The Zionist People's Council Proclaim the Establishment of the State of Israel
The Zionist People's Council Proclaim the Establishment of the State of Israel
By: The Jewish National Council
Date: May 14, 1948
Source: "The Zionist People's Council Proclaim the Establishment of the State of Israel." In Major Knesset Debates: 1948–1981, edited by Netaniel Lorch. Lanham, Md.: University Press, 1993.
About the Author: The Jewish National Council, referred to as the Vaad Leumi in Hebrew, was the official body of the Zionist movement in Palestine in the years leading up to the declaration of the State of Israel in May of 1948. Also known as the Jewish National Council on Palestine or the Jewish People's Council, the organization was made up of many Jewish parties that worked towards the creation of a Jewish State. After the declaration of statehood, the Council formed the provisional government of the new State of Israel.
The creation of the State of Israel in May of 1948 gave birth to one of the world's most recognized conflicts between Israel and the Arab states that surround it. Israel's creation was viewed as a success of the modern Zionist movement born in the later nineteenth century. Modern Zionism was developed by the Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl (1860–1904) with the goal of creating a modern state for the Jewish people in the face of rising anti-Semitism and assimilation. In the early twentieth century the movement gained political and social momentum amongst many segments of the European Jewish communities, leading to massive immigration of Jews to Palestine. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, this land that would become Israel had been the center of Jewish activity in ancient times and is recognized as sacred to the world's three major religions, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
The declaration of the State of Israel brought an end to the British Mandate over Palestine, which had been in place since the British took control over the region during the course of World War I. The Jewish immigration, which had intensified during the 1930s and 1940s as a result of the Nazi persecution of European Jews, had caused a great deal of conflict between the Zionists and the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. The issue was turned over to the United Nations, which in November of 1947 voted in favor of a plan that would allow for the partition of Palestine into two states, one for the Arabs and one for the Jews. Given this international support for the Zionist cause and upon the departure of the British government from Palestine in May of 1948, the Jewish National Council immediately declared the creation of the State of Israel as the Jewish homeland.
Within hours of the declaration, the Arab governments surrounding Palestine announced their rejection of the Jewish State and their opposition to the Partition Plan and launched an attack on Jewish forces. The result was the Israeli War of Independence, which was waged over the course of 1948. The war was eventually won by the Israeli army but gave birth to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which has become one of the globe's more costly and recognized conflicts. Since 1948, Israel has attracted millions of Jewish immigrants from Europe as well as Arab countries, and despite the political tensions has a thriving economy.
DRAFT OF THE DECLARATION OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL
Sitting 3 of the People's Council
14 May 1948 (5 Iyar 5708) JNF building, Tel Aviv
The Chairman, D. Ben-Gurion: Today is a day of greater opportunities and graver dangers than we have faced for many generations. a) The Mandate has ended and we must establish Jewish rule; b) War has been declared on us. This war may be intensified by an invasion by the regular Arab armies.
Our defense forces are functioning with the utmost dedication on all fronts and will do their duty. Arrangements have been made with regard to the danger of invasion.
We have assembled here today to make preparations and dispositions for independent Jewish rule. You have before you two documents for consideration: the first, a declaration; the second, the first draft of an interim constitution, which is urgently needed so that the Jewish institutions will be able to function during this period.
We will start with the first document: "The Declaration by the People's Council of the Establishment of the State of Israel."
- In the Land of Israel the Jewish people came into being. In this land their spiritual, religious and national character was shaped. Here they lived in sovereign independence. Here they created a culture of national and universal import, and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.
- Exiled by force, still the Jewish people kept faith with their land in all the countries of their dispersion, steadfast in their prayer and hope to return and here revive their political freedom.
- Fired by this attachment to history and tradition, the Jews in every generation strove to renew their roots in the ancient homeland, and in recent generations they came home in their multitudes. Veteran pioneers and defenders, and newcomers braving blockade, they made the wilderness bloom, revived their Hebrew tongue, and built villages and towns. They founded a thriving society, master of its own economy and culture, pursuing peace but able to defend itself, bringing the blessing of progress to all the inhabitants of the land, and dedicated to the attainment of sovereign independence.
- In 1897 the First Zionist Congress met at the call of Theo Herzl, seer of the vision of the Jewish state, and gave public voice to right of the Jewish people to national restoration in their land.
- This right was acknowledged by the Balfour Declaration of November 1917, and confirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which accorded international validity to the historical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and to their right to reestablish their National Home.
- The Holocaust that in our time destroyed millions of Jews in Europe again proved beyond doubt the compelling need to solve the problem of Jewish homelessness and independence by the renewal of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel, which would open wide the gates of the homeland to every Jew and endow the Jewish people with the status of a nation with equality of rights within the family of nations.
- Despite every hardship, hindrances and peril, the remnant towns survived the grim Nazi slaughter in Europe, together with Jews from other countries, pressed on with their exodus to the Land of Israel and continued to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honorable toil in the homeland of their people.
- In the Second World War the Jewish community in the Land of Israel played its full part in the struggle of the nations championing freedom and peace against the Nazi forces of evil. Its war effort and the lives of its solders won it the right to be numbered among the founding peoples of the United Nations.
- On 29 November 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish [state] in the Land of Israel, and required the inhabitants themselves to take all measures necessary on their part to carry out the resolution. The recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their own state is irrevocable.
- It is the natural right of the Jewish people, like any other people, to control their own destiny in their sovereign state.
- Accordingly we, the members of the People's Council, representing the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and the Zionist movement have assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate in Palestine, and by virtue of our natural and historic right and of the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, do hereby proclaim the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel—the State of Israel.
- We resolve that from the moment the Mandate ends, at midnight on the Sabbath, 6 Iyar 5708, 15 May 1948, until the establishment of the duly elected authorities of the state in accordance with a constitution, be adopted by the elected constituent Assembly not later than 1 October 1948, the People's Council shall act as the Provisional Council of State and its executive arm, the National Administration, shall constitute the Provisional Government of the Jewish state, and the name of that state shall be Israel.
- The State of Israel will be open to Jewish immigration and the ingathering of the exiles. It will devote itself to developing the land for the good of all its inhabitants. It will rest upon foundations of liberty, justice and peace as envisioned by the prophets of Israel. It will ensure complete equality of social and political rights for all its citizens, irrespective of creed, race or sex. It will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, education and culture. It will safeguard the holy places of all religions. It will be loyal to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
- The State of Israel will be prepared to cooperate with the organs and representatives of the United Nations in carrying out the General Assembly resolution of 29 November 1947, and will work for the establishment of the economic union of the whole Land of Israel.
- We appeal to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building of their state, and to admit the State of Israel into the family of nations.
- Even amidst the violent attacks launched against us for months past, we call upon the sons of the Arab people dwelling in Israel to keep the peace and to play their part in building the state on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its institutions, provisional and permanent.
- We extend our hand in peace and good-neighborliness to all the States around us and to their peoples, and we call upon them to cooperate in mutual helpfulness with the independent Jewish nation in its land. The State of Israel is prepared to make its contribution in a concerted effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
- We call upon the Jewish people throughout the diaspora to join forces with us in immigration and construction, and to be at our right hand in the great endeavor to fulfill the age-old longing for the redemption of Israel.
- With trust in the Rock of Israel, we set our hands in witness to this Declaration, at this session of the Provisional Council of State, on the soil of the home-land, in the city of Tel Aviv, on this Sabbath Eve, 5 Iyar 5708, 14 May 1948.
Those in favor of the entire document: 16
Those abstaining: 8
The Draft of the Proclamation
The Chairman, D. Ben-Gurion: We will now discuss the constitutional document, the draft of which you have before you.
P. Rosenblueth (Aliya Hadasha): The purpose of this proclamation is to fill a void, particularly as regards the law. I am sure that it speaks for itself and that no lengthy explanations are necessary; a reading will suffice.
By right of the Declaration of Independence published today, 14 May 1948 (5 Iyar 5708), according to which the Provisional Council of States and the Provisional Government of the State of Israel were established the Provisional Council proclaims:
- The Provisional Council of State is the legislative authority. The Provisional Council of State is entitled to and hereby does delegate some of its legislative powers to the Provisional Government for the purpose of urgent legislation.
- Such provision of the law as arise from the White Paper of 1939 are hereby declared null and void. Sections 13–15 of the Immigration Ordinance, 1041 and regulations 102–107c of the Defense (Emergency Regulations, 1945 are hereby repealed. The Land Transfer Regulations, 1940 are herby repealed retroactively as of 18 May 1939 (29 Iyar 5699).
- Apart from the above clauses, and as long as no laws have been enacted by or on behalf of the Provisional Council of State, and insofar as this is consistent with these laws and with changes arising from the establishment of the state and its authorities, the law which existed in Palestine on 14 May 1948 (5 Iyar 5708) shall continue in force in the State of Israel.…
N. Nir-Rafalkes (Mapam): The first clause of the Proclamation is phrased clearly, but "urgent legislation" is very ambiguous.… There will be a sitting on Sunday evening. The Administration has guaranteed that nothing will be done until then. Why should we decide something now to which people object in principle? One of the principles of democracy is the separation of the legislature from the executive. But we are giving our administrators the power to legislate. There is a danger that the council will become a fiction, and my experience in the People's Council and the Administration during recent months indicates that someone wants to do this. According to the resolution, two institutions were established, the People's Council and the National Administration, and until now the People's Council has met only once. Since the matter is not extremely urgent, I suggest that at this point we do not accept the first clause, and discuss it on Sunday evening.
M. Wilner (Communists): I support Council Member Nir's proposal. Since I object to this anti-democratic practice, I object more strongly to its endorsement by a resolution. Simple logic says that we, the council, have decided to abolish the Council. That is the proposal and it has no other meaning. Since there is not time now, I suggest postponing the date on the first clause until the council meets on Sunday, leaving just the beginning of the clause, i.e., that the Provision council of State is the legislative authority. We can discuss the additions when we have time.
G. Myerson (Mapai): It appears to me that the clause can remain provided the words "and does delegate" are removed.
The chairman. D. Ben-Gurion: I notified you of the Administration's decision not to use its authority until Sunday, even if it is delegated to it … As for Council Member Wilner's objections, every parliament, especially during an emergency situation, delegates this type of authority to its executive arm. We are at war. No one knows what will happen tomorrow. There is no guarantee that Tel Aviv will not be bombed or that something even worse will happen. I think that the members of the Administration deserve the confidence of the council Members … but if events take an unforeseen turn, we do not want to be left completely without authority. The Mandatory laws have come to an end, we must legislate and issue instructions immediately, that is why the clause is worded in this way.
N. Nir-Rafalkes (Mapam): We could omit the phrase "The Provisional council of State is entitled to delegate," and pass an internal resolution stating: "Until Sunday evening the Government can do nothing." The Council may not be able to meet on Sunday.
The Chairman, D. Ben-Gurion: I suggest a different internal resolution. By the way, an internal resolution is not a law, and no internal resolution will authorize the government to legislate if we accept your proposal. Unless a situation arises which physically prevents the Council from meeting on Sunday, the Provisional Government is not allowed to act though the authorization has been given.
M. Bentov (Mapam): There is a way out of this. The Council can [meet] regardless of the number of members present. Till now we had no charter, and there is no reason why we should not decide that in emergency any number of members may act on behalf of the Council.
The Chairman, D. Ben-Gurion: In my opinion, from the point of view of democracy that is worse. I suggest an amendment stating that a resolution passed by a quorum is temporary, and when the entire Council meets it may amend the decision of the quorum. This means that Council meets with however many members are present, but when entire council meets it supercedes the quorum.
(Council Member Bentov's proposal is put to a vote and adopted.)
D. Remez (Mapai): I suggest replacing "is entitled to delegate" with "has the right to delegate," and wording paragraph 3 as follows: [as] long as no laws have been enacted by or on behalf of the Provisional Council of State, the law which existed in Palestine on 14 May 1948 (Iyar 5708) shall continue to be in force in the State of Israel, insofar as this is consistent with the contents of this proclamation and with changes arising from the establishment of the state and its authorities.
The Chairman, D. Ben-Gurion: We will vote on the entire Proclamation.
(The Proclamation is adopted. The sitting is closed.)
Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel
Sitting 4 of the People's Council
14 May 1848 (5 Iyar 5709)
Museum Auditorium, Tel Aviv
Present: members of the People's Council, representatives of the Jewish Agency, the Zionist Organization, the National Committee of the Jews of Palestine, the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Foundation Fund, representatives of literature, art and journalism, party leaders, the Chief Rabbis, members of the Tel Aviv Municipality, the Chief of the General Staff of the Hagana and his associates, founders of the Yishuv and representatives of the Ishuv's economic bodies.
D. Ben-Gurion: I will now read out to you the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel as it was approved at its first reading by the People's Council (see above) …
We will now rise to adopt the Declaration of Independence of the Jewish state. (All present stand). Kindly be seated. Those Council Members who wish to make statements regarding the Declaration of Independence will be able to do so at the next sitting of the People's Council which will be held on Sunday evening, we hope … I now give the floor to Rabbi Fishman.
Rabbi Fishman: Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us in life and hast preserved us, and hast enabled us to reach this season.
D. Ben-Gourion: All the Jerusalem members of the People's Council, who were unfortunately unable to be here for obvious reasons, met in the Jewish Agency offices today and informed us that they join us in adopting this declaration. I will now read out to you the proclamation of the People's Council (see above)…
The Council Members are requested to approach the President's podium in alphabetical order. The Secretary of the Provisional Government will call out their names and each one will sign the Declaration of Independence. Places will be kept for the members from Jerusalem, in alphabetical order.
The signatories to the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel:
Eliyahu Berligne Fritz Bernstein
Rabbi Wolf Gold
Dr. Abraham Granowsky Eliyahu Dobkin Meir Wilner-Kovner
Zerah Warhaftig Herzl Vardi
Rabbi Kalman Kahana
Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Levin
Meir David Lowenstein
Golda Myerson Nathum Nir
Zvi Segal Rabbi Yehuda Leib Hacohen Fishman
David Zvi Pinkas
Aharon Zisling Moshe Kolodny Eliezur Kaplan Abraham Katznelson
Berl Repetur Mordecai Shattner
Benzion Sterrnberg Behor Shitrit
Moshe Shapira Moshe Shertok
D. Ben-Gurion: The State of Israel has come into being. The sitting is now closed.
The Declaration of the State of Israel has been viewed by many members of the international Jewish community and supporters of the state as the realization of an ancient biblical promise that the Jews would return to Israel after their expulsion from the region nearly two thousand years earlier. As this declaration makes clear, the return en masse of the Jewish people in the area was viewed as a religious and cultural desire to once again have a Jewish presence in this place referred to as the Holy Land.
Israel, despite its small geographic size, represents importance both for its inhabitants and for religious people all over the world. This declaration shows how the Zionists saw a religious and historical right to justify the creation of the State of Israel, a right which was ratified by the international community. Specific attention was placed to the plight of the Jews as a result of the Holocaust and the role that Israel should play in offering a refuge to the survivors.
This document, in creating the State of Israel, served to intensify the conflict between the Zionists and the Arab world to a new level. While the dispute over Palestinian territory had been violent prior to 1948, with the creation of a national identity for Israel the violence would spill over into one of the world's most significant international conflicts. The result was five major wars, local and international terrorism, and ethnic and religious strife that continues indefinitely.
The declaration clearly recognized the risk for violence that Israel's establishment would likely create, but it also set the stage for a policy of negotiation and peacemaking that could bring an end to the conflict and allow the two sides to coexist. As of 2006, Israel is home to about 6.5 million people, almost four million of whom are Jewish. Nineteen percent of Israeli residents are Arab, about the same number as when the country was established in 1948.
Lacquer, Walter. A History of Zionism. New York: MJF Books, 1972.
Sachar, Howard M. A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.
American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. "Jewish Virtual Library—Israel."<http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/israel.html> (accessed May 25, 2006).