Declaration of Independence, Israel

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During the five months that followed the un Palestine partition resolution of November 29, 1947, repeated attempts were made by representatives of the U.S. State Department and others to prevent the establishment of the Jewish State. On March 19, 1948, it was announced that the U.S. Government would propose an international trusteeship over Palestine. This suggestion was categorically rejected by David *Ben-Gurion, then chairman of the Zionist Executive. At the beginning of April, the Zionist General Council and the Va'ad Le'ummi decided to establish a 13-member National Administration and a National Council of 37 members, which would, upon the departure of the British Mandatory forces, become the provisional government and legislature of the Jewish State.

On May 12 Moshe Shertok (*Sharett) returned from the United States and reported to the National Administration that Secretary of State George Marshall had revived the trusteeship proposal, though President Truman and public opinion still favored a Jewish state. Shertok proposed the formation of a government, rather than the establishment of a state, while Felix Rosenblueth (Pinḥas *Rosen) proposed the proclamation of a state within the framework of the un decision. Ben-Gurion insisted that the proclamation should be only "on the basis" of the un decision and opposed the demand of Rosenblueth and Bekhor *Shitreet that the frontiers of the state be specified, pointing out that the United States had not designated its own frontiers when declaring independence. If the Jews succeeded in repulsing the Arab attack, they would occupy Western Galilee and the Jerusalem Corridor, which would thus become part of the Jewish State. By a 5 to 4 majority, it was decided not to specify frontiers. A committee of five – David *Remez, Rosenblueth, Moshe Shapira, Shertok, and Aharon *Zisling – was appointed to draft the Declaration of Independence. The draft submitted by the committee on May 13 consisted of 22 articles, 12 of which began with "In asmuch as…" It was criticized as too long and flowery, and the final wording was entrusted to Ben-Gurion, Rabbi Y.L. Fishman (*Maimon), A. Zisling, and M. Shertok. During the same evening Ben-Gurion prepared a final draft, which was approved by his colleagues on the committee.

The National Council met at 10 a.m. the next day. The Communist leader Meir Wilner proposed the addition of articles denouncing the British Mandate and opposing British military bases, but Shertok argued that such items were out of place in the Declaration. David Ẓevi Pinkas of the *Mizrachi proposed that the Declaration should begin: "The Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people in the Torah and by the Prophets." Zisling objected to the term "Ẓur Yisrael," a version of the name of God (literally "Rock of Israel"), in the final paragraph; *Mapai's Meir Grabovski (Argov) proposed the addition of the word "language" to the clause guaranteeing freedom of religion, conscience, education, and culture, to ensure that Arabic would have equal rights with Hebrew. Ben-Gurion agreed to Grabovski's proposal, but not to his reasoning. The language of the State must be Hebrew, but the Arabs would be free to use their language in all aspects of Israeli life. As to Zisling's objection, he said, everyone from Right to Left believed in the "Rock of Israel" in his own way. On a first vote, 16 voted for the draft and 8 abstained. The chairman reported that the members of the council who had been unable to leave Jerusalem, because of the battles, had met that morning and had approved the draft. He requested that the Declaration be adopted unanimously in a second vote, whatever objections members might have to a particular item or aspect, and this was done.

The council also approved a proposal submitted by Felix Rosenblueth, that the Provisional Council of State – as the National Council was to be called after independence – be the legislative authority, with the right to delegate its powers to the government for the purpose of urgent legislation. The White Paper of 1939 and the relevant Mandatory ordinances were to be repealed, but all other laws in existence on May 14, 1948, would remain in force in the State of Israel.

At 4:30 p.m. of the same day, Iyyar 5, 5708, the National Council met in the Tel Aviv Museum Hall. Among those present were representatives of the Jewish Agency, the Zionist Organization, the Va'ad Le'ummi, the Zionist funds, leaders of political parties, personalities in the various cultural fields, the chief rabbis, the Tel Aviv Town Council, the chief of staff of the *Haganah and his colleagues, and pioneers of Jewish settlement.

Ben-Gurion, who presided, announced: "I shall read you the Foundation Scroll of the State of Israel, which has been approved in first reading by the National Council." As he concluded with the appeal "Let us accept the Foundation Scroll of the Jewish State by rising," the entire audience rose. The chairman stated that any member who so desired would be able to make a statement at the next session. Rabbi Fishman thereupon pronounced the traditional blessing: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive and preserved us and enabled us to reach this season." The chairman then read the resolution annulling the White Paper, which was unanimously adopted. He then signed the Declaration of Independence, and the secretary, Ze'ev Schaerf (*Sharef), read out the names of the council members in Hebrew alphabetical order. Amid enthusiastic applause, each member went up to the dais and signed, space being left for those still in Jerusalem to sign later. Ben-Gurion announced: "The State of Israel has arisen. This session is closed."


Z. Sharef, Three Days (1962); Kolot Esrim Shanah, cbs record.

[David Ben-Gurion]

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Declaration of Independence, Israel

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