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Standing up to Washington threat - Ben-Gurion

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Submitted by YJ Draiman (United States), Sep 3, 2017 at 18:45

Ben-Gurion's Legacy: Resisting U.S. Pressure
Upon the 40th anniversary of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion's death, Israeli and American policy-makers should study the 1948 legacy of Israel's Founding Father: Defiance of disproportionate U.S. pressure forged Israel into a national security producer rather than a national security consumer, catapulted the Jewish state into the most productive U.S. strategic ally, enhanced the long-term U.S.-Israel mutually beneficial ties (following short-term tension), and advanced the national security of both the U.S. and Israel.

On May 29, 1949, toward the end of Israel's War of Independence, which consumed 6,000 Israeli lives (1 percent of the population!), the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, James McDonald, delivered a scolding message from President Harry Truman to Prime Minister Ben-Gurion. According to McDonald, Truman "interpreted Israel's attitude [rejecting the land-for-peace principle; annexing West Jerusalem; refusing to absorb Arab refugees; pro-actively soliciting a massive Jewish ingathering] as dangerous to peace and as indicating disregard of the U.N. General Assembly resolutions of November 29, 1947 [the partition plan] and December 11, 1948 [refugees and internationalization of Jerusalem], reaffirming insistence that territorial compensation should be made [by Israel] for territory taken in excess of November 29 [40% beyond the partition plan!], and that tangible refugee concessions should be made [by Israel] now as essential, preliminary to any prospect for general settlement. The operative part of the note was the implied threat that the U.S. would reconsider its attitude toward Israel," ("My Mission in Israel 1948-1951," James McDonald).

Ben-Gurion's response — with a population of 650,000 Jews, a $1 billion gross domestic product and a slim military force in 1949, compared with 6.3 million Jews, a $260 billion GDP and one of the world's finest military forces in 2013 — was resolute, as described by McDonald: "[Truman's] note was unrealistic and unjust. It ignored the facts that the partition resolution was no longer applicable since its basic conditions had been destroyed by Arab aggression which the Jews successfully resisted. ... To whom should we turn if Israel were again attacked? Would the U.S. send arms or troops? The United States is a powerful country; Israel is a small and a weak one. We can be crushed, but we will not commit suicide."

McDonald further wrote: "Two U.N. Security Council resolutions passed [with U.S. support] have implicitly threatened sanctions if Israeli troops were not withdrawn [from the 'occupied Negev']." Ben-Gurion reacted defiantly: "Israel has been attacked by six Arab States. As a small country, Israel must reserve the right of self-defense even if it goes down fighting. ... As Ben-Gurion once put it to me, 'What Israel has won on the battlefield, it is determined not to yield at the [U.N. Security] Council table.'"

As a result of Ben-Gurion's determined stance, "there was apparently indecision and much heart-searching in Washington.... Our [responding] note abandoned completely the stern tone of its predecessor. ... Fists and knuckles were unclenched. ... The crisis was past. The next few months marked a steady retreat from the intransigence of the United States' May note. ... Washington ceased to lay down the law to Tel Aviv."

On the eve of the declaration of independence, General George Marshall, Second World War hero and Secretary of State, who was then the most charismatic office-holder in the U.S., sent Ben-Gurion a brutal ultimatum, demanding the postponement of the declaration of independence and acceptance of a U.N. Trusteeship. Marshall, along with Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, the CIA and the top Foggy Bottom bureaucrats imposed a regional military embargo, while Britain supplied arms to Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. They contended that a declaration of independence would turn the oil-producing Arab countries against the U.S., at a time when the threat of a Third World War (USSR vs U.S.) was hovering, which could force the U.S. to fight an oil-starved war. They threatened that Ben-Gurion's unilateral declaration of independence would trigger a war, which could doom the Jewish people to a second Holocaust in less than ten years, since the U.S. would not provide any assistance to the Jewish state. They contemplated an expanded embargo — unilaterally or multilaterally — should Ben-Gurion ignore the ultimatum.

