Historic Letter about the Division of Jerusalem Written as Minister of Defense and “the eighty million Arabs sitting across our borders”

Signed by David Ben-Gurion

$2000
Item: 21559
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BEN-GURION, DAVID. (1886-1973). Polish-born Israeli statesman and Israel’s first prime minister; in 1948 he proclaimed her independence. TLS. (“D. Ben-Gurion”). 1p. 4to. N.p., September 8, 1955. Written as minister of defense on his official stationery headed with the seal of the State of Israel to author URI ZVI GREENBERG (1896-1981), known for his works in Yiddish and Hebrew. In Hebrew with translation.

In response to your letter, I do not need the reasoning of security to be against the division of Jerusalem. I have more important reasons.

Even if there were no wars in the world – I would have had justified reasons against its division; and come a day – there will be no more wars in the world.

Our security is not just a border issue, if you think that if there were other borders to the State of Israel, we would not have a security problem – you and your friends are making a dangerous mistake, and you are not thinking of the eighty million Arabs sitting across our borders…”

David Ben Gurion

An early supporter of Zionism, Ben-Gurion moved to Palestine in 1906 to become a farmer. After his expulsion by the Turkish government at the outbreak of World War I, he rallied the support of Britain and the U.S. calling for increased Jewish immigration to Palestine. Decades of ongoing Zionist activities led to a strengthening of the Jewish community in Palestine and on May 14, 1948, Ben-Gurion proclaimed the birth of the state of Israel.

In 1949, at the urging and under the auspices of the United Nations, Israel negotiated bilateral armistices with Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. The day after signing the agreement with Egypt, Ben-Gurion became Israel’s first prime minister. As prime minister and minister of defense he created the Israeli army, often using military force to thwart Arab violence.

Repeated violations of the 1949 armistice included Egypt’s blockade of the Suez Canal and additional confrontations in 1955, a particularly volatile year for the fledgling Jewish state. That year had begun dangerously with Israel’s bombing of a nearby Egyptian military base as retaliation against Palestinian and Egyptian aggression, leading to renewed attacks against Jewish settlements. “Attempts at amelioration of the Arab-Israeli conflict were often made, and sometimes bore fruit. In April 1955 an agreement came into force in Jerusalem, whereby the District Commanders on both sides of the barbed wire and concrete divide could make contact with each other through a direct telephone line. The agreement, reached between the governments of Jordan and Israel, authorized the respective commanders to ‘discuss and settle questions regarding the maintenance of peace in Jerusalem’. The commanders also met face to face,” (Israel, Gilbert). Nonetheless, the violence continued and “on August 22 the Israelis carried out a reprisal raid into the Gaza Strip. [A few days later] a dozen fedayeen squads, some sixty men in all, were made ready to go across the Gaza border with orders to kill and to carry out sabotage,” (ibid.).

Uri Zvi Greenberg

Additional casualties and incidents prompted a special report to the UN Security Council. Concurrent with that report, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced on August 31, 1955 that Egypt would send fedayeen fighters to attack Israel’s borders to destroy the nation; these incursions were made from bases within Jordan. “The [UN] Security Council met on 8 September [the date of our letter] to consider how to bring the hostilities to an end and prevent further incidents in Gaza area. The majority of the members stressed the advisability of refraining from introducing into the debate the question of responsibility for the recent deplorable incidents and emphasized the necessity of enforcing the suggestions of the Chief of Staff. After the parties concerned had expressed their views, the Council unanimously adopted a draft resolution presented by France, the United Kingdom and the United States which, among other things, endorsed the suggestions of the Chief of Staff concerning the separation of the armed forces of both parties, declared that freedom of movement must be afforded to United Nations Observers in the area, and called upon the parties to co-operate with the Chief of Staff in achieving those ends,” (The Yearbook of the United Nations 1955).

Our letter, a copy of which was sent to Prime Minister Moshe Sharett (1894-1965), is likely related to this UN resolution. Sharett took up his post after Ben-Gurion’s resignation in January 1954 simultaneously acting as Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Early in their country’s history, Ben-Gurion and Shared shared the same goals but they eventually parted company over the subject of Israel’s defense. Shared opposed doing anything that might escalate violence while Ben-Gurion was unafraid to use military force. Just two months after our letter, Ben-Gurion replaced Shared as Prime Minister, remaining in that office until 1963.

Greenberg was born in Austrian Poland and fought in the Austrian army during World War I. His military experiences convinced him that Christian Europe was not safe for Jews, a message that was central to many of his writings. After the war, he moved to Warsaw where he edited the Yiddish literary journal, Albatros and contributed to several other radical literary publications during the early 1920s. A central figure of the group of Yiddish writers dubbed Chaliastra, he ran afoul of Polish censors for his writing which prompted his immigration first to Berlin and then to Mandatory Palestine, where he wrote for a Labor Zionist newspaper. He but returned to Poland during the 1930s where he actively supported Revisionist-Zionism, which espoused Jewish sovereignty over the entire Mandate of Palestine.

After Israel’s independence, Greenberg joined Menachim Begin’s Herut party and served in the first Knesset from 1949-1951. Following the 1967 Six-Day War, he joined the Movement for Greater Israel which called for Jewish settlement of the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, West Bank, and Golan Heights captured during the war.

An extraordinarily meaningful letter written during a perilous year in Israel’s brief history. In fine condition with two file holes in the right margin, not affecting any text.

Historic Letter about the Division of Jerusalem Written as Minister of Defense and “the eighty million Arabs sitting across our borders”

Signed by David Ben-Gurion

$2000 • item #21559


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