Pangs of the Messiah: The Troubled Birth of the Jewish State

By Martin Sicker | Go to book overview
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force is the determining factor. . . . It is a question of a decision by force of arms." 15

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 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; they were helping him overcome the opposition from various quarters. But he asked us to emphasize in our further statements the positive point -- that if a Government were established we would support it with all our strength." 16

Begin, however, was not entirely convinced that Ben-Gurion would not reverse himself, as he had done so often in the past. Just in case, the Irgun high command made preparations to unilaterally declare a Jewish state in Jerusalem. They published a statement that declared:

The Hebrew Government will certainly arise. There is no "perhaps." It will arise. If the official leaders set it up, we shall support it with all our strength. But if they surrender to threats or allow themselves to be cajoled, our strength and that of the fighting youth, will be behind the free Government which will arise from the depths of the underground and which will lead the people to victory in the war for freedom. 17

Begin's admonitions proved unnecessary. On Friday afternoon, May 14, the Jewish state was proclaimed by Ben-Gurion eight hours before the end of the Mandate, in order to avoid making the declaration on the Sabbath. The newborn state, severely troubled by internal contradictions and external pressures, would continue to struggle for viability for the next half-century, and perhaps beyond.

Jon Kimche and David Kimche, A Clash of Destinies, p. 59.
Golda Meir, My Life, p. 215.
J. C. Hurewitz, The Struggle for Palestine, p. 311.
John B. Glubb, A Soldier with the Arabs, p. 63.
Nicholas Bethell, The Palestine Triangle, p. 352.
Michael J. Cohen, "The Zionist Perspective", in William Roger Louis and Robert W. Stookey, eds., The End of the Palestine Mandate, p. 90.
David Ben-Gurion, Israel. A Personal History, p. 70.


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