Wednesday, August 24, 2016

128 - D. Ben-Gurion to H. Berger, June 27, 1956

To H. Berger, Shalom.
            I informed you yesterday through Yitzhak Navon that I have no grounds to object to what you wrote in your column in Davar. T. Kollek’s remarks are indeed to be regretted, not only because he is Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office, but because of the remarks themselves.
            The only person entitled to explain Sharett’s resignation to the public is Sharett himself, but he has not done so. Neither did I want, nor was I able, to do so in public, and so many of the haverim (and I knew that this would happen beforehand) now bear a grudge against me. But out of collegial respect, I have made a vow of public silence. I had hoped that the malicious fabrication that it was I who had offered the Party Secretary-Generalship to Moshe (and the foreign press lapped it up) would be denied by Moshe, and I was a little surprised when, in the Knesset, I listened to Moshe’s speech after my own statement. He did not mention it but said things that I had never imagined he would say, and I saw, unfortunately, that I would have to refute this malicious distortion myself. However, before doing so I informed Moshe of my intention and he asked me to say that he had not been the first to make the suggestion, but that I had first heard of this possibility from him and I had acceded to his request, even though this was not exactly the way it had happened.
            Since you have approached me privately, I would like to apprise you (personally and confidentially) of the facts.
            You are as much aware of Moshe’s many talents and qualities as I am. And I have no doubt at all that in a country like Denmark, which primarily deals with courteous trade relations with her neighbors, he could be an excellent Foreign Minister. Israel, to my deep regret, is not Denmark. From time to time she faces serious political conflicts and fateful decisions which demand a great deal of foresight, courage and a deep understanding of concrete factors and circumstances, not symbols and rhetoric, in order to steer the storm-bound ship to safe harbor through the treacherous seas that beset it.
            The gifts of expression and exposition are not enough. Up until the time I left the government some three years ago, Moshe would never have been obdurate on serious matters (with the exception of one occasion in the provisional government), and I am sure that he is as happy as I am that when, after the decision on the internationalization of Jerusalem was taken at the General Assembly, his opinion was not accepted when he vigorously opposed transferring the seat of government to Jerusalem. Yet we effected the transfer in the face of that opposition. He then submitted his resignation and I did not even bring it to the attention of any one of our haverim, but simply informed him that I would not accept it and that his error could not possibly serve as a reason for leaving the government. After I left the government, a change seemed to come over him. I possibly contributed to it during the months that I served under him, for I had told him that as long as he was Prime Minister I would accept his decisions without question. And this was what I did, even in those instances in which possibly no other man would have done so. But I told our haverim in Cabinet that I would not serve or even support the government after the elections if it were to persist with the security policy maintained by the Moshe Sharett government. When I was asked to form a new government, I drafted its security and foreign policies (which are almost one and the same) clearly enough, and Moshe knew full well that, unlike him, I was not in the habit of saying more than I intended to effect. My draft was endorsed by all the Cabinet members, including Sharett. If it had not been endorsed I would not have remained in the government and it goes without saying that I would not have headed it.
            Despite my stated position which had been endorsed by the Cabinet, Moshe persisted in organizing a majority against me, consisting of Hapo’el Hamizrahi, Mapam and the Progressives, and even one or two of our own party members, just as he had done when I was Minister of Defense under his premiership (then the majority had consisted of the General Zionists, Hapo’el Hamizrahi, Rosen, Moshe, and one or two of our other haverim).
            Something of this kind had occurred only once in the days of the provisional government, when Moshe had swayed the balance against me by a single vote and caused, in my view, a calamity to be mourned for years to come, and I know that he regretted it later. Yet now I have the impression (perhaps I am mistaken) that after his term as Prime Minister and especially after I had joined his government, willingly accepting his rulings, his haughtiness grew. Or worse, his presumptuousness ballooned.
            He should have realized that if that were to be his way, I would have to leave and the majority of our haverim would leave with me; and with his knowledge of the supreme value I put on matters of security he should have known that I would not only leave the government, I would fight it if it persisted along that road which, in my view, was leading the country into an abyss. If he had not wanted this government to fall, he should have done one of two things: (a) either leave, or (b) dismantle the coalition of Hapo’el Hamizrahi, Mapam and the Progressives against me and the majority of our haverim in the Cabinet (who in my humble opinion represented a country-wide majority on questions of security). For reasons that I will not divulge, not even in a personal letter, I held back for a long time.
            At the Committee of Nine meeting he himself put his own name forward as a candidate for the post of Party General Secretary. When I spoke to him about it at his home afterwards, he told me that he had not intended that his suggestion be taken seriously, but that he had made it in order to make Golda’s way out of the government easier. Until that moment I had never imagined that one of our most responsible haverim could act in such a manner, and I was ashamed. I reached the final conclusion that I must leave the government if he remained as Foreign Minister and I did not conceal this from him. He had then demanded that the matter be brought before the Party Political Committee for its decision. I asked him to come and see me in private and told him that I would not say a word against him at the Political Committee and that if the matter came to a vote I would vote for him staying where he was, or at most I would abstain, but that it should be clear that afterwards I would not remain in the government. Next day I convened a meeting of our haverim in the Cabinet, to whom I would be revealing no secrets for they were aware of what had transpired in the Cabinet, in order to inform them that I had no place in this government.
            Three hours before they were due to convene, Ziama and Pinhas Sapir came to tell me that Moshe had made it unnecessary to convene the Party Political Committee and that he was resigning from the government.
            The rest is unimportant and you know more or less what happened.
            It was perhaps weakness on my part and I possibly should have told the people why Moshe Sharett was unfit to serve as Foreign Minister of the State of Israel. I did not do so and I shall not do such a thing to a colleague with whom I have worked for over twenty years.
                                                                        With best wishes,
                                                                        D. Ben-Gurion