Ben-Gurion did not blink. McDonald wrote that "[Ben-Gurion] added that much as Israel desired friendship with the U.S., there were limits beyond which it could not go. ... Ben-Gurion warned President Truman and the Department of State, through me, that they would be gravely mistaken if they assumed that the threat, or even the use of U.N. sanctions, would force Israel to yield on issues considered vital to its independence and security. ... [He] left no doubt that he was determined to resist, at whatever cost, 'unjust and impossible demands.' On these he could not compromise."

Ben-Gurion's tenacity was vindicated when Israel was admitted to the U.N., despite its rejection of the land-for-peace, Jerusalem and refugees demands, "evidence of the growth of respect for Israel," McDonald wrote. Moreover, Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who was a delegate to the U.N. in 1949, admitted that the partition plan and the anti-Israel "Bernadotte U.N. plan" were not adequate and that the U.S. underestimated the Jewish muscle and determination. General Omar Bradley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, proposed to consider Israel as a major ally of the U.S.

Ben-Gurion was aware that fending off pressure constituted an integral part of Jewish history, a prerequisite for survival and long-term growth, militarily, diplomatically and economically. On the other hand, succumbing to pressure intensifies further pressure, threatening to transform Israel from a unique strategic asset to a liability. On a rainy day, the U.S. would rather have a defiant — and not a vacillating — ally.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.


