Monday, November 21, 2011

Begin Initiated Liberation of Jerusalem in 1967

From a report in Israel Hayom:-

Dr. Yaacov Lozowick, the head of the Israel State Archives, addressed the cabinet to offer a report on the progress his department has made in its ambitious project to digitize the national archives, from cabinet minutes to documents dating back to pre-state Israel, including the British Mandate and the Ottoman era...Lozowick, a former history teacher and scholar, read the protocols from two high-stakes cabinet sessions: one from the War of Independence in 1949, and one dating 18 years later, from the Six-Day War.

...On Dec. 4, 1949, as the U.N. was about to take up the issue of Jerusalem, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion convened his cabinet to discuss Israel's reaction should the international community deny Israel sovereignty over recently captured parts of west Jerusalem. By then, Israeli forces had been fighting for almost a year against Arab militias at home and invading Arab armies from neighboring states who sought to frustrate the Zionist effort to establish a state in accordance with the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan.

In a cable to then Foreign Minister Moshe Sharet, Ben-Gurion informed his subordinate: "I shall convene the government tomorrow morning and propose that we issue a Knesset resolution that Israel will not accept any form of foreign government in the Jewish parts of Jerusalem and the severance of the city from the state."

Ben-Gurion then told his foreign policy chief, "If we are faced with a choice of withdrawing from Jerusalem or opting out of the U.N., we shall choose the latter." Israel would eventually hold on to west Jerusalem, but had to wait almost 20 years before seizing control of the walled Old City, home to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.

Lozowick then went on to provide an inside look into the monumental decisions made during the early stages of the Six-Day War. On June 5, 1967, with Israeli forces already engaged in heavy fighting on the southern front with Egypt, the cabinet convened to discuss a possible maneuver to capture the Jordanian-occupied Old City of Jerusalem, after parts of it had been bombed.

"I suggest the government approves a resolution to liberate the city," then Minister without portfolio and future Prime Minister Menachem Begin said in the meeting. Begin, a fierce opponent of the ruling party, chose to enter an emergency unity government as war became imminent, putting aside differences during one of Israel's most challenging periods. But Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was wary of being embroiled in another front. "Before I left Tel Aviv for Jerusalem I talked with Maj. Gen. Yigal Yadin [a special adviser to the prime minister], and raised that option with him. He told me that this requires more thought and discussion. I suggest we put off a decision on this matter for now," Eshkol said, according to the archival material.

While calling an Israeli move against Jordanian forces morally just, then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Immigrant Absorption Yigal Allon advocated that a small group, the Political-Security Cabinet, make a final decision on the issue. But Begin further implored his fellow cabinet members to endorse his proposal. "I whole-heartedly ask the prime minister to add this as an item on the agenda and make a decision. We are faced with an unprecedented window of opportunity for a redemption of the Old City," he said according to the documents...
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