127 - Selected Israeli Press Comments on FM Sharett’s Resignation, June 1956

*** Herut, “Behind the Curtains of Sharett’s Disposal,” June, 15 1956, (by a Special Correspondent)

[This article related that Ben-Gurion became fed up with Sharett for the following reasons: Sharett struck a deal with the religious parties; he would appoint 15 of their members to Foreign Ministry posts in return for their voting with him in the Cabinet against Ben-Gurion. Another proof of Sharett’s undermining of Ben-Gurion was his speech in Kibbutz Mizra upon the release of Mordechai Oren: this step was likewise carried out in order to gain Mapam’s support of Sharett against Ben-Gurion. In view of all this Ben-Gurion decided that Sharett had to go. The article ends with:] “The day of his departure is near.”

*** Herut Editorial, June  15, 1956

The onslaught of Ben-Gurion’s group on Sharett’s position has continued this week incessantly. Those who are after Sharett’s head continue to spread news about internal deliberations inside Mapai regarding Sharett’s dismissal. Nobody inside Mapai is coming forward to help Sharett or defend him. Only the Progressives and Mapam have dared to argue in the Cabinet that Sharett’s dismissal is not an internal issue of Mapai but a matter pertaining to the coalition.

[The article contended that, in fact, Sharett’s policy was tantamount to that of Ben-Gurion’s. Thus] a change at the Foreign Ministry will not change anything in the failing policy of the regime. Even if Sharett is thrown out of the Foreign Ministry, his spirit  would stay. Not a change of the minister is needed now but a change of the regime.

*** Davar editorial, June 18, 1956:

If a question is posed in responsible and serious political circles why it is that Sharett resigned now, it is possible to answer openly and sincerely with no beating around the bush that a defense and political situation has been created in which the foreign minister has realized that his cooperation with the Prime Minister and Defense Minister would not be beneficial now.

*** Moshe Zak, “Two Personalities – Two Attitudes,” Ma'ariv, June 18, 1956:

The difference [between the two] was not only in that Moshe Sharett was more sensitive to foreign matters while Ben-Gurion was more sensitive to defense matters. The difference was much deeper and more basic. Both have striven for a settlement of relations with the Arab countries, but Moshe Sharett believed that this could not be attained without the support of the powers and of world public opinion, and therefore Israel’s first aim should be to attain the sympathy of the powers and of world public opinion, presenting Israel as a country devoted to peace, hence his opposition to launching a preventive war and even to large-scale reprisal operations. MS believes that the way to convince that Arabs and bring them to recognize Israel is the long road of buttressing the state and establishing relations with close and far-away states, and attaining international economic aid.
            The other school of thought, of which Ben-Gurion seems to be a supporter, contends that our position in the world and our possibility to enlist friends among the powers is a result of our relations with that Arabs: insofar as we can prove to the world that we are able to wrestle with the Arabs and pacify our borders by our own means, our influence on the world will grow proportionally. In other words, it is not that our relations with the Arabs would be influenced by our coming to terms with the powers, but on the contrary, our relations with the powers are a function of our power vis-à-vis the Arabs.
            [- - -] For instance, in the very days of Sharett’s visit to Washington, waiting there for Dulles’ reply regarding supply of arms to Israel, the Kinneret operation was carried out. Sharett believed that that action could foiled his efforts to obtain weapons, while his opponents did not believe that by Israeli concessions to the Arabs regarding the Kinneret Israel would obtain sympathy in the world. Israel’s retreat before the Arabs could increase their pressure in world capitals against supplying arms to Israel. The same holds for the Jordan canal issue. Ben-Gurion believed and continues to believe that only by the renewal of work it is possible to bring the Arabs and the powers to a settlement of the water problems between Israel and its neighbors, while Sharett stressed the attainment of a prior agreement by the western powers about the renewal of work, and thus also to ensure financial aid to the great project. He believes in the power of our just cause to convince the powers.
            Ben-Gurion differs here. He wants world public opinion to support us, but believes that first of all we must seek it among the Arabs, which means that it is necessary to convince the Arabs that war with Israel doesn’t pay – neither guerrila war nor one by economic boycott. And wherever such a war is on, it should be brought to a showdown, and thus, as a result, attain the powers’ support.
            [- - -] In the course of time, Arab military power and Arab enmity have been growing, and Ben-Gurion thought that this process was endangering Israel militarily and also politically. He feared that the strengthening of the Arabs would cause the powers to press Israel into making concessions, and therefore he strove to [take] immediate [powerful] decisions. This is the background of developments occurring since his return from Sde Boker. [- - -] While Sharett believes that Israel should first of all obtain the western powers’ support, Ben-Gurion believes that sources of arms supply [i.e., France] are open to us not because of restraint towards the Arabs, but precisely because it was proven that we are a dynamic [military] force in the Middle East.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