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Title Commenter Date Thread
4Begin reaction to the America duplicity: [117 words]levy benjaminOct 7, 2010 21:57179068
1Begin also stood up to the settlers [149 words]CalebApr 23, 2010 23:32171625
Israel standing up to Washington [64 words]IsaacApr 21, 2010 17:46171542
Israel, stand up to Obama [264 words]Nelson D'SilvaApr 21, 2010 04:24171524
Mystery of Mysteries [68 words]CanaanApr 27, 2010 23:45171524
Obama true dislike for Israel [95 words]Isaac FlaksApr 14, 2010 11:14171312
The State of Israel [160 words]sandra JohnsonApr 16, 2010 14:37171312
Appeasement never works [165 words]Clifton ChadwickApr 13, 2010 07:53171271
Time to Stay Focused [168 words]Jay 1Apr 12, 2010 23:09171257
Begin was great, but Shamir even better. [32 words]R. S. DavisApr 12, 2010 13:09171229
1Stand Israel, stand up to Obama! [129 words]Tony JordanApr 11, 2010 15:21171193
You made me lonesome for both Reagan and Begin. [145 words]batya daganApr 10, 2010 00:59171143
Looking back at History [162 words]Debanjan BanerjeeApr 9, 2010 23:00171142
That's not a very accurate description [673 words]EstherApr 15, 2010 03:31171142
My reply to Esther [31 words]Debanjan BanerjeeApr 16, 2010 00:12171142
More reply to Esther [209 words]Debanjan BanerjeeApr 16, 2010 00:22171142
Our dear Deb and his masters the Arabs [110 words]dhimmi no moreApr 17, 2010 09:32171142
Indian Muslims and their arab Masters!! [194 words]JaladhiApr 19, 2010 16:49171142
My reply to DNM [167 words]Debanjan BanerjeeApr 20, 2010 03:46171142
Our dear Deb and Omar al-farooq and you need to stick to Urdu! [428 words]dhimmi no moreApr 21, 2010 07:07171142
My reply to DNM [503 words]Debanjan BanerjeeApr 23, 2010 00:48171142
The islamic comedy goes on and on and our dear Deb has no clue what the word extant really means [679 words]dhimmi no moreApr 24, 2010 06:44171142
My reply to DNM [57 words]Debanjan BanerjeeMay 2, 2010 08:18171142
Omar al-farooq and the islamic comedy [119 words]dhimmi no moreMay 4, 2010 06:30171142
WARNING TO AMERICA - [179 words]Gordon WeareApr 9, 2010 00:28171108
LEADERSHIP. I mean REAL leadership. [242 words]Gordon WeareApr 9, 2010 00:12171107
1No fear of Israeli nukes [53 words]PPSApr 9, 2010 00:05171106
Saudi's King Abdullah has won the heart and the mind of our President [298 words]BAApr 8, 2010 22:42171103
The Western media doesn't agree to publish such things [250 words]EstherApr 15, 2010 04:52171103
Well done Israel [18 words]Straight_Talk_LuigiApr 8, 2010 16:10171093
Israel Then - Israel Now - Nothing New Under the Sun [477 words]M. ToveyApr 7, 2010 13:20171062
What did Begin achieve ? [47 words]Lars Bjørn Helm NielsenApr 7, 2010 03:06171044
"Standing up to Washington" [269 words]Marian HenningsApr 19, 2010 19:30171044
Standing up to Washington - Ben-Gurion [167 words]YJ DraimanSep 3, 2017 18:25171044
Standing up to Washington threat - Ben-Gurion [951 words]YJ DraimanSep 3, 2017 18:45171044
"how the Mighty Have Fallen" [93 words]Chaya PassowApr 7, 2010 02:19171043
Israel needs leaders that are strong enough to stand up for Israel , always. April 2010 [51 words]Phil GreendApr 6, 2010 23:47171040
When once upon a time.... [235 words]Jay1Apr 6, 2010 21:52171037
Feelings for Israel [152 words]Quenten L Raney JrApr 6, 2010 20:30171034
Begin noble hero: Obama evil appeaser. [103 words]Ralph C. Whaley MDApr 6, 2010 20:02171030
Standing up to Washington [227 words]Carmen Waggoner, Ph.D.Apr 6, 2010 19:44171028
NETANYAHU VS. BEGIN [104 words]JACQUES HADIDAApr 6, 2010 18:20171023
Where is Menachem Begin when we need him (May his memory be blessed!) [142 words]FroikeApr 7, 2010 13:25171023
Israel (and its leaders) - then and now [268 words]Raymond in DCApr 7, 2010 21:12171023
No banana republic [66 words]Rebecca MouldsApr 6, 2010 18:06171022
Right words, wrong person [91 words]PaulApr 6, 2010 16:34171019
When Israel stood up to WA--when Israel was governed by heroic men, not wobbly grovelers. [293 words]SC4Z (Secular Christians for Zion)Apr 6, 2010 15:53171016
Courage in the Leaders [94 words]Clifton MobergApr 6, 2010 15:14171014
Then and Now [9 words]Herbert FriedmanApr 6, 2010 14:11171012
2Canaries in the Mine [457 words]Charles S. GilinskyApr 6, 2010 12:57171010
Thank You DR. Pipes [101 words]T & JApr 6, 2010 11:40171006
Will Bibi find inspiration in his forefathers [34 words]steven LApr 6, 2010 10:18171003
The USA govt (executive Branch) must understand how important Israel is as an Ally! [47 words]Benny ZeeApr 6, 2010 09:30171000
be a friend, not a patsy [109 words]Z. JohnsonApr 6, 2010 09:16170999
I agree! [36 words]Thomas FApr 6, 2010 08:37170997
Begin: a Mixed Bag [143 words]John W. McGinleyApr 6, 2010 07:46170996
Netanyahu was humiliated...by his own constituents. [64 words]CalebApr 26, 2010 11:08170996
President Obama is wrong [311 words]shimshon issakiApr 6, 2010 07:05170994
Interesting [26 words]NashApr 6, 2010 06:01170993
THE 11TH. COMMANDMENT. [314 words]IamJosephApr 6, 2010 03:03170987
Correct. The 2-state is really a 3-state [106 words]EstherApr 15, 2010 05:14170987
Israel set back on its heels [147 words]Abu NudnikApr 6, 2010 01:57170983
The 11th Commandment [11 words]SC4Z (Secular Christians for Zion)Apr 6, 2010 19:23170983

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