Premier Golda Meir announced tonight she was resigning in a decision marking the failure of her Labor Party to end factional differences on the issue of whether Defense Minister Moshe Dayan should resign. Her resignation, plunging the nation into a new political crisis, will become official when she presents her letter of resignation to President Ephraim Katzir. Under Israeli law, when a Prime Minister resigns, the entire government must resign.
In making her announcement at a Labor Party meeting, Mrs. Meir said, “I have reached the end of the road. I cannot carry on any longer.” She said the issues leading her to resign were “not linked to Dayan but to me personally. My decision is irrevocable.”
Her announcement came after a day of hectic meetings of the various components of the Labor Alignment and its Knesset factions, which sought a compromise to preserve the coalition government while meeting the demands, both within the Labor Alignment and from the opposition Likud Party, for Dayan’s resignation over Israel’s unpreparedness for the Yom Kippur War. Mrs. Meir said she would formally announce her resignation in the Knesset tomorrow.
MANDATE TO FORM NEW GOVERNMENT EXPECTED
Katzir is expected to give a mandate to form a new government to Mrs. Meir. or to another political leader, if she refuses. Mrs. Meir’s announcement sparked immediate speculation on whether there would be new elections and, if the answer was positive, when they would be held and who would lead the Labor Party. The Likud Executive, at a meeting earlier today, had predicted the fall of Mrs. Meir’s government and said it would demand new elections within 10 weeks.
The Likud faction had proposed a no confidence vote in Mrs. Meir’s government which was to have been offered at a Knesset meeting tomorrow. In view of the government’s scheduled resignation, there will not be a no confidence vote tomorrow and the government will continue in a caretaker role.
Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir refused to comment tonight on Mrs. Meir’s resignation. However, Sapir said that in the discussions held in the last two days in forums of the Labor Party regarding the present crisis; 24 out of 26 speakers demanded that Defense Minister Moshe Dayan resign.
Menachem Beigin, a Likud leader, learned of Mrs. Meir’s resignation announcement as he prepared to address a meeting of the Herut national executive in Tel Aviv. Beigin’s reaction was cautious. He said that Mrs, Meir’s resignation would not be official until she presented her letter to President Katzir and that, until then, she could reverse her decision.
Beigin said that technicalities connected with an election were in a condition making early elections possible, an apparent reference to the fact that the present government was elected less than four months ago. He said the various Knesset factions should begin consultations for a government of national unity, to include Likud. and that the Likud would initiate such an effort. He contended that, whatever the procedures might be, a new government, “quite differently composed,” should be formed within the next 10 weeks.
Beigin even suggested that the Knesset factions elect a caretaker government, pending new elections, which would be made up of different ministers than those in Mrs. Meir’s Cabinet.
NEW ELECTIONS MAY HAVE TO BE HELD
Moshe Kol, leader of the Independent Liberals and Tourism Minister, said he was not surprised at Mrs. Meir’s resignation announcement. He said he regretted the circumstances that led to that decision during a time when Israel was facing “much graver problems.” But he said, if a new Cabinet could not be formed by inter-party negotiations quickly, then elections should be held “within the shortest possible time.”
Aharon Yadlin, secretary general of the Labor Party, said efforts would be made to form a new government but that if such an effort ran into difficulties, there would be no way to avoid new elections. Police Minister Shlomo Hillel said the only solution to the new situation was early elections. He said he expected there would be changes in the Labor Party for new elections because the Labor Party “did not succeed” in keeping the present government in power.
Other leaders expressed regret that Golda Meir resigned. Dr. Yosef Burg, Minister of Interior, said that the National Religious Party was correct when it had demanded an emergency unity government and that it is more right now. Dr. Yehuda Ben Meir, a member of the NRP’s “Young Guard,” said that the Premier’s resignation paves the way for new leadership in the parties and the government. Meir Talmi, general secretary of Mapam, expressed regret that Dayan did not resign thus saving the country from the present crisis. On the other hand, Shulamit Aloni, leader of the Civil Rights Party, said that Mrs. Meir’s resignation came too late, that she should have resigned earlier. Ms. Aloni suggested the building of new elections and proposed that all protest movements should unite together to form a new liberal movement.
INOPPORTUNE TIME TO RESIGN
In some quarters there was a feeling that Mrs. Meir’s resignation was untimely and inopportune, They cited for one thing the continuing deterioration on the Syrian front where artillery and tank fire was exchanged throughout the day for the 30th consecutive day. The situation there is very tense and the government is keeping a close watch on it.
For another thing, the resignation of Premier Meir and her government is expected to slow down the already lagging pace of disengagement negotiations with Syria through the offices of U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. A Syrian delegation reportedly arrived in Washington today, but the negotiation process will have to wait until the Israeli government crisis is resolved, sources here said. The Israeli public feels that until the question of the Defense Minister is settled and a new Chief of Staff is appointed to rally the spirits of the armed forces and the nation, Israel will face grave trials on both the military and diplomatic fronts.
(In Washington, U.S. officials carefully avoided commenting on Mrs. Meir’s resignation and the political turmoil which precipitated her move. One official said the Premier’s resignation could leave the U.S. efforts at securing a disengagement of forces between Israel and Syria the air.” Another noted, “We don’t know what fund of government they will have. We don’t know who we will be dealing with and whether Israel will have a government that will want to continue with disengagement.”)
LITTLE LOUBT THAT RESIGNATION WILL STICK
Observers here indicated certainty that Mrs. Meir’s resignation announcement was final and that this time, she would not cancel the decision as she did once before in the post-Yom Kippur War period. When Mrs. Meir previously announced she would resign, her Labor colleagues went to considerable lengths to persuade her to change her mind. Observers felt that this time, the Labor Party leaders would not seek to induce her to cancel her resignation.
Fear was expressed tonight that the resignation could lead to a splintering of the Labor Alignment with Mapam and Achdut Avoda on the one side. Rafi on the other, and Mapai veterans as an independent group. In addition Mrs. Meir’s resignation will not resolve the debate within the Labor Party but will create a mad scramble for her replacement as its leader in government.
Among the names mentioned tonight were. Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir, Justice Minister Haim Zadok. Haifa Mayor and former Labor Minister Yosef Almogi. and Labor Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The biggest problem is whether any of these will be supported by the entire alignment which includes the doveish Mapam and the hawkish Rafi. In addition the question that also continued is whether or not the NRP would again insist on rehashing the Issue of Who is a Jew.
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.