press liberty.

The General Zionists hit the Premier in exactly the same areas–attacking the secrecy legislation as an attempt to make the press the scapegoat for his Cabinet’s troubles and accusing him of “hysterically” revealing in public much more than had the Achdut Avoda. Dr. Peretz Bernstein, leader of the General Zionists, suggested that under the terms of the new coalition program, the Cabinet would be able to hide from public discussion any matter which it thought “unpleasant” for the Cabinet.

Both Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Beigin called for new elections. The General Zionist leader expressed doubts about the stability of the five-party coalition, asserting that it would fall a part owing to inherent differences on foreign and domestic policy.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund