Wednesday, August 3, 2016

82 - Note on the Cancellation of Operation Omer, January 1956

David Ben-Gurion would later accuse Moshe Sharett of causing the cancellation of “Operation Omer.” 

            This seems to the Editors of this Diary to be a frequent rationalization used by Ben-Gurion’s followers to account for his failure to execute bold military action. The same has been said about Ben-Gurion’s proposal to occupy the southern part of the West Bank in September 1948, which was voted down at the time by a majority of the Cabinet ministers, Sharett among them. Years later Ben-Gurion would accuse Sharett of being instrumental in turning down his proposal, and claimed that decision not to occupy the southern part of the West Bank was cause for “a weeping for generations to come.” 

“Still, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Ben-Gurion did not mount a fight for his proposal, since he did know how to whenever he had wanted to. If attacking Latrun was so necessary and important in his view, why then had he not convened Mapai’s ministers that evening and try to convince them to convene a special Cabinet meeting? What prevented him from convening a Cabinet meeting on the next day? It seems that he was not really entirely convinced that the operation should be executed. ‘I am not sure that Ben-Gurion really wanted it,’ Ze’ev Sharef [then Cabinet Secretary] told me.”

“A Weeping for Generations to Come: A Collection of Documents, 1948-2013,” Appendix in Moshe Sharett, Davar Davur 1948 [Heb.] (Tel Aviv: Moshe Sharett Heritage Society, 2013), pp.619-43; Michael Bar-Zohar, Ben-Gurion [Heb]. Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1977, vol.2, p.826.

            Indeed, having learned the lesson from this and other experiences, Ben-Gurion would bring his proposal for the so-called Operation “Kadesh” before the Cabinet just 24 hours before the IDF's invasion of Sinai in October 1956, long after the collusion with the French and the British was sealed and the IDF fully prepared and waiting on the borders for the green light. It is the view of the Editors that had Sharett retained his post in the Cabinet Ben-Gurion would not have been able to conceal from him the September-October 1956 collusion with Britain and France and the plan to occupy Sinai.

See Yaakov Sharett, “Moshe Sharett: Right or Wrong?” Israel Studies 20:3 (Fall 2015), 158-75.

         Several authors, including “Ben-Gurionists,” have claimed that, in fact, Ben-Gurion had not really been serious about proceeding with Operation Omer; had he had really wanted it executed, he would have clearly put it through. 

“It seems that Ben-Gurion, deep in his heart, was happy with the Cabinet decision against the operation, and he certainly accepted it and did not appeal against it.”
See Mordechai Bar-0n, Sha’arei Azza [Heb., Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1992], p.72: 

“From Ben-Gurion’s explanation of the Cabinet’s negative decision (given at a meeting of the IDF General Staff),  it could be concluded that he was not entirely in agreement with the proposal  [by CoS Dayan] to mount Operation Omer at this time.”
Michael Bar-Zohar, Ben Gurion, [Heb., Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1977], vol.3, p.1157: