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