Friday, April 29, 2016

6 - D. Ben-Gurion to M. Sharett, February 27, 1954

Sde-Boker, February 27, 1954

Upon my withdrawal from the government I decided in my heart to desist from intervening and expressing my opinion on current political affairs, since it seemed to me that I should not do anything which might in any way or aspect burden the government. And if you hadn't called on me, the three of you, yourself, Lavon and Dayan, I would not have gone anywhere in order to express an opinion on what is being done or what ought to be done. But as you called me, I deemed it my duty to comply with your wishes, and especially with your own wish as Prime Minister. Therefore, I permit myself to go back to one issue which you did not approve of and discuss it again. And this is the issue of Lebanon.
Apart from any connection with current events (meanwhile Neguib was again nominated President; and this is an extremely clever step taken by Nasser of his group), it is clear that Lebanon is the weakest link in the Arab League. The other minorities in the Arab states are all Muslim, except for the Copts. But Egypt is the most compact and well-established of the Arab states and the decisive majority there consists of one solid block, of one race, religion and language, and the Christian minority does not seriously affect their political and national unity.
Not so the Christians in Lebanon. They are a majority in historical Lebanon and this majority has a tradition and a culture different from those of the other components of the League. Also within the wider borders (this was the worst mistake made by France when she extended the borders of Lebanon), the Muslims are not free to do as they wish, even if they are a majority there (and I don't know if they are, indeed, a majority) in view of the division among the Christians. The creation of a Christian state here is therefore a natural act; it has historical roots and it will find support in wide circles in the Christian world, both Catholic and Protestant. In normal times this would be almost impossible, first and foremost because of the lack of initiative and courage of the Christians. But in times of confusion and turmoil, or revolution or civil war, things take a different turn, and even the weak declares himself to be a hero.
Perhaps (there is never any certainty in politics) now is the opportune moment to bring about the establishment of a Christian state in our neighborhood. Without our initiative and our vigorous aid this will not be done. And it seems to me that this is the central task [underlined by BG] – or at least one [underlined by BG] of the central tasks – of our foreign policy. And this means that the means, time, and energy ought to be invested, and action be taken in all avenues which could bring about a fundamental change in Lebanon. [Eliahu] Sasson and our other Arabists must be mobilized. If money is necessary, no amount of dollars should be spared, even though the money may be spent in vain. We must concentrate all our efforts on this issue. It may well be that Reuven [Shiloah] should be immediately brought here. This is a historical opportunity, the missing of which will be unpardonable. There is no challenge against the world powers in this. Generally we should not act according to others’ initiative. But everything should be done, in my opinion, rapidly and at full steam.
The goal will not be reached of course, without a chopping of Lebanon's borders, but if men in Lebanon and exiles from it are found who will be ready to mobilize for the establishment of a Maronite state, extended borders and a large Muslim population will be of no use to them and this [i.e., giving up Greater Lebanon] will not constitute a disturbing factor.
I don't know if we have people in Lebanon, but there are various ways in which the proposed attempt can be carried out.
D. Ben-Gurion