Composing Israel’s Declaration: Extracts from the book Three Days by Zeev Sharef.

The three days of the title are May 12, 13 and 14, 1948, when the Zionist leaders were meeting in Tel Aviv in the run-up to the end of the British Mandate over Palestine, preparing for the establishment of the new state of Israel. The extracts describe the process by which the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was composed, and include the draft documents and the discussions about them. Of particular interest is what was said about the borders of the state in those discussions.

Zeev Sharef was head of the Israeli civil service from 1947-1957, and involved in some of the events described in the book. The book was published in Hebrew in 1959, and I am using the English translation by Julian Louis Meltzer which was published in London by W.H. Allen in 1962. There was also a US edition.

There is another English language account of the composition of the Declaration, authored by Shelley Kleiman. It was published on the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1999. It tends to give more detail than Sharef, and there are some discrepancies between the two accounts on which I comment below. Neither author makes clear the sources for their accounts. Sharef may  have been present at some of the discussions; there may have been written records; and participants may have been interviewed later. Both authors are part of the Israeli establishment and are writing from a Zionist point of view.

First Draft of Israel’s Declaration (p 128 – 130)

By right of the historical and traditional attachment between Israel and its Land, which has never been severed;

and by right of the toil and sacrifice of its pioneers, builders and defenders who revived the desolation of the Land and reconstituted it as the national home of the Jewish people;

and by virtue of the covenant of blood concluded before our eyes between the people and the Land in the five months of the epic struggle, during which the Yishuv fought for its existence with surpassing heroism against the waves of hatred and enmity which threatened to overwhelm it from every side;

and in view of the noble demonstration of humanity’s conscience which found expression in the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, and the resolution of the Assembly of the United Nations on 15th Kislev 5708 (29th November 1947) on the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel;

and after the King of Britain relinquished the Mandate over this country and abdicated responsibility for its rule;

and in order to eradicate once for all the shame of the Exile of the Jewish people and the curse of its dependence upon strangers nearly everywhere, and in order to in-gather the Dispersion and ensure it a life of peace and honor, freedom and independence, in its own State which shall occupy a worthy place among the family of the world nations:

We, the National Council, the elected representatives of the Zionist Movement and the Jewish Yishuv in the Land of Israel, met on this solemn occasion, hereby proclaim the establishment of a free and sovereign Jewish State, as decreed by the Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution of 15th Kislev 5708, having all the rights and powers that the laws of nature and the comity of nations endow upon an independent state.

The name of the State shall be…

The Jewish State will be a democratic state, free to Jewish immigration—a state enjoying freedom, justice and peace, in the spirit of the vision of the Prophets of Israel and the father of political Zionism, the late Theodor Herzl, and imbued with the principles of the United Nations Charter.

We declare that as from this day until the founding of the regular authorities in accordance with the Constitution which shall be approved by the Constituent Assembly of the Jewish State, the National Council shall be the Provisional Council of Government, and shall have the full power of legislation and government in the State, the obligation of maintaining its security, and the defense of its integrity and independence.

We call upon the Arab citizens of the Jewish State to take part in its building, extend the hand of peace and friendship to the people of neighboring states, and appeal to the peoples of the world to recognize us as a member with equal rights and obligations of the family of nations.

All inhabitants of the State are required to observe order and peace, and are hereby commanded to obey and heed the Provisional Council of Government and the authorities to be set up by it, and to cooperate with them.

And placing our trust in the Almighty, we affix our signatures in witness and token of this Proclamation: here on the soil of the Land of Israel, on this day, the eve of 7th Iyar 5708 (15th May 1948).

(Signatures of thirty-seven members of the National Council)

My comments

The “Land of Israel” is a biblical term, not precisely specified. At the Paris Peace conference in 1919 the Zionists produced a map of the territory they wanted for a Jewish State. In addition to the territory that later became Mandatory Palestine, it included southern Lebanon, up to the Litani river; the Golan heights in Syria; and some territory to the east of the Jordan River, in what is now Jordan.

The third paragraph mentions the UN General Assembly resolution of 29 November, 1947 “on the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel”. This is highly misleading. The resolution, number 181, recommended (not “decreed” as in the sixth paragraph) a “Plan of Partition with Economic Union” which would divide the country of Palestine into three entities, a Jewish state, an Arab state, and the Holy City of Jerusalem, which was to be under international control, not part of either state. The resolution specified the distribution of territory between the three entities, see this map.

The Economic Union between the three entities was to be controlled by an Economic Board responsible not only for currency and customs, but also for major infrastructure: railways, highways, post, telecommunications, ports, airports, land reclamation and irrigation. The Board would have three representatives from the Jewish state, three from the Arab state, and three foreign members nominated by the United Nations. Decisions of the Board were to be binding on the two states. Although the resolution said the states could declare independence and join the United Nations, they would not really be sovereign, and in a dispute between them foreigners would have the casting vote.

The Plan was rejected by the Arabs and could not be implemented. There is nothing in the UN Charter enabling it to divide a state against the will of its majority population. The decision by the Zionist leadership to declare the independent sovereign state of Israel immediately on expiry of the Mandate was not authorized by the United Nations, and was not an implementation of the Partition Plan.

Discussion by National Administration, 12 May 1948 (p 130-132)

The National Administration of 13 members was destined to become the Provisional Government of Israel. Its leader, as Prime Minister and also Defence Minister, was David Ben-Gurion. Some members were not able to attend the meeting in Tel Aviv because they were stuck in Jerusalem: at the time there was fierce fighting between the two cities between Jewish and Arab forces.

Together with this document [the draft Declaration] the meeting was informed of the contents of a memorandum drawn up by Dr. Jacob Robinson, of New York. Dr. Robinson had been a member of parliament in the Lithuanian Republic and took part in Lithuanian delegations to international conferences. After settling in the United States he became a lecturer in international law, and in 1947-48 was the legal adviser to the Jewish Agency in New York, later serving as legal adviser to the Israel Delegation at the United Nations. His eminent knowledge of international law and experience in the arcana of the Charter and procedures of the United Nations Organization was of invaluable service to the Jewish Delegation, both before and after the founding of the State.

The memorandum was meant to answer doubts then rife as to whether the Jewish bodies would remain within the legal frame of reference of the 29 November resolution when the establishment of the State and its institutions was declared in terms not strictly in keeping with the wording of the resolution.

After analyzing the substance of the resolution, Dr. Robinson found that the Jewish State had actually come into being within the community of the nations from the moment the U.N. General Assembly had passed its resolution on 29 November 1947. Moreover, the General Assembly resolution had not created the legal right of the people of Israel to maintain a state within the comity of the nations; it had only endorsed the said right of the people of Israel.

His arguments were also based on other premises. According to the resolution, it would be necessary “to ensure that an area situated in the territory of the Jewish State, including a seaport and hinterland adequate to provide facilities for a substantial immigration”, should be made available “in any event not later than 1st February 1948″ – thereby signifying that the State at that juncture was already a legal fact, although it had not yet become a sovereign state.

Dr. Robinson continued by citing a succession of other clauses in the resolution to prove that the Jewish State existed in the comity of nations even before it became sovereign. It was to receive full sovereignty from the 1st of October 1948, with the holding of the first elections to the Constituent Assembly and the installation of a Provisional Government by the Assembly.

It could not be argued, he wrote, that the plan was indivisible and that no part of it could be carried out separately. The text of the resolution made no mention of this; it did not state that a condition precedent for the opening of the country to Jewish immigration on 1 February was the establishment of governments in the two States: their establishment would come about in any event only two months later. Nor did the plan specify that an armed militia could only be recruited in one State on condition that it was set up in the other. The non-arrival of the U.N. implementation commission did not alter the fact that after the 15th of May and the abolition of British government, the Jewish State would be the legal successor within the area of its actual authority.

Three impediments existed to the assumption of this sovereignty:
(1) The fact of existence of Mandatory rule and the presence of a foreign army within the area of the State, against the cognizance of the State and by an arrangement entered into outside its competence.
(2) The fact of existence of an implementation agency of the United Nations controlling the government of the State.
(3) The limitations on sovereignty imposed by the U.N. in connection with Economic Union, the Holy Places, international obligations, etc

The three conditions for establishing the Jewish State and maintaining its sovereignty had been fulfilled:
(1) The Mandatory Government was withdrawing together with the foreign army.
(2) The U.N. implementation agency did not exist and con-sequently did not exercise control, so that there was no deterrent to
(3) The Jewish Provisional Government assuming the undertakings set forth by the 29 November resolution, and itself proceeding to hold elections for the Constituent Assembly and proclaiming the sovereignty of the State in due course.
In addition to this opinion, another document was received at the same time from a second internationally-known expert in this branch of law. He had reached a somewhat similar conclusion.

It would be wrong to pretend that the meeting spent much time over the perusal of these detailed legal opinions. Its participants had already made manifest their attitude on the declaration of the State previously—when the ballot was taken on the truce proposal following upon discussion of the military situation and the status of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, there was some doubt as to whether to proclaim. a “State” or be sufficed with a “Government”. Moshe Shertok himself was doubtful at the outset of the deliberations whether to employ the term “State” immediately, but the report which he had given that morning on the attitudes at the U.N. and Washington had dissipated the same doubt in others. He, too, changed his mind during the proceedings. No decision was taken in the matter, but it was tacitly agreed during the meeting that it was the State (not a Government) which would be declared. The meeting also acquiesced in Ben-Gurion’s proviso not to use the phrase “within the frame of the U.N. resolution” but “on the basis of the U.N. resolution”.

An exchange then took place on the boundaries question. Some of those present took the line that it would be impolitic to proclaim the State without announcing its boundaries: this view was presented by Felix Rosenblueth among others. But Ben-Gurion, Aharon Zisling, and others countered trenchantly, adducing as proof that the American Declaration of Independence made no reference to boundaries. The point had no apparent importance, but what was important was the postulate that if the State were to be brought into existence by force of arms, then its putative frontiers would have to be determined by the same means. It was the one question during the discussion on which the meeting voted, the majority holding that the frontiers of the State should not be delineated in the text of the Declaration.

Emerging out of the exchange of views, although no vote was taken, was the confirmation that both a “Provisional Government” and “Provisional Council of Government” would be set up. Moshe Shertok’s proposition was accepted that, for esthetic reasons and to avoid a confusion of terms in people’s minds, the larger body should be named “Provisional Council of State”. In effect the meeting concurred that all measures meant to be carried out between 1 April and 1 October in accordance with the U.N. Plan of Partition should be pursued at one and the same time, and not successively over the six months, and that the whole meaning of the 29 November resolution should be incorporated in the Declaration.

My comments

“Dr. Robinson found that the Jewish State had actually come into being within the community of the nations from the moment the U.N. General Assembly had passed its resolution”. “The General Assembly had endorsed the right of the people of Israel to a state.” These and all Robinson’s subsequent remarks show a complete lack of understanding of international law and the UN Charter. No international document, from the Balfour Declaration to Resolution 181, has ever said that the Jewish people have a right to migrate to Palestine and create a state there. The UN is not a world government that has the power to create new states. It can only regulate relations between existing states that choose to become members. Resolution 181 was a non-binding recommendation only.

In preparing its unilateral declaration, a group of Jewish Palestinians were proposing to declare a part of Palestine independent from the rest of Palestine. The only possible legal basis for such a declaration is the right of peoples to self-determination in their own land. But this did not apply in the case of Israel. At the time of publication of the Partition Plan, the Jewish and non-Jewish populations in the area allocated to the Jewish state were approximately equal in numbers. Most of the Jews were Zionist immigrants who had arrived during the 20th century, whereas the indigenous people had developed a distinctive Palestinian identity over the last 1000 years. The Zionist leadership did not represent the people of the land. There was therefore no legal basis for the creation of the State of Israel.

