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Ben-gurion Presides at First Session of New Knesset; Avoids Contrcversy

November 23, 1965
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

David Ben-Gurion, former Prime Minister and, at 79, the oldest member of the Knesset (Parliament), presided over the first session of the sixth Knesset which opened here today, after an inaugural ceremony by President Zalman Shazar.

In an address which bypassed all controversial subjects, Mr. Ben-Gurion referred to one issue of general interest by declaring that the Zionist movement’s vitality “has declined and has almost lost its identity.” Then, as presiding officer protem, he gave the oath of office to all members of the new Knesset, and called for the election of a Speaker.

Kaddish Luz, Speaker in the last Knesset, was nominated by all the parties in the House except Rafi, the Israel Workers List formed by Mr. Ben-Gurion as dissidents from the Mapai Party, the Communists, and Haolam Hazeh. Mr. Luz was then re-elected for another full term as speaker. Members of the Rafi faction in the Knesset explained that they had abstained in the voting on the speaker ship because of the stand Mr. Luz had taken against Mr. Ben-Gurion and on the latter’s insistence on the reopening of the old Lavon Affair.

In addition to choosing Mr. Luz, the Knesset elected eight Deputy Speakers, whose names had been previously agreed upon by all of the principal parties represented in the 120-member House.

The ceremonial inauguration of the session was preceded by President Shazar’s entry into the House, after being greeted by a fanfare and by a guard of honor outside the building. In his address, President Shazar noted that this was the first time he had ever inaugurated a new Knesset. He recalled that the recent elections, which had passed without serious incident, had proven again “the maturity of Israel’s voters.”


After the election of the Speaker and his deputies, Prime Minister Eshkol announced that the entire Cabinet had presented its collective resignation to President Shazar at a separate ceremony in the home of the President. The resignation, however, is a mere formality, since the Cabinet will remain as a caretaker government until a new government is formed and presented to the Knesset for its approval. Following Mr. Eshkol’s statement, the Knesset adjourned until tomorrow, when legislative business will be begun by the House.

Attending the opening session today were members of all previous parliaments; executives of the Jewish Agency; Dr. Vera Weizmann and Mrs. Rachel Ben-Zvi, widows, respectively, of Israel’s first and second Presidents; foreign diplomats residing in Jerusalem; members of the outgoing Cabinet; Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, chief of staff of Israel’s defense forces; and other senior officials of the Government. Minister of Justice Dov Joseph, whom the Mapai-Achdut Avoda alignment excluded from its list of candidates in the November 2 elections, was the only Cabinet member absent.

Meanwhile, Mr. Eshkol warned here today that he would refuse to head the new Government unless Minister of Finance Pinhas Sapir revokes his threat to step out of the Cabinet, and stays on in his present post. Mr. Sapir’s hesitance about holding his portfolio again in the next Cabinet is believed to be dependent upon whether Mr. Esbkol would support him fully in plans he has announced for tough measures to halt further increases in wages in Israel.

The Finance Minister has submitted to the Cabinet a program calling for steps to balance Israel’s economy without devaluation of the pound. Included among his plans is an effort to eliminate Israel’s trade deficit, by reducing it at an average of $70,000,000 a year.

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