Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and a special Ministerial committee began today a new round of negotiations with former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s opposition National Workers Party (Rafi) and the Gahal alignment of Liberals and Herat for a national unity Government for which popular pressure has been mounting.
The renewed talks were approved last night by the Cabinet at a special session on the issue. After a reportedly stormy debate, the Cabinet approved Premier Eshkol’s plan, which calls for appointment of Labor Minister Yigal Allon as Defense Minister, and the naming of a special Ministerial committee to conduct the unity talks with Rafi and Gahal, The Premier currently holds the Defense portfolio.
It was reported that the Cabinet approved Premier Eshkol’s proposals only on condition that Gen. Moshe Dayan, commander of the forces that routed the Egyptians in the 1956 campaign and now a leader of Rafi, would be offered and would accept a major Cabinet post. The negotiating committee consisted of Premier Eshkol, Moshe Shapira of the National Religious Party, Achdut Avodah’s Israeli Galili, Mapam’s Israel Barzilai and Liberal Moshe Kol.
Many large Mapai branches, particularly the powerful Haifa section, bitterly opposed the Premier’s proposals and urged Gen. Dayan’s appointment as Defense Minister. Gen. Dayan reportedly agreed, at a meeting last night with Premier Eshkol, to accept an army appointment under the direction of Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin.
Gen. Dayan reportedly told the Premier that he did not seek titles or political appointments. He suggested two courses: A Cabinet post for him but only the Defense portfolio and not Foreign Affairs, or the post of Vice-Premier, which the Premier reportedly offered him; or an active army post under Gen. Rabin’s command. Gen. Dayan reportedly said he preferred the army appointment.
The negotiations today were understood to be of crucial importance because both the National Religious Party and the Independent Liberals reportedly told Premier Eshkol that, if the Cabinet was not widened to include the opposition, they might provoke a Government crisis by quitting the coalition. However, they agreed to the “last chance” talks on the basis of the Eshkol plan, which also provides for entry into the present coalition of four new Ministers, one from Rafi, two from Gahal, and one from the Premier’s Alignment of Mapai and Achdut Avodah.
Rafi sources expressed skepticism about the prospects for a new broader coalition on the basis of the Premier’s proposals. Rafi opposition reportedly was motivated by the fact that Gen. Dayan was not offered the Defense Ministry. Rejection of the plan by Rafi was expected to be followed by similar action by Gahal.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.