Mapai Wants Eshkol to Be Entrusted with Formation of New Cabinet
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Mapai Wants Eshkol to Be Entrusted with Formation of New Cabinet

The central Committee of the Mapai party, of which Premier David Ben-Gurion is the head, today decided to recommend to President Izhak Ben-Zvi of Israel that he should entrust Finance Minister Levi Eshkol with the formation of a new government since Mr. Ben-Gurion has refused to undertake this task.

The Mapai strategy goes in the direction of having Mr. Ben-Gurion take over the government after a Cabinet is formed by Mr. Eshkol. However, Mr. Ben-Gurion indicated today that if Mr. Eshkol can form a government in which the coalition partners will agree to have him, Ben-Gurion, again as Premier, they will have to accept the principle that there should be “no coalition within the coalition” and “no government within the government.”

Mr. Ben-Gurion also indicated that he would not accept any control by any party or parties over Israel’s armed forces. This was understood to mean that Mapai must control the Defense Ministry in any new government as it has in the past, without any parliamentary participation.

It was reported that the demand for a Mapai majority in the next government was not among Mr. Ben-Gurion’s conditions. However, he was understood to be adamant in his insistence on practical assurances that the next government would act as a unified body. This might be assured by passage of a law which would oblige coalition members to vote for government bills not only at plenary sessions of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, but also in committees. Mr. Ben-Gurion also has indicated he wants a law to assure the secrecy of Cabinet meetings.

Moshe Sharett, former Prime Minister who is now chairman of the Jewish Agency executive, denied today rumors that he might be called to head the next Government. Mr. Sharett, who attended the meeting of the Mapai central committee, pointed out that he had no intention of resigning his Jewish Agency post and that it was impossible for anyone to hold both the Premiership and the Agency chairmanship.

Pinhas Rosen, Minister of Justice in the caretaker cabinet, noted that Mr. Ben-Gurion, in his letter last week declining President Ben-Zvi’s mandate to form a new Government, had not mentioned the Mapai demand for a majority in the Cabinet. He said that if this meant that Mapai had given up that demand, “there is a possibility of finding an acceptable solution to all outstanding questions, such as coalition discipline.”

Mr. Ben-Gurion’s opposition to any parliamentary control of the defense forces posed a thorny problem for negotiators for a new government. It was understood that he would not even consider a special ministerial committee on defense, which many of the prospective coalition partners would accept as a compromise of their demands that there be some form of parliamentary control over the armed forces through some other channel than the Ministry of Defense.

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