Fortunately for the Zionists, and unfortunately for the Arabs, no such basis is required. According to the Montevideo Convention, if a state has a defined territory, governs that territory, and is recognized by other states, then it exists.

According to Kleiman the “exchange” on the question of boundaries was a “heated discussion”. Ben-Gurion said:

“We accepted the UN Resolution, but the Arabs did not. They are preparing to make war on us. If we defeat them and capture western Galilee or territory on both sides of the road to Jerusalem, these areas will become part of the state. Why should we obligate ourselves to accept boundaries that in any case the Arabs don’t accept?”

Expressed as a rhetorical question, this may seem reasonable to Zionists, and Ben-Gurion’s words are often quoted to this day. Turn it into a statement, and his argument becomes clearer: he is saying that because the Arabs did not accept that the Zionists should take half of Palestine, the Zionists were entitled to take more than half. I call this the Ben-Gurion Doctrine. It defies logic and ignores justice. It was not the borders that the Arabs were objecting to, but the whole idea of Partition. They were perfectly entitled to reject it, as being inimical to their rights and interests.

Ben-Gurion did not choose western Galilee as a random example. While he was speaking, the Zionist forces were already in action capturing western Galilee and also Jaffa, both areas allocated to the Arab state in the Partition Plan.

Kleiman reports that the vote to not mention boundaries in the Declaration was a narrow one, 5 to 4, with four members being absent. When the objectors said that failure to mention the boundaries was “impolitic” they presumably meant that other states would disapprove. They were correct. Although absence of a border definition in a Declaration is not surprising, since that is a once-only event, and borders can be changed later, there comes a point when a state has to let other states know where it thinks its borders are. For Israel, that came on the May 14, when President Truman insisted that the US would only recognize Israel if it defined its borders according to the Partition Plan.

The final statement of the extract says: “the whole meaning of the 29 November resolution should be incorporated in the Declaration.” Since an essential part of the the Plan is the distribution of territory between the two states, this suggests that the boundaries of the Jewish State are implicit in the Declaration. As indeed they are.

Second draft of Israel’s Declaration (p 222)

After the May 12 discussion of the first draft, the National Administration decided on the name “Israel” for the state, and set up a sub-committee under Moshe Shertok, the Foreign Minister, to produce a new draft.

