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Menachem Begin Organizing Opposition and Criticizing Prime Minister Ben-Gurion
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“To the Mapai regime: ‘Neither farewell nor see you again.’”

MENACHEM BEGIN. Autograph Manuscript Signed, in Hebrew, Speech on Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, [November 1, 1950-July 30, 1951]. 3 pp., 5 x 7¾ in.

Inventory #22794       Price: $10,000

Complete Translation

Mr. Ben-Gurion feels that the governmental control he longs for[1]– an [autocratic?]government of his party and himself – has irreparably collapsed. For the time being, the change is psychological, but with respect to someone possessing a [tyrannical?]soul who cannot chop the heads off his opponents, the “psychology” is [illegible]. Mr. Ben-Gurion senses that his partners in the disbanded coalition and the candidates for the alternative coalition – their style of speaking is different than it was in times past. To be sure they are willing to have truck with him, but [illegible]: Not over the [illegible]. The “equilibrium” of Mr. Ben-Gurion the [aggressor?]has been destroyed starting from the day he was unsuccessful in convincing [himself?]that he had established the State, the result being that the head of Mapai[2] has in the meanwhile lost his psychological equilibrium. Amongst the public, they still go on assuming that all his steps are calculated in advance, but the truth is that the man has become enmeshed in difficulties[3] ever since [he?]went – or was pushed – blindly[4] into an additional entanglement.

Generally speaking, does Mr. Ben-Gurion believe that he will achieve an absolute majority in the next elections for his list?[5] The answer is: “No.” Mr. Ben-Gurion knows that even were his emissaries, “the guides”[6] to arrange “[light?]processions” in certain immigrant camps,[7] Mapai would remain in the minority and would be in need of partners in order to maintain its regime. However, that same psychological change, which drives Mr. Ben-Gurion mad – would it not grow deeper during the period of electoral war? How does he stand to achieve his stable government? [Surely?], in his eyes there is no stable government unless it is his?

It appears that Mr. Ben-Gurion is thinking about two options. One is – using the precedent that was created in the first Knesset. Mr. Ben-Gurion submits his resignation to the President; the President accepts the resignation, but along with that, “arrives at the conclusion” ahead of time that there is no[8] prime minister save the prime minister who is resigning. And Mr. Ben-Gurion, who will have resigned, continues “to fulfill his duties.” Until when? The Transition Law[9] did not limit the time for a dismissed Cabinet[10] to “continue to fulfill the role.” Mr. Ben-Gurion can “rule via[11] resignation” to his heart’s content.[12]

The second option that is pictured in the insurrectionist soul of Mr. Ben-Gurion are new elections following the new elections. Should there not be, in the second Knesset, that “stable majority,” about which Mr. Ben-Gurion is dreaming, it may be that he will [propose?]another appeal to the voter[13] until – so hopes, perhaps, the head of Mapai – the voter will grow weary and say: “So be it, better Mapai rule than elections over and over again”...

Both options alike are [illegible]to the political demoralization being sown by Mapai and its head, out of their ambition for [autocratic?]government. The Mapai regime has destroyed the country’s economy. Now it is trampling arrogantly[14] on the law in the country. And it is still not finished[15] making a laughingstock of the status of the parliament in Israel.

And if the nation wants to put an end to the destructive demoralization, it must “[illegible] [illegible]” over the calculations of Mr. Ben-Gurion. Mapai will, in any case, be in the minority in the second Knesset, however the voter must see to it that it will be possible to establish a government without Mapai. Then, only then, will there be a stable governing authority in Israel, a governing authority that enjoys the trust[16] of the majority of the nation, the confidence of most parts of the Knesset, a constructive governing authority. Mr. Ben-Gurion claims: There is no[17] stable governing authority except that of Mapai. The truth is that there [will not be?]a stable and legal governing authority in the country, unless it is without Mapai. To the[18] Mapai regime: “Neither farewell nor see you again.”

                                                                        M. Begin

Historical Background

On October 15, 1950, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion of the Mapai party resigned, just over nineteen months after forming the first coalition government in the new nation of Israel. President Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952) asked Ben-Gurion to form a new coalition, but he failed to do so. President Weizmann then asked Pinhas Rosen to form a government, but Rosen refused to head it himself and tried to find a compromise that would bring Ben-Gurion back. After a deadlock of two weeks, Rosen succeeded in restoring a coalition that could command a majority in the Knesset, and Ben-Gurion again became prime minister.

Ben-Gurion’s second government resigned on February 14, 1951, opening the door for the elections for the Second Knesset in July.

