The Vaʿad Leʾumi (VL) was the supreme executive authority and representative organ of the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine) between 1920 and 1948. Functioning much like a cabinet, each Vaʿad Leʾumi was composed of members of an Asefat haNivharim (elected assembly), and its day-to-day operations were largely in the hands of a chairman and a smaller executive committee. For most of the Mandate period the executive was headed by a praesidium of Yizhak Ben-Zvi, Yaakov Thon, and David Yellin.
One of the main functions of the VL was to act as official representative for the heterogeneous, highly politicized Jewish community in Palestine. The VL served as a high-level public forum for debating the divergent viewpoints and conflicting interests of religious versus secular Jews; farmers and employers versus organized labor; and native versus newly arrived immigrant groups having differing traditions (e.g., Sephardim versus Ashkenazim). The Palestine Royal Commission Report (1937) credited the VL and its local educational system with counteracting these divisive forces by the forging of a "national self-consciousness of unusual intensity."
The VL was frequently beset by organizational difficulties and jurisdictional squabbles with the Palestine Zionist Executive and the Jewish Agency Executive (both responsible to the World Zionist Organization). While most matters of high policy were decided by Zionist leaders and organs in Palestine and abroad, the VL was able to exercise its autonomy mainly in the spheres of education and local communal affairs. After 14 May 1948 the functions and departments of the VL and those of certain sections of the Jewish Agency came under the authority of a provisional state council of the State of Israel.
see also ben-zvi, yizhak.
Burstein, Mosh. Self-Government of the Jews in Palestine since 1900. Tel Aviv: Hapoel Hatzair, 1934.
Caplan, Neil. Palestine Jewry and the Arab Question, 1917–1925. London: Frank Cass, 1978.
Shaw, J. V. W., ed. A Survey of Palestine: Prepared in December 1945 and January 1946 for the Information of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (1946), 2 vols. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1991.