1. WHEREAS the Jewish people, who were forcibly exiled from their land, the Land of Israel, kept faith with it throughout the generations of their Dispersion and in all the countries of their exile, found no other land to replace it during their wanderings, and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom;
2. AND WHEREAS the Jewish people in every successive generation strove to re-establish themselves in their ancestral Homeland until, in recent generations, the pioneers, immigrant settlers and defenders of Israel returned to the land in their multitudes to redeem its soil and reclaim its wastelands, to revive therein their Hebrew language, and to create a flourishing community, controlling its own economy and its culture, defending itself courageously and valiantly, bringing the blessings of progress to all inhabitants of the country and aspiring toward independent statehood and national sovereignty;
3. AND WHEREAS the First Zionist Congress, which was convened in the year 5657-1897 at the summons of the seer of the vision of the Jewish State, Theodor Herzl, proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own land and founded the World Zionist Organization as an instrument in accomplishing the vision;
4. AND WHEREAS this right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the British Government of the 2nd November 1917, which was a fundamental part of the British Mandate for Palestine;
5. AND WHEREAS the Mandate, which was endorsed by 42 member-states of the League of Nations and by the United States Government, recognized the historical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel and the right of the Jewish people to rebuild their national home in the Land of Israel, and to enter it and settle on its soil;
6. AND WHEREAS the persecutions of the Jewish masses in various countries, and more especially the catastrophe which befell European Jewry in which millions of men, women and children were massacred, has clearly demonstrated again the urgency of solving the problem of the Jewish people by re-establishing their independent state in their own land, so that its gates would be permanently open to every Jew seeking a home and the Jewish people would be endowed with the status of a nation with equal rights within the family of the nations;
7. AND WHEREAS the Jewish Community of Palestine contributed its full share to the struggle by the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of evil and subjugation in the Second World War, and by its efforts and the blood of its volunteer soldiers earned the right to be included among the nations which collaborated in founding the Covenant of the United Nations;
8. AND WHEREAS the survivors of the European inferno, the remnants of the people, have not ceased to migrate to the Land of Israel in spite of difficulties and dangers, expulsion and blockade, and have never ceased to demand that the world grant them the right to a life of dignity, freedom, and honest toil in their national homeland;
9. AND WHEREAS the Assembly of the United Nations, at its second regular annual session, after an exhaustive inquiry and thoroughgoing consideration, passed a Resolution on the 29th November 1947 by a two-thirds majority and over, calling for the establishment of an autonomous Jewish State in Palestine;
10. AND WHEREAS the Assembly in its Resolution recommended all members of the United Nations to accept and carry out the Plan of Partition of Palestine with Economic Union, called on the inhabitants of Palestine to take such steps as were necessary on their part to implement the plan, and urged all governments and peoples to abstain from any action liable to prejudice or retard the execution of its recommendation;
11. AND WHEREAS this declaration of the right of the Jewish people in Palestine to establish their independent State, which is contained in the Assembly’s decision, is irrevocable;
12. AND WHEREAS the Government of Great Britain, which has had charge over Palestine on behalf of the League of Nations, is this day relinquishing its Mandate and abdicating the responsibility for administering the country:
13. NOW, THEREFORE, WE, members of the National Council, the elected representatives of the Zionist movement and the Jewish Community of Palestine, are met today in solemn assembly and on the basis of the Resolution of the United Nations Assembly hereby declare to the Jewish people of the Dispersion and to the world at large the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called THE STATE OF ISRAEL.
14. WE PROCLAIM that as from the termination of the Mandate at midnight, the Eve of Sabbath, 6th Iyar 5708, the 15th May 1948, and until the setting up of the regular authorities of the State in accordance with its Constitution to be approved by the elected Constituent Assembly, the National Council shall act as the Provisional Council of State, and its executive body, the National Administration, shall comprise the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, which is ISRAEL.
15. WE AFFIRM that the STATE OF ISRAEL will be based on the principles of liberty, justice and peace as envisioned by the Prophets of Israel; that it will be wide open to Jewish immigration; will grant complete equality of social and political rights to all its citizens without distinction of race or religion; will devote itself to the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, education and culture; will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
16. WE WILL BE READY to cooperate with the institutions of the United Nations in the implementation of the Resolution of the Assembly and will take steps to establish the Economic Union in accordance with the Resolution. We appeal to the United Nations to lend their hand to the Jewish people in building their State and defending it, and to admit the State of Israel into the family of nations.
17. IN THE MIDST of the sanguinary attack launched upon us, we appeal to the Arab people inhabiting Palestine to keep the peace, to play their part in the building of the State which offers them full citizenship, and to enjoy their due right to be represented in its supreme institutions, provisional and permanent.
18. IN THE VERY THICK OF BATTLE we extend the hand of peace and good-neighborliness to the peoples of the adjoining countries, and appeal to them to desist from the feud with the Jewish people who are as entitled as they are to a lifeof liberty and independence in their land and are ready to contribute their share to the common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
19. WE CALL upon the Jewish Yishuv for a supreme effort and for the mobilization of all its human resources and property, in order to engage in the struggle while building the Land and to build the Land while engaged in the struggle.
20. TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE throughout the world we appeal to rally round the Yishuv in its fight and volunteer their help in the onerous effort of realizing the age-old dream.
21. TO THE ENLIGHTENED WORLD at large we send our plea to stand by the Jewish people in the creation of their State.
22. AND PLACING OUR TRUST in the Almighty, we affix our signatures as testimony to this Declaration, at the session of the members of the Provisional Council of State, including the members of the Provisional Government, here in the Jewish city of Tel Aviv, on this day, the Eve of Sabbath, 5th Iyar 5708, 14th May 1948.

