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Syrian Revolt Puts Israel on the Alert; Ben-gurion Interrupts Vacation

September 29, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion cut short his 75th birthday vacation at Sde Boker to hasten back to Tel Aviv following the Syrian Army revolt against President Nasser’s United Arab Republic regime. At the same time, the Israel Army spokesman announced today that Air Force planes engaged “a number of foreign planes” over Israeli territory last night and drove them off.

Mr. Ben-Gurion maintained constant contact today with defense headquarters here, including a visit to his Defense Ministry office. As in previous cases of internal turbulence among its Arab neighbors, Israel may set up special precautionary measures along its Syrian border.

The Army spokesman said the planes flew over Israel apparently for intelligence photography purposes and that, after a short exchange of fire, the Israeli interceptors drove them away. The Israeli planes had no losses in the clashes and it was not known whether any of the invaders were damaged. While the source of the invading planes was not indicated, it was presumed they were UAR planes.

Israeli Arabs were reported stunned by news of the Syrian revolt and many extremists openly expressed the hope that Nasser would crush the rebels. Many Arabs stayed glued to their radios and did not go to work.


The Syrian revolt overshadowed the deadlock in the negotiations between the Israeli political parties on the formation of anew Cabinet. Within the Mapai party, of which Premier David Ben-Gurion is the head, more and more voices were proposing today that Mapai break off the bargaining talks with the other parties and return to President Izhak Ben-Zvi the mandate he has given to Levi Eshkol, Finance Minister and Mapai leader, to form the new Cabinet.

These suggestions gained strength today following an effort made by Mapai leaders last night to end the deadlock by negotiating with the former coalition partners secondary issues rather than the issues on which the talks are deadlocked. The meeting last night concluded with an agreement to meet again next week.

The issue on which the talks are deadlocked is the Mapai demand for a majority of portfolios in the next Government. The impasse led to a strategy of by-passing that issue to discuss arrangements for greater Parliamentary control over Israel’s security forces and for a durable agreement on collective Cabinet responsibility.

Finance Minister Levi Eshkol and MP Akiva Govrin of the Mapai, who head the subcommittees working on the two questions, reported to other members of the subcommittee that progress had been made on the two issues but that a few points remained to be dealt with.

The principal issue–the status of Mapai in the next Government–was not touched on at the meeting last night. However, Moshe Shapiro, Religious Affairs Minister and National Religious party leader, said on behalf of his party that an exploration might be desirable of an arrangement under which Mapai would agree to parity and retain a majority vote only on key issues such as security and foreign affairs.

In offering the suggestion, Mr. Shapiro stressed it was offered on behalf of his party and not for the Bloc of Four–the Religious Party, Mapam, Achdut Avodah and the Liberal Party–which was organized for the talks. The current bargaining sessions are being held between Mapai and the four parties.

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