126 - Selected Foreign Diplomats' Comments on FM Sharett’s Resignation, June-July 1956

On June 21, 1956, Francis Russell recorded the following exchange with Reuven Shiloah, who had recently returned to Washington following consultations in Israel:

            1. There will be no change in Israel policy [Shiloah stated] as a result of the resignation of Mr Sharett as Foreign Minister and the assumption of that post by Mrs Myerson. He said that the difference in temperament between Ben Gurion and Sharett had for a long time caused more or less strained relations between the two and that for various reasons the situation had just now come to the breaking point. I told Shiloah that nevertheless the departure of Sharett at this time was bound to cause disquiet in many quarters over the extent to which IDF influence in the Israeli Foreign Office would increase. Shiloah said that Sharett's inability to obtain arms from the West, particularly the United States, and other failures of his policy had weakened his position. I said that it must be obvious to the I[srael] G[overnment] that the major part of Israel's difficulties stemmed not from the Sharett policies but from those for which Ben Gurion was responsible. I said that I had not much contact with Mrs Myerson when I was in Israel but the one or two experiences I had were not reassuring. 

SOURCE: FRUS 1955-1957 XV, doc.405.


On July 3, Eban was more colorful in offering Assistant Secretary of State George Allen the following personal impressions of Sharett's resignation:

            [Eban] said it had been entirely at the insistence of Ben Gurion, who had "suddenly woke up one morning and decided to get rid of Sharett." Eban compared it to a couple who had been living together for forty years and suddenly decide to divorce. Ben Gurion and Sharett have quarrelled over various matters for many years but nothing whatsoever has happened to worsen their relationship. He declared that no policy question whatever was involved in the resignation and that it was purely a personal clash. Eban emphasized that any speculation that Israel might now go over to a preventive war was entirely incorrect. He said that the resignation had caused very considerable internal turmoil in Israel, which has no written constitution and no basis for judging whether Ben Gurion was legally justified in requesting Sharett's resignation. . . . Ben Gurion's tendency toward dictatorial methods have [sic.] apparently increased with age.

SOURCE: Allen, memorandum of Conversation with Eban, July 3, 1956, FRUS 1955-1957 XV, doc.420. 


On June 22, the U.K.'s permanent representative at the United Nations, Sir Bob Pierson Dixon, while assessing the chances of Dag Hammarskjöld's next moves to de-escalate Middle East tensions, wrote to the Foreign Office as follows: 

"One reason why the Arabs are still so excited and unreasonable is, I am sure, that the Israelis have behaved so provocatively in the past. With Sharett gone, there may be a real risk of the Israelis ruining the Secretary-General's chances by statements or actions designed to infuriate the Arabs."

SOURCE: Pierson Dixon to Shuckburgh, secret despatch 1071/539/56, June 22, 1956, TNA FO371/121743 VR1074/360G.


James M. Ludlow of the Statue Department's United Nations office noted, in a June 29 conversation with Shimshon Arad, First Secretary at Israel's Washington Embassy: 

"I said I was sorry to see Mr Sharett leave his post. Despite all the difficulties and differences of opinion which might have occurred between the United States and Israel, Mr Sharett had represented a degree of caution and moderation which was essential if there were ever to be any peace and stability in the Near East. [- - -] I felt that in Israel's and our interests it was of real importance at this stage of the game that nothing be done to upset a perhaps uneasy but nonetheless calm which prevailed in the area. From Israel's point of view there was everything to gain and nothing to lose by avoiding any untoward difficulties or incidents." 

SOURCE: FRUS 1955-1957 XV, doc.415.


In his report to the 290th meeting of the National Security Council (July 12), U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles stated that tensions 

"had increased considerably [in the past 2-3 weeks] in part because of the alarm that General Burns had created in the minds of the governing group in Jordan. Moreover, the Arab governments were worried about the change in the Israeli government and the departure of Sharett, whom they considered a comparative moderate."

SOURCE: FRUS 1955-1957 XV, doc.446.

125 - Excerpts of PM Ben-Gurion’s Knesset Speech, June 19, 1956

After what was said yesterday I must correct several distortions and errors. A silly falsehood has emerged in the local press, and especially in the foreign press, to the effect that the Prime Minister proposed the post of [Mapai] Party Secretary to the Foreign Minister in order to eliminate him from the Government. On the basis of this fabrication the foreign press has built several castles in the air. I consider it my obligation to state categorically that I have never proposed the post of Party Secretary to the Foreign Minister. The first I heard of it was from Sharett himself at the first meeting of the party's Committee of Nine, which has also been subjected lately to wide publicity by the press. After examining and considering this proposal I decided against it, and when members subsequently brought it up I rejected it categorically.

It was said yesterday that the Prime Minister had more say in foreign policy than the Foreign Minister did. Now it is true, and I think it should be, that between one meeting and the next the Foreign Minister generally consulted with the Prime Minister on foreign affairs. On the other hand, it is completely untrue that in such matters the Prime Minister took any step whatsoever without the Foreign Minister and his office or without his knowledge. I wish to say to the Knesset and to the nation that foreign policy is at all times the responsibility of the entire Government, not only for formal reasons of collective responsibility but for practical reasons as well. There is no problem to which the Cabinet has devoted so much debate, and taken decisions week after week, as in the case of foreign policy. If this policy has been good, the credit must be shared by the entire Cabinet, and if bad, the entire Cabinet is equally to blame. Hence, as one of the members of the Cabinet, it is with great satisfaction that I take full responsibility for Sharett's foreign policy.

In every Government that has arisen in Israel, and I have had the privilege of being in all of them, there have been differences of opinion. There are Knesset members here who were in the Cabinet, left it, and later returned. There are those who have remained all through; and others who have been members now and then. They know that the Cabinet has never had "one language and many utterances," not only because it is a coalition Government and must of necessity embrace differences of opinion, but because it is a democratic rather than a totalitarian Government. Even if it were made up of a single party, and that party were the one to which I have the honor of belonging, it would still embrace differences of opinion because it is a democratic party. Many issues, indeed, from the time of the Provisional Government until the present have been decided not unanimously but by majority opinion, and so I am certain it will be in the future as well.

I will not undertake to state whether all these decisions have been good or bad. There were times when I was in the majority and times when I was in the minority, and naturally, like any Cabinet member, I may be permitted to assume that I was right in both cases. Still, I feel it is proper especially in matters of vital importance, when members find themselves in a minority – as I was more than once in the Provisional Government – that they refrain from bringing on crises or resigning. If they did, the country would face a new crisis every week and soon would be in chaos. Those members who have found themselves in the minority and nevertheless submitted to majority rule deserve to be commended.

In my brief remarks yesterday I did not conceal the fact that though I have had differences of opinion with Moshe Sharett, and not only with him but with members to whom I have been even closer ideologically, I believe that at no time did these differences impair our friendship. But perhaps I did not fully express my esteem for Moshe Sharett yesterday, even if I differ in several respects with his position and views. If there is anyone of a fascist or totalitarian hue who is unable to understand or believe this, I will not force him.

Yesterday Sharett explained that when I was charged with the formation of a Government after the last elections, he asked me not to include him but I insisted. Now I did this not only despite our differences of opinion but to a large extent because of them. Like many other members, I cannot work only with "yes men." I am not one who thinks he is incapable of making mistakes and I like my opinions and views checked against those of colleagues whose outlook is different. Yet this was not the only reason I urged Sharett to join the Government, and why I was grateful to him for doing so.

Yet with the deterioration of our security and the increasing hazards of our foreign policy – which I will touch on later – I concluded that the national interest now requires as much coordination as is humanly possible between the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense, as well as new leadership in the Foreign Ministry . This is not because I feel that we should depart from the Basic Policy outlined by all those who participate in the Cabinet and who devoted much time to its formulation; nor do I feel that we should alter the defense and foreign policy, which was outlined in my speech of November 2, when I presented this Government to the Knesset, and which was delivered with the consent of all members of the Government.

I do feel, however, that at this difficult time it is essential that we have maximum co­ordination between these two ministries, Foreign Affairs and Defense, which deal in effect with one and the same thing, since any affairs of the Foreign Ministry that are not related to security are at this time of little importance. While in normal times foreign policy does not focus solely on defense problems, the present case is different. While differences of opinion on these questions are usually beneficial, it is essential that harmony now prevail between the two ministries.

This is why my colleague Sharett told you yesterday that he felt compelled to leave the Government. Though personally, as a friend of long standing, I regret it, from the point of view of the national welfare I consider it for the good of the State. At this time there is need for a change of personnel. I do not believe that the country depends on one man alone. Three years ago when I felt the need for rest from the psychological tension of more than twenty years' duration (and what twenty years they were!) I, too, permitted myself to retire from the Government. I was certain no harm would come to the country from my departure and that it would even help to educate the nation. I think the same holds true for security and foreign affairs.

SOURCE: David Ben-Gurion, Israel: A Personal History, translated by Nechemia Meyers and Uzy Nystar (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1971), 491-92.

124 - Excerpts of PM Ben-Gurion’s, FM Sharett’s and the Menachem Begin’s Knesset speeches, June 18, 1956

The Prime Minister, D. Ben-Gurion: Mr. Speaker, Members of the Knesset, at a special meeting of the Government this morning the Foreign Minister informed us of his decision to resign. Not only the members of the Government and the members of the Foreign Ministers party but, I am sure, all the citizens of Israel, both Jewish and non-Jewish, as well as many people [- - -] all over the world heard the news with great regret.
            Since the Provisional Council of State [- - -] and through all Israel’s Governments—in all of which I have had the privilege of participating—no Minister [- - -] has worked so consistently and devotedly, even before the establishment of the state, with such skill and dedication, and has been so naturally suited for his task as Foreign Minister in both his character and temperament, diligence and knowledge in political matters, gentle bearing and good manners [- - -] as Moshe Sharett. [- - -]
            He was not only Foreign Minister, he was also Israel’s second Prime Minister. When I presented the current Government to the Knesset [- - -] I said “The second Prime Minister is blessed with skills and abilities which the first Prime Minister did not have,” and I was not giving an empty compliment.[- - -] I do not say things I do not mean. [- - -]
            If Moshe Sharett were to retire from political life upon resigning from the Government I would attempt to give a brief outline of the noble enterprise of one of the sons of the Biluim and one of my best friends in the service of his country over twenty-three consecutive years, as the Foreign Minister of his people, even before the establishment of the state, of the unceasing endeavor to increase immigration and settlement ever since 1933, of the bitter struggle against the White Paper after 1938, of the mobilization of the Battalion and the establishment of the first Jewish Brigade in the British Army to fight the Nazi hangman, of the desperate and heroic effort to bring in the illegal immigrants, of the struggle to establish the state in the arena of the United Nations, of the organization of the first Foreign Office of the independent State of Israel, of the extensive activity in the international arena which led to Israel’s acceptance into the U.N. and its honored position in the world, of the achievement of extensive financial assistance from the U.S. government for the absorption of mass immigration in the first years of the states existence, of the establishment of ties with countries of both the East and the West, of the education of the staff of the Foreign Ministry, ambassadors and delegates of which even a Great Power could be proud, of the acquisition of friends and of the noble and courageous stand he took when confronting petty critics in the international sphere.
            But I will not do that, because Moshe Sharett’s political activity has not yet ended; his manifold talents, rich experience and extensive knowledge will continue to serve Israel’s parliament, and his advice will gladly be heard by all those who will henceforth deal with Israel’s internal and external affairs. I am sure that the person who guided the ship of state for so many years has many more tasks to fulfill, and that is why I will not attempt to sum up the extensive and productive endeavors of my friend Moshe Sharett, alongside whom I have worked for more than forty years, not always agreeing with him, but always respecting him.
            I do not need to stress that the Government’s future policy will continue to follow the lines agreed upon by the Government, and particularly its foreign and defense policy. [- - -]

M. Sharett (Mapai): Mr. Speaker, distinguished Members of the Knesset, I thank the Prime Minister for the praises he has heaped upon me. [- - -] I thank the Knesset for the confidence it has displayed in me when I served as Foreign Minister and for its attentiveness and patience towards me.
            [- - -] In August 1955, when the present Prime Minister was attempting to form a Government after the last elections, I asked him not to include me among its members. I feared that the cooperation between my friend David Ben-Gurion as Prime Minister and myself as Foreign Minister would not work out well this time, and I thought that it would be best if I were to release him and. the Government from unnecessary complications.
            The Prime Minister rejected my arguments then, and his attitude caused me to alter my views. During my term in the present Government the cooperation between us underwent several strains, which we managed to overcome in view of the many years we had worked side by side and the situation of emergency in the state. In recent weeks, however, it has become clear to me that my resignation is inevitable. This is not connected with any specific political problem. [- - -]
            In a frank discussion I had with the Prime Minister on June 3, I realized that I could not possibly remain in the Government. I suggested to him that he summon the Government immediately for a special meeting so that I could submit my resignation. The Prime Minister asked me to postpone my resignation for several weeks [- - -] but after a few days he realized that the sooner the thing were done the better. [- - -]
            That is the way things happened, and any other version you read or hear is untrue. [- - -] I will not trouble you with detailed rebuttals of all the falsehoods disseminated about my resignation, except for one case. One of the newspapers made a base attempt to involve the senior staff of the Foreign Ministry in this affair, calling them advisors to the Foreign Minister. [- - -] I will only say that I hope every Minister in Israel is blessed with such colleagues as I had the privilege of working with in the Foreign Ministry, in the capital and throughout the world [- - -] as regards their education, political acumen, cultural and moral level, honesty, industriousness, sense of discipline, devotion to their work and dedication to Israel and the Jewish people.
            I probably have several reasons to regret the fact that I have been forced to leave my position, but none causes me greater sorrow than leaving the staff I cherish so dearly and to whom I have become so closely attached. [- - -] I would like to express my gratitude to them for their dedication, help and friendship.
            Knesset Members, I have ascended this podium many times in the capacity which I leave today. Allow me to present myself now in all humility as one of you, as a representative of the people, who will feel honored to participate in the daily work of this house without having any ministerial authority.