My comments

Articles 4 and 5: the Balfour Declaration said: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. They thought it was a good idea, not that it was a right. The Mandate for Palestine did indeed recognize the historical connection between the Jewish people and Palestine, but saying that it “gave grounds” for establishing there the Jewish National Home, not that there was such a right.

A new element in this draft is Article 10 which explicitly mentions the Plan of Partition of Palestine with Economic Union. We will see what happened to this later.

Article 17 implies that Israel was offering citizenship to all the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. Really?

Discussion by National Administration, 13 May 1948 (p 225 – 227)

The discussion revolved around the draft (which, of course, was in Hebrew). David Ben-Gurion objected to “Whereas” as not being Hebraic in style. He also took objection to the terms “a flourishing community”, “courageously and valiantly”, and the like, and to the explicit reference to the “Plan of Partition”. He made a number of suggestions in other passages.

Mordecai Ben-Toy thought that the draft was too long. He argued that there was no need to explain and expound at length the reasons for founding the State. He suggested cutting down the legal exposition and emphasizing the human rights of the Jew and of the Jewish people.

His view was supported by Rabbi Y. L. Fishman insofar as the excessive length of the document was concerned. The venerable rabbi cited an example from the Jerusalem Talmud: “many proofs are brought to any matter which is not made sufficiently clear.”

While suggesting some stylistic amendments here and there, David Remez defended the proposed text and claimed that nothing should be omitted, as it had spirit and was meaningful to all, including non-Jews.

A question as to the substance of the opening paragraph was put by Behor S. Shitreet, who pointed out that the declaration began by noting the exile and dispersal of the Jewish people from its land. He felt it more appropriate to dwell on its long settlement in the land, from the inception of its religion and tradition and from the Book of Books which the people had produced on this soil.

A defense of the fundamental structure of the document was put up by Aharon Zisling. Apart from suggesting corrections in style in various places, he opposed the reference to the Balfour Declaration. In conclusion, he vigorously objected to the opening phrase of the last article, namely, the words “And placing our trust in the Almighty”. He had no wish to offend the religious beliefs of orthodox Jews, but he urged that he and others should not be required to proclaim “I Believe” against their will. Mordecai Ben-Toy similarly questioned the introductory phrase and the adverbial “Placing our trust”, although he made no objection to the mention of “Almighty” in the document.

Answering Zisling’s misgivings, Moshe Shapiro said that he could not conceive the omission of the Divine Name from a document to be signed not only in the name of the Jewish Community of the Land of Israel, but on behalf of World Jewry as a whole. He would have preferred “the God of Israel” or at least “the Almighty and Redeemer of Israel”, as otherwise people of his faith could not set their hands to the Declaration. Rabbi Fishman spoke in the same vein.

Moshe Shertok replied to the criticism. He had begun the Declaration with mention of the Dispersion, he said, as no political controversy existed as to the period of the Jewish people’s occupation of the Land; the dispute began after they had been exiled from it. He accepted a number of postulates offered, although he pointed out that their inclusion would lengthen rather than shorten the document.

One of those present suggested that the text be referred to a small sub-committee again and that a further meeting of the National Administration be held early the next morning.

The Chairman, Mr. Ben-Gurion, agreed on condition that, the meeting decide on “Almighty God”; he proposed omission of “Redeemer”. This was agreed upon without a formal vote. A sub-committee, consisting of Ben-Gurion, Rabbi Fishman, M. Shertok and A. Zisling, was then nominated to revise the text and lay it without further discussion before the National Council session called for noon the next day.

My comments

Kleiman tells us that a Hebrew phrase for “Almighty” is “Tsur Yisrael” which translates literally as “Rock of Israel”. It is this phrase which is used in the English version of the final Declaration on the Israel government website.

Discussion by National Administration, 14 May 1948 (p 272)

The committee appointed by the National Administration to consider the text of the Declaration met at David Ben-Gurion’s home. He had prepared a new draft the previous evening, and we had it typed out for the committee members that morning. The opening word “Whereas” had been omitted from all the introductory paragraphs, and there was a new opening paragraph: “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people,” and so on. The paragraph dealing with the exile of the Jewish people from the land became the second one. Ben-Gurion had shortened the other paragraphs, changed their syntax and altered various conjunctions.

