Wednesday, April 25, 2018

When Begin Assisted Ben-Gurion to Declare Statehood

Martin Kramer published an article on the crucial vote to establish the state of Israel in May 1948. It was crucial because B-G was not totally convinced he had a solid majority.  Some were wavering.

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The vote itself was aided by Menachem Begin who was contacted by Eliezer Livneh and requested, in the name of Ben-Gurion to the object of assisting him overcome some of those who were wavering on the upcoming vote to declare statehood. As Begin writes on p. 478 in The Revolt (Futura Edition, 1980) which is the first paragraph in Chapter 30, Dawn, he had been in contact with the Hagana on the matter and notified them that the Irgun was prepared to pronounce statehood even without the official bodies. In the Hebrew edition, p. 504, there is this which doesn't appear in the English (לא בלי סיוענו הישיר) which reads "(not without our direct help)". A slogan had been published in the Herut underground paper, No, 93, April 1948, בדמנו ובנפשנו נקים את מדינתנו or, "With our blood and soul we will establish our state", page 4 that served as Ben-Gurion's 'proof'.
In Martin Sicker's article, "Pangs of the Messiah: The Troubled Birth of the Jewish State", we read: "On May 12, the National Administration voted 4 to 6 in favor of rejecting the truce, thereby effectively confirming the decision to proceed with the proclamation of the Jewish state on May 15. Several days before the vote, Ben-Gurion sent Eliezer Liebenstein [Livneh - YM] to see Begin. Begin later recalled: "He told me that Mr. Ben-Gurion 'appreciated very much' our proclamations demanding the establishment of a Jewish Government;".

which clarifies these following parts of Kramer's article:

According to the lore that would surround 1948, warnings like Marshall’s plunged some leaders of the yishuv into doubt. After all, until now the yishuv had faced only Palestinian Arab militias. If the Zionists declared a state, they would face invasion by Arab states...The most prominent waverer, according to lore, was Shertok himself....

...all in the room knew that if they didn’t declare the state, someone else would. In his book, Sharef noted the sense around the table that “any deferment might provoke internal dissension, which would be likely to impair the yishuv’s combative mood and the morale of its troops.” This “internal dissension” had an unspoken name: Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun, who had promised to declare a state if the People’s Administration didn’t.

In early May, Begin had published a notice including precisely this warning:
The Hebrew government will be established. There is no maybe—it will rise. If the official leadership establishes a government, we will back it. But if the government gives in to threats, our forces and the majority of the land’s youth will back the free government that will grow from the underground.
Begin thus prepared two alternative messages for broadcast on May 16: the first, professing loyalty to the state if Ben-Gurion declared one; the second, declaring a state himself if Ben-Gurion did not. Everyone in the room knew Begin’s intent. Bechor-Shalom Sheetrit (representing the Sephardim) put it bluntly: “We are alert to the street and we know the mood there. And if we now seem to go soft and retreat from what the street hopes from us, we’ll unleash war in the street.”


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