M. Begin (Herut): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister’s words of praise for the departing Foreign Minister were most touching. The one thought that occurred to me when I heard them was — how can one give up a Foreign Minister of that caliber? I have the honor of being the Foreign Minister’s uncompromising rival. [- - -] He is distinguished by the wide extent of his knowledge, particularly of languages, and especially Hebrew. If he wants, he can be the most affable of men, would that all his colleagues were like him in that. [- - -] Also [- - -] he has remained faithful to his system. The problem is that his system was not right for the needs of the nation.
            But why did the Foreign Minister have to resign?. [- - -] The head of Mapai maintains that there were no personal reasons dividing him from his friend. [- - -] If this is the case, the reason for the resignation is political, in which case the nation is entitled to know what it is. [- - -] It cannot be political success, because successful Ministers do not resign. [- - -] If the resignation is not for personal reasons, it must be because the persons who caused him to resign reached the conclusion that his policy had failed. This is something new. For eight years we have [- - -] been warning you, members of Mapai, that your official foreign policy has gone from bad to worse, leading the nation towards the brink. [- - -] This is the first time we hear that our foreign policy has failed, forcing the Minister responsible to resign.
            But if this is the reason for the resignation[, - - -] and after all, the Foreign Minister acted in your name, members of the Government, and with your knowledge, how can you let him go while you remain? [- - -]
            [- - -] Our political situation is disastrous. In the eighth year of Israel’s existence we no longer have any international standing in the diplomatic offices of the Powers, of countries, of the members of the U.N. But did all this happen as a result of the personal policy of the departing Foreign Minister? Did he decide that we were forbidden to say that the Old City of Jerusalem is the City of David, was ours and shall be ours? Did he decide that Jerusalem, Hebron and Bethlehem are alien territory? The Prime Minister made that statement from this podium. You all decided that we have no claim. You thereby caused the world to recognize at least part of our enemies’ territorial demands, because you have no claims, and the world demands a compromise. [- - -] That is your acknowledged policy. You are all responsible for it. But why do you seek the scapegoat for this policy and its results only in the Foreign Minister? [- - -]
            As regards arms, your sources disseminated the rumors that [- - -] the Foreign Minister believed that we would receive arms from the U.S. This belief was proved wrong. His policy failed. He therefore had to draw the necessary conclusions. That is what we have been arguing about for the last eight months, ever since what is known as the Egyptian-Czech deal. We warned you that we would fall behind in the arms race. [- - -]

SOURCE: Major Knesset Debates, 1948-1981vol.3: Second Knesset, 1951-1955, Third Knesset, 1955-1959, ed. Netanel Lorch, (Lanham / New York / London: University Press of America / Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1993), 920-24.

Friday, August 19, 2016

123 - “Behind the Ben-Gurion-Sharett ‘Controversy’,” Ma’ariv, June 11, 1956

            “I do not know of many cases in our public life in which there is such sincere and fruitful collegial cooperation than the ‘ideological,’ moral, and public cooperation existing between Moshe Sharett and David Ben-Gurion, although they are not obliged to think the same on each and every question.”
            Thus wrote David Ben-Gurion less than a year ago, when he was asked to form a government after the elections to the Third Knesset. In the same article he vigorously denied reports that he intended to take foreign affairs out of Moshe Sharett’s hands. In an interview given to the London Times and in an article published in Davar, Ben-Gurion emphasized again that “between two independent personages there obviously were, and probably would be, disagreements and differing views,” but that he had no intention of dissolving the cooperation between Moshe Sharett and himself, which had lasted for 22 years.
            At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, one of the ministers indirectly raised the question of the rumors about Mr. Sharett’s resignation as Foreign Minister. A clear reply was not given. But today the question will still reverberate through the Knesset corridors and in interparty discussions. Although the Cabinet reshuffle has been postponed for a few weeks, the postponement cannot heal the wound which was opened by the proposal to make changes at the head of the Foreign Ministry.
            Ben-Gurion did not want to hurt Moshe Sharett. He did not want to “throw him out,” as many thought. His comradely feelings towards Sharett are as ever. The recent contention between the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Defense is more between their respective advisers.
            When a “line” of policy changes, B.G. knows how to sacrifice people on its altar. He knows how to dismiss and replace advisers as need be. Sharett, in contrast, less resolute than B.G., is more loyal to his advisers. He always tries to cover up their errors and is not inclined to replace them.
            Sharett is more hesitant. B.G. makes decisions very quickly. The differences in their temperaments have borne differing approaches to security matters which are the focal point of our foreign policy. Yet it is difficult to draw a precise boundary between Ben-Gurion’s activism and Sharett’s non-activism.
            It is a matter of record that it was during Sharett’s tenure as Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister that the IDF’s most daring reprisals, at Gaza, Khan Yunis, and other places, were undertaken. Yet Sharett’s advisers tried to label him a moderate. They described him thus abroad, and this definition was apparently to Sharett’s liking. This is the main cause of the existing tension. As “moderation” had been linked to Sharett’s personality, and as conciliation was the cause of the débâcle in the Security Council, Ben-Gurion sought a way of expressing his dissatisfaction to the Great Powers who had counseled moderation.
            B.G. could have called for military action to express this dissatisfaction, but because of Sharett’s arguments and the pressure exerted by the Great Powers, he preferred diplomatic action. He came to feel that Sharett’s resignation from the Foreign Ministry would influence the Great Powers just as much as a military operation. It would serve as a warning that Israel would not sit idly by in the face of the menacing rearmament of the Arab states.
            Be that as it may, he did not wish to cause Sharett personal anguish and tried to execute the surgery painlessly by giving him another distinguished post, that of General Secretary of Mapai.
            Sharett would have been able to influence foreign policy from this post just as he does today. He was even disposed to accept the post and might even have agreed to the political rationale behind the reshuffle.
            But Sharett’s aides and advisers thought otherwise. They knew that in any reshuffle of this kind they would bear the main brunt, so they embarked upon a struggle to overturn the “verdict.”
            The first intimation of this came in a New York Times article on the political damage that Sharett’s resignation would cause.{*}
            Then rumors began to spread. It was as though Sharett’s departure from the Foreign Ministry would be likely to harm the chances of obtaining jet aircraft from a certain country, which would only agree to supply the aircraft if it were sure that Israel would display moderation and not start a war.
            In fact, Ben-Gurion too does not intend to go to war. He does not want war. Not out of a fear of the response of the Great Powers, but out of purely national considerations. But he knows that without pressure the Western countries will not agree to supply the weapons that Israel needs, the supply of which alone is likely to prevent a war.
            The advice given to him by his advisers caused Sharett second thoughts about accepting the post of General Secretary of Mapai. Although he had already given his assent, he later argued that the decision regarding the reshuffle should be made by the Party Central Committee, and not by the Secretariat or the Party Political Committee.
            Those who advised Sharett to use this strategy granted him a temporary victory. The reshuffle has been postponed. But the advisers did not do Sharett a personal favor, for as a result of their advice, relations with B.G. have been aggravated – something that Sharett does not relish. They have also obviated the exploitation of the reshuffle abroad. Sharett’s strategy has succeeded so far, but the government has not been saved from the shocks that await it.