The draft which he laid before the committee was about one-quarter less than the length of the document submitted the previous day to the National Administration. The discussion upon it was not prolonged; matters of principle had in effect been determined at the meeting the day before, and time was now pressing. During the sitting a message came in, notifying the fall of the Etzion bloc.

Shortly before 12 noon the new text was ready to be submitted for approval by the National Council at its meeting scheduled for 1.30 o’clock.

My comments

Kleiman tells us that Ben-Gurion had “removed any reference to the Partition Plan”. This is confusing, since the Partition Plan resolution is invoked several times in his version. What he had removed was the explicit mention of the Plan of Partition with Economic Union in Article 10 of Shertock’s version. It is replaced with the following:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.

Discussion by National Council, 14 May 1948 (p 277 – 279)

The National Council of 37 members represented the various political parties and Zionist organizations.

They read the documents laid before them, the texts of the Declaration of Independence and the first “Proclamation”. It had been quiet in the hall before the session opened and the hush deepened as David Ben-Gurion began his statement.

“My friends, this day is one of prospects and dangers. Great prospects and grave dangers the like of which have not occurred for generations.
(1) The Mandate has been repealed, the foreign power has gone, and we must establish the Jewish power.
(2) War has been declared against us. It may be that the war declared upon us will be extended by the invasion of the regular Arab armies.”

He went on for a while in this vein, and then proceeded to read the document which he submitted under the title of, “Declaration of the National Council on the State of Israel”.

The discussion on the text was opened by Meir Wilner, who said: “We are all united in our appreciation of the great day for the Yishuv and the Jewish people—the day of the repeal of the Mandate and the declaration of the independent Jewish State.”

He took exception to Mr. Moshe Shertok not having reported to the National Council and to its being inactive, and appealed to all members of the Council to share his recognition of the imperative necessity to safeguard the democratic principles of the Jewish State. He then announced that the “Eretz-Israel Communist Party” (the words “Eretz-Israel”, or Land of Israel, were an innovation) supported the text of the Declaration but that he proposed emphasizing the colonialist and provocative character of the Mandatory regime and demanding the withdrawal of the British military forces after the 1st of August 1948. He also urged that the word “independent” or words “independent and sovereign” be inserted before every mention of “Jewish State”.

Dr. H. Vardi-Rosenblum wanted the omission of the passage committing the State of Israel to “take steps to bring about the Economic Union over the whole of Palestine”, on the ground that this would be tacit acceptance of the judgment dividing the country into two States, a proceeding to which his party had always been opposed.

Aharon Zisling, who had been a member of the Drafting Sub-Committee, defended the draft by saying that “this document incorporates the essential” and that “it has been formulated on the basis of experience and with the purpose of combining all common elements to the maximum extent”. At the same time he made a last effort to alter the phrase “With trust in Almighty God” which, he asserted, committed the signatories to affirm the personal credo of “I Believe” against their will.

Changes were also suggested by Meir Grabowsky, who wanted mention of the D.P. camps in Europe and the refugee detention camps in Cyprus, and also to the freedom of language—he referred to the Arabic language, which should be in free use. Mordecai Shaffner also made suggestions.

D. Z. Pinkas answered Zisling on the issue of “With trust in Almighty God” by saying that this was an expression of belief uniting the majority of the Jewish people. He suggested returning to the statement on the period antecedent to the settlement of the people in the land, to the dawn of its history, by opening the document with “The Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people as was stated in the Torah and the Books of the Prophets, and was the birthplace of the Jewish people,” etcetera.

Moshe Shertok and David Ben-Gurion replied. Shertok said that the essential fact of the Declaration of the State in place of the Mandate eloquently bespoke the quality of the latter in our estimation, and the same held true of the other suggestions broached. Ben-Gurion stressed that the Declaration ought not to enter into political postulations but should attest the proclamation of the State. It was not a Constitution. He explained why the boundaries had not been demarcated and defended the term “Almighty God”, urging that this passage should not be challenged by ballot.

