reached 663.rea.998 Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

The Ben Gurion House, where he lived from 1931 on, and for part of each year after 1953, is now an museum in Tel Aviv.

[edit] Palestinian Arabs

Ben-Gurion recognized the strong attachment of Palestinian Arabs to the land but hoped that this would be overcome in time. Nahum Goldman, president of the World Jewish Congress, wrote that in a conversation about “the Arab problem” in 1956, Ben-Gurion stated: “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country … There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. So it is simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army.”[2] Goldman criticized Ben-Gurion for what he viewed as Ben-Gurion’s confrontational approach to the Arab world. Goldman wrote that “Ben-Gurion is the man principally responsible for the anti-Arab policy, because it was he who moulded the thinking of generations of Israelis.”[2]

The view that Ben-Gurion’s assessment of Arab feelings led him to emphasize the need to build up Jewish military strength is supported by Simha Flapan, who quoted Ben-Gurion as stating in 1938: “I believe in our power, in our power which will grow, and if it will grow agreement will come…”[3]

[edit] British

The British 1939 White paper stipulated that Jewish immigration to Palestine was to be limited to 15,000 a year for the first five years, and would subsequently be contingent on Arab consent. Restrictions were also placed on the rights of Jews to buy land from Arabs. After this Ben-Gurion changed his policy towards the British, stating: “Peace in Palestine is not the best situation for thwarting the policy of the White Paper”.[4] Ben-Gurion believed a peaceful solution with the Arabs had no chance and soon began preparing the Yishuv for war. According to Teveth ‘through his campaign to mobilize the Yishuv in support of the British war effort, he strove to build the nucleus of a “Hebrew army”, and his success in this endeavor later brought victory to Zionism in the struggle to establish a Jewish state.’[5]

During the Second World War, Ben-Gurion encouraged the Jews of Palestine to volunteer for the British army. He famously told Jews to “support the British as if there is no White Paper and oppose the White Paper as if there is no war”.[6] About 10% of the Jewish population of Palestine volunteered for the British army, including many women. At the same time Ben-Gurion helped the illegal immigration of thousands of European Jewish refugees to Palestine during a period when the British placed heavy restrictions on Jewish immigration.

In 1946 Ben-Gurion agreed that the Haganah could cooperate with Menachem Begin‘s Irgun in fighting the British. Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire initially agreed to Begin’s plan to carry out the 1946 King David Hotel bombing, with the intent of embarrassing (rather than killing) the British military stationed there. However, when the risks of mass killing became apparent, Ben-Gurion told Begin to call the operation off; Begin refused.

Illegal Jewish migration led to pressure on the British to either allow Jewish migration (as required by the League of Nations Mandate) or quit – they did the latter in 1948, not changing their restrictions, on the heels of a United Nations resolution partitioning the territory between the Jews and Arabs.

Religious parties and the status quo

In September 1947 Ben-Gurion reached a status quo agreement with the Orthodox Agudat Yisrael party. He sent a letter to Agudat Yisrael stating that while he is committed to establishing a non-theocratic state with freedom of religion he is promising that the Shabbat would be Israel’s official day of rest, that in State provided kitchens there will be access to Kosher food, that every effort will be made to provide a single jurisdiction for Jewish family affairs, and that each sector would be granted autonomy in the sphere of education, provided minimum standards regarding the curriculum are observed.

To a large extent this letter (or agreement) provided a framework for religious affairs in Israel (e.g. no civil marriages, just as in Mandate times) and is often a benchmark to which the status is compared.

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