{*} In the New York Times of May 31, 1956, Jerusalem correspondent Homer Bigart had written, inter alia: “It will be difficult to convince the world that Moshe Sharett’s resignation from the government in order to take up the post of General Secretary of Mapai did not stem from fundamental differences of opinion with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. [- - -] [I]t will be difficult to avoid the impression that Ben-Gurion’s prime motive was his desire to get rid of Sharett [- - -] [A]lthough Ben-Gurion now admits that there is a great deal of wisdom in Sharett’s moderation, some worldwide fears are likely regarding Ben-Gurion’s actions when Sharett is no longer at his side. [- - -] Moshe Sharett faces a crucial decision in his public career.”

122 - Extracts from the Hebrew Press, June 8, 1956

Ha’aretz of today’s date featured a front-page report with the by-line “Ha’aretz Political Correspondent” (probably Moshe Keren). It was headlined “Tension over the Sharett Affair Eased” and began: 
Yesterday the tension over the ‘Sharett - Mapai secretariat’ affair eased and no decisions are expected to be made in the coming days. [- - -] In view of Sharett’s refusal to become Mapai’s General Secretary, it is doubtful whether Mr. Ben-Gurion would like to openly say that he is interested in a reshuffle in the Foreign Ministry. It would be difficult to find convincing arguments for such a move precisely against the background of the latest period which was characterized by Israeli restraint along the borders and its acceptance of Mr. Hammarskjöld’s proposals. [- - -] It can be assumed that in the coming months the UN’s weight will become more important in dealing with the Palestine question, and precisely at this time political damage might be caused by the departure of the Foreign Minister who has for so long stressed the importance of international bodies in Israel’s policy. It would be also difficult to explain such a move to American Jewry which appreciates Mr. Sharett as an outstanding representative of a moderate and well-considered line of Israel’s foreign policy.
 The paper’s lengthy editorial on the subject (“A Respite in the Battle Around Sharett”) ended with:
 Mr. Sharett’s refusal regarding the General Secretaryship of Mapai was honest. At the same time he demonstrated tactical acumen. By decisively refusing to exchange the foreign ministry for the party’s secretariat, he compelled his rivals to attack him openly in his capacity of the foreign minister. It is not impossible that his rivals were deterred from taking such a step. It is one thing is to claim that only Mr. Sharett is capable of rejuvenating Mapai, but quite another to obtain the agreement of all the party’s leaders to expelling him from the Foreign Ministry. It seems that such an agreement is not easy to obtain, but it is possible that a new attempt in this direction could be made in a later stage.

Under the headline “Moshe Sharett will not resign,” Davar noted: 
Reports published about Moshe Sharett’s resignation from the Cabinet are not true [- - -] said informed sources in Jerusalem. [- - -] No changes are to take place in the Foreign Ministry. The appointment of the candidate for the party Secretary and the various problems involved, including the possible impact on the composition of the Cabinet and other bodies, have not yet reached the stage of decision.
In his “Marginal Column” on page 1 of the Jerusalem Post, Arthur Shaul Super wrote (inter alia): 
The reports which appeared in yesterday afternoon’s press of the resignation of Mr. Moshe Sharett, the Foreign Minister, definitely appear to be premature according to informed opinion in Jerusalem last night. [- - -] The attempts in some of the reports to link the question of Mr. Sharett’s retirement from the office of foreign minister with a cleavage on line within the government [sic.] must fall on logical grounds. It is hardly likely that a situation would be deliberately created where the key figure in the Mapai party organization would be placed in opposition to the government line on foreign policy. In fact there is no division of opinion in the Cabinet on vital and basic questions; the general consensus seems to be that expressed recently by Mr. Ben Gurion that peace is better than a victorious war. [- - -] The best information indicates that despite the spate of rumours no decision has yet been taken. And until a decision is taken it would but be a pity if the constant manufacture of rumour were allowed to have a disturbing effect on the stability of the nation. Israel’s international and security situation is far too grave to allow it the luxury of indulging in the feverish speculations and adventures of unbridled imaginative Levantine politics.
On the previous day (June 7), the Jerusalem Post's political correspondent Sraya Shapiro (“U.N. Decision Will Bring Israel Foreign Policy Reappraisal”) had hinted at Sharett's precarious political position when he wrote:"The Security Council's deletion of the 'peace clause' earlier this week is bound to produce a far-reaching impression on the Israeli political scene. For the thinking Israeli this is a sign that in the future the State's foreign policy should be geared to facts, not hopes. A realization of this sort must necessarily involve an 'agonizing reappraisal'. The stand which the Foreign Minister is now willing t0 adopt is therefore of the utmost importance'. In fact, it overshadows every other issue in the country at this moment, including the question who will be Mapai's Secretary General."