The political differences between the ruling Mapai party coalition and the right-wing opposition Herut party were reflected in personal animosity between David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin. While Begin led Herut, Ben-Gurion refused to speak to him or refer to him by name.

In July 1951, the Herut won only 8 of the 120 seats in the Second Knesset, down from 14 seats in the First Knesset. This electoral disappointment led Begin to withdraw from politics and plan to practice law as an attorney. What brought him back into politics a few months later was the pending Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany. Vehemently opposed to the agreement, Begin believed it was the equivalent of pardoning the Nazis for their crimes against the Jews during World War II. Begin’s parents and brother had all been killed during the Holocaust.

In January 1952, Begin spoke to a mass rally of 15,000 people in Jerusalem in which he attacked Ben-Gurion’s government. The crowd marched toward the Knesset and threw stones at the windows. Police managed to suppress the riot, but only after more than 200 rioters, 140 police officers, and several members of the Knesset had been injured. For his role in inciting the riot, Begin was barred from the Knesset for several months.

Menachem Begin (1913-1992) was born in what was then Brest-Litovsk in the Russian Empire (today Belarus). He studied law at the University of Warsaw and graduated in 1935 but never practiced law. He became the head of Betar, the Revisionist Zionist youth movement, in Czechoslovakia and then in Poland. He married Aliza Arnold in 1939, and they had three children. Begin fled Poland when Germany invaded but was arrested by the Soviets in Lithuania and sent to a labor camp in northern Russia. After his release as a Polish citizen, he made his way to Palestine, where he joined the Irgun, a Zionist paramilitary organization, in 1942. Two years later, Begin assumed leadership of the Irgun and demanded British withdrawal from Palestine. In 1946, Begin ordered an attack on British military and administrative headquarters at the King David Hotel, that killed 91 people. Begin led Irgun in opposition to the British and during the civil war against Palestinian Arabs. In June 1948, Begin signed an agreement with provisional government leader David Ben Gurion to disband Irgun and integrate it into the Israel Defense Forces. Begin emerged as a leader in the right-wing Herut party, which won 14 seats in the Knesset in 1949. Begin served in the first ten Knessets. From 1948 to 1977 under Begin’s leadership, Herut and later Gahal was the primary opposition to the dominant Mapai and later Alignment parties in the Knesset. In 1973, Begin joined the Likud alliance party, which won the Knesset elections in 1977. Begin’s administration moved Israel toward a more capitalist economy and secured a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, but other foreign policy decisions raised opposition. For his peace treaty with Egypt, Begin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Begin resigned as prime minister in 1983.

David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) was born in the Kingdom of Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, as David Grün, and he studied at the University of Warsaw. In 1906, he immigrated to Palestine, which was part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1912, he moved to Constantinople to study law and adopted the Hebrew name Ben-Gurion. He supported the Ottoman Empire in World War I, but was deported to Egypt and traveled to the United States, where he remained for three years. After the Balfour Declaration of 1917, he joined the Jewish Legion of the British Army. He returned to Palestine after the war and became a leader of the Zionist movement. As head of the Jewish Agency from 1935, Ben-Gurion was effectively the leader of the Jewish population before there was a nation. He accepted the 1947 partition plan as a compromise that would establish a Jewish state, and declared the independence of the state of Israel in May 1948. After leading Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Ben-Gurion won election as Prime Minister of Israel in 1948 as head of the Mapai political party in the Knesset. He resigned in December 1953, effective January 26, 1954, then resumed office in November 1955 and served as Israeli Prime Minster until 1963. He then moved to Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the Negev desert, where he lived until his death.

[1] lit. “to which his eyes are raised”

[2] Hebrew acronym for the “Land of Israel Workers Party,” led by Ben-Gurion, which would later form the core of Israel’s Labor Party.

[3] alt. “gotten into trouble”

[4] lit. “with eyes shut”

[5] “his list” was the Mapai party. Israel held one-district proportional national elections, and there were no individual candidate races; instead parties ran ordered lists of candidates which competed for a share of Knesset seats.

[6] alt. “the counselors”

[7] Israel at the time was absorbing large numbers of Jewish immigrants from Europe and the Middle East and housing them in temporary housing camps.

[8] in the sense of “there cannot be a”

[9] approved by the first Knesset in 1949; Hebrew text here

[10] alt. “government”

[11] lit. “from within”

[12] lit. “as much as his soul desires”

[13] in the sense of “the voters”

[14] lit. “with a foot of pride,” as in Psalm 36:11

[15] lit. “its arm is still cocked towards”

[16] alt. “confidence”

[17] in the sense of “cannot be a”

[18] in the sense of “Dear”

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