The proposal to add “language” to the other freedoms specified was adopted unanimously.

The text was then put to the vote after it was agreed that there would be two ballots. The first resulted in sixteen for and eight abstentions. It was then agreed that parties wishing to do so could submit their reservations from this or that detail in the Declaration at the Council of State meeting on Sunday evening. The second ballot then held proved unanimous.

My comments

Kleiman says:

The issue of boundaries was raised again, this time by the revisionist camp. Committed to a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan, they insisted that the words “within its historic borders” be added.

But they weren’t.

Final text of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14 1948

This is the English language translation from the Israel Government website.

ERETZ-ISRAEL [(Hebrew) – the Land of Israel, Palestine] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma’pilim[(Hebrew) – immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation] and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.

In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.

This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.

Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.

In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.

On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.


WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called “Israel”.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.

WE APPEAL to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the comity of nations.

WE APPEAL – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream – the redemption of Israel.


My comments

Despite never mentioning Palestine, never mentioning an Arab state, never using the word partition and saying nothing about its borders, Israel committed itself in its Declaration to implementing the Plan of Partition with Economic Union proposed by the UN as its solution to “The Question of Palestine”.

Recognition by the USA (p 297)

The President of the United States had the letter from Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who had asked the day before that recognition be accorded to the Jewish State on its establishment. It may be that this written request played an important part in the President’s decision to recognize the new State immediately. But orderly procedure apparently required a more formal application, and one of the President’s associates advised the Jewish Agency’s agent in Washington, Mr. Eliahu Epstein (now Elath), to apply officially on behalf of the Government of the new State to the U.S. State Department and to ask for recognition of newly-established Israel.

As it was necessary to keep the approach absolutely secret, and he had no way of consulting colleagues in New York or Tel Aviv, Mr. Epstein spoke to some friends in Washington and then decided to assume the representation of the new Provisional Government, as he had for some time represented the Jewish Agency’s Political Department there and it was now about to become the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in the Provisional Government.

Mr. Epstein drafted the letter at his personal responsibility. He notified the President and State Department that “the State of Israel has been proclaimed as an independent republic” and set forth the rights and duties of the Provisional Government in similar form to the text of Dr. Weimann’s letter handed to President Truman that morning. After dwelling on “the deep bond of sympathy” between the U.S. Government and the Jewish people of Palestine over the past thirty years, he asked on behalf of the Provisional Government for recognition of Israel.

The letter was handed to the Secretary of State during the after-noon hours, Washington time, and at eleven minutes past 6 p.m. the following official statement was made by the White House:

“This Government has been informed that a Jewish State has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof.

The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel.”

My comments

Sharef quotes part of the first sentence of Epstein’s letter. The full sentence reads:

Dear Mr President: I have the honor to notify you that the State of Israel has been proclaimed as an independent republic within the frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947.

Ben-Gurion had wanted the borders of Israel to be undefined, in order to create the impression that all of Palestine was open territory, available for conquest. The U.S administration had made it clear to Epstein that unless he defined the borders according to the Partition Plan, President Truman would not recognize Israel.

Ever since, the Israel Government has tried to pretend that the border definition never happened. Sharef’s misleading narrative here is part of that cover-up.

Short link:

About David Gerald Fincham

Retired academic scientist.
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  • talknic

    correction ….not enough links 🙂

    • Walk Tall Hang Loose

      Hello talknic. Thanks for visiting. I agree with both of your points. I am very busy with other things at the moment, and will get around to making changes when I can.

  • talknic

    Hi David,

    A good angle. It shows how they attempt to deceive

    A few points. No links ? Links to documents of indisputable provenance, like the UN record allows readers to verify the basis of your opinions. Links to the Israeli Government web site even better

    You ought include somewhere this simple observation : their deliberate decision not to mention the borders only means the borders were not mentioned.