Under the headline “Sharett’s Resignation Delayed Temporarily,” the evening paper Ma’ariv reported: 
Sharett’s departure from the Foreign Ministry and from the government entirely was delayed only temporarily – the crisis between Ben-Gurion and Sharett has not yet terminated – this was divulged by circles close to the  government and Mapai. The matter was postponed for two or three weeks, but there are no grounds to believe that Sharett will remain in the government as Foreign Minister.
The crisis in Ben-Gurion–Sharett relations is not over yet, as revealed by circles close to the Cabinet and to Mapai. The matter has been postponed for a week or two and it should not be assumed that M. Sharett will remain in the Cabinet as Foreign Minister. The change that occurred last night astonished those who are very close to the PM. [- - -] Aubrey Eban has canceled his urgent flight to Israel at the last moment – he was asked to come over for consultations concerning his appointment as Cabinet adviser on foreign policy matters in connection with the expected personnel changes. [- - -] According to the “timetable,” Sharett was to announce his resignation during the next meeting of the Cabinet. [- - -] It was BG who decided to delay Sharett’s resignation after consulting with a few of his aides. It is reported that the purpose of the delay was to make it possible to give the personnel changes in the Cabinet a respectable look and to avoid antagonizing the coalition partners. The coalition partners were surprised. [- - -] P. Rosen, Minister of Justice, had already visited M. Sharett yesterday in order to receive information from a primary source. [- - -] Golda Myerson, the designated Foreign Minister, has put off her journey to the ILO conference in Geneva. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

121 - UN Security Council Resolution 114 (1956), June 4, 1956

[Endorsing the UN Secretary-General's Report of May 9, 1956]

The Security Council,
            Recalling its resolutions 113 (1956) of 4 April 1956 and 73 (1949) of 11 August 1949,
            Having received the report of the Secretary-General on his recent mission on behalf of the Security Council,
            Noting those passages of the report (section III and annexes 1-4) which refer to the assurances given to the Secretary-General by all the parties to the General Armistice Agreements unconditionally to observe the cease-fire,
            Noting also that progress has been made towards the adoption of the specific measures set out in paragraph 3 of resolution 113 (1956),
            Noting, however, that full compliance with the General Armistice Agreements and with Council resolutions 107 (1955) of 30 March 1955, 108 (1955) of 8 September 1955 and 111 (1956) of 19 January 1956 is not yet effected, that the measures called for in paragraph 3 of resolution 113 (1956) have been neither completely agreed upon nor put fully into effect,
           Believing that further progress should now be made in consolidating the gains resulting from the Secretary-General's mission and towards full implementation by the parties of the Armistice Agreements,
            1. Commends the Secretary-General and the parties on the progress already achieved;
            2. Declares that the parties to the Armistice Agreements should speedily carry out the measures already agreed upon with the Secretary-General, and should co-operate with the Secretary-General and the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in Palestine to put into effect their further practical proposals, pursuant to resolution 113 (1956), with a view to full implementation of that resolution and full compliance with the Armistice Agreements;
            3. Declares that full freedom of movement of United Nations observers must be respected along the armistice demarcation lines, in the demilitarized zones and in the defensive areas, as defined in the Armistice Agreements, to enable them to fulfil their functions;
            4. Endorses the Secretary-General's view that the re-establishment of full compliance with the Armistice Agreements represents a stage which has to be passed in order to make progress possible on the main issues between the parties;
            5. Requests the Chief of Staff to continue to carry out his observation of the cease-fire pursuant to resolution 73 (1949) and to report to the Security Council whenever any action undertaken by one party to an Armistice Agreement constitutes a serious violation of that Agreement or of the cease-fire, which in his opinion requires immediate consideration by the Council;
            6. Calls upon the parties to the Armistice Agreements to take the steps necessary to carry out the present resolution, thereby increasing confidence and demonstrating their wish for peaceful conditions;
            7. Requests the Secretary-General to continue his good offices with the parties, with a view to full implementation of resolution 113 (1956) and full compliance with the Armistice Agreements, and to report to the Security Council as appropriate.

Adopted unanimously at the 728th meeting. United Nations Resolutions II: 138-39.