By Nizar Sakhnini
Proclamation of the “State of Israel” was announced in Tel Aviv at 4:00 P.M. on 14 May 1948. At 6:11 P.M. (about mid-night in Tel Aviv), the White House announced: “This government has been informed that a Jewish State has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof. The U.S. recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel.” (De jure recognition came about in January 1949)
Lohamei Herut Yisrael declared that “A strong attack on the centers of the Arab population will intensify the movement of the refugees and all the roads in the direction of Transjordan and the neighboring countries will be filled with panic-struck masses and this will hamper the enemy’s military movement, as happened during the collapse of France [in WWII]…. A great opportunity has been given us; let us not waste it… The whole of this land will be ours… (Benny Morris, 1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990, p. 37)
The British Mandate ended on 15 May 1948 and the Proclamation of the State of Israel came into effect. The Last British soldier left Palestine on 30 June 1948.
The Proclamation did not specify the borders of the “State of Israel”. It referred to “The Land of Israel”, the “birthplace of the Jewish people” and “the land of their fathers” whose statehood is being regained.
This deliberate intentional omission of the borders reflected their intention for expansion.
In supporting a British proposal for partition in 1937 David Ben-Gurion stated, “The acceptance of partition does not commit us to renounce Transjordan; one does not demand from anybody to give up his vision. We shall accept a state in the boundaries fixed today, but the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them”. (Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: the United States, Israel and the Palestinians, Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1984, p. 161)
Ben-Gurion considered a Jewish State in part of Palestine as a bridgehead for future expansion whenever the time was right. His vision was spelled out in a letter to his son, Amos, in which Ben-Gurion stated, “A partial Jewish State is not the end, but only the beginning….” (Michael Bar-Zohar, Ben-Gurion: A Biography. New York: Delacorte Press, 1977 pp. 91 – 92)
This deceitful behavior by Ben Gurion was preceded by a similar attitude on the part of Herzl, who articulated the Zionist call for the creation of Der Judenstaat
Theodor Herzl was instructed by a British Christian clergyman, William Hechler, on the area the Zionists should seek: “The northern frontier ought to be the mountains facing Cappadocia [in Turkey]; the southern, the Suez Canal.” In October 1898, Herzl recorded approvingly the suggestion of his associate Max Bodenheimer: “from the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates”. (Sami Hadawi, A paper prepared and delivered as a speech in an International Symposium on “Zionism and Racism” convened in Tripoli, Libya, during the period 24 – 28 July 1976. The speeches were edited by Walter Lehn and published in book form, Zionism and the Lands of Palestine, p. 3, citing Raphael Patai (ed), The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, New York, 1960, p. 56)
Herzl was deceptive with respect to the specifics of his Der Judenstaat. He even claimed that he wanted a Jewish State on an adequate piece of land any where in the world.
A letter was written by the Mayor of Jerusalem, M. Yousuf Zia al-Khalidi, to the Chief Rabbi in France, Zadok Kahn, and implicitly to his acquaintance, Theodor Herzl. In this letter, Khalidi asked them that “Palestine be left in peace.”
In response, Herzl wrote a letter to the Mayor on 19 March 1899 to cool down any fears of Jewish immigration by pretending that “the Jews have no belligerent Power behind them, neither are they themselves of a warlike nature. They are a completely peaceful element, and very content if they are left in peace. Therefore, there is absolutely nothing to fear from their immigration…”
Herzl referred to the natives of Palestine, as “the non-Jewish population in Palestine” and assured that no one “would think of sending them away. It is their well being, their individual wealth, which we will increase by bringing in our own…” (The full text of the letter was reproduced in Walid Khalidi, From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem until 1948, Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1971, Second Printing, Washington, 1987, pp. 91 – 93)
Chaim Weizmann was more specific about the land required for the state. Palestine as defined by the Zionist proposals to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 included south Lebanon, the Golan Heights, and an area to the East of the Jordan River up to a line parallel to the Hijaz railway track. (A map outlining this area is available in: David McDowall, Palestine and Israel: The Uprising and Beyond, Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989, p. 20. See also: Simha Flappan, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities, New York: 1987, p. 17)
Weizmann made a vague mention of the “Arab Problem” in his autobiography, Trial and Error, without giving specific solutions. He was confident of achieving a Jewish majority in Palestine through cooperation with Britain and that once Jewish majority was obtained, the Zionists would feel free to do whatever they wanted.
In an interview in October 1944, Weizmann adopted a stance similar to that adopted by Ben-Gurion by referring to some form of partition which would be temporarily acceptable. He did not see why the entire burden should fall on the present generation and why one could not look to the possibility of future expansion. (Peter Grose, Israel in the Mind of America, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1983, p. 238)
Armistice lines of 1949 left the Zionists with control over an area of Palestine that was larger than the area allotted to them by the partition resolution of 1947. This area was inadequate to fulfill the Zionist “aspirations” and the armistice lines were accepted as a temporary arrangement waiting for an opportunity to expand in due course.
The dispute between Egypt and the West over the Suez Canal was seen as an opportunity for Israel to achieve its plans for territorial expansion.
In a round table secret conference with the French and the British at the Sévres on 21 October 1956, Ben-Gurion proposed elimination of Nasser in Egypt; partition of Jordan, with the West Bank going to Israel and the East Bank to Iraq who would have to sign a peace treaty with Israel and undertake to absorb the Palestinian refugees; Israel would annex southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, with a Christian state established in the rest of the country; create a pro-Western stooge who would stabilize the Syrian regime; and create an international status for the Suez Canal while the Straits of Tiran would be placed under Israeli control.
A tri-partite military operation against Egypt was agreed upon and the final agreement to this effect was signed on 25 October. Official confirmation of the Sévres protocol was received by Ben-Gurion on 26 October and was warmly congratulated by Menachem Begin. (Bar-Zohar, Ben-Gurion: A Biography, New York: Delacorte Press, 1977, pp. 224-244)
As planned, Israeli forces over-ran Gaza on 29 October on their way across Sinai to the Suez Canal.
In his address to the Knesset on 7 November, a victorious Ben-Gurion stated, “The revelation of Sinai has been renewed in our time by our army’s thrust of heroism…. Our army did not infringe on Egyptian territory…. Our operations were restricted to the Sinai Peninsula alone…. The Armistice Agreement with Egypt is dead and buried…the armistice lines between us and Egypt have also given up the ghost…we are prepared for negotiations for a firm peace…. We are prepared for similar negotiations with each of the other Arab states…” On the other hand, Ben-Gurion sent a message to the victory parade held at Sharm el-Sheikh: “Yotvat [the island of Tiran] will once more become a part of the Third Kingdom of Israel!” The following day, the term evaporated. Israel awoke to the grim reality of the situation when the UN General Assembly decided that Israel had to withdraw from Sinai unconditionally. (Ibid, pp. 249 – 253)
On 22 January 1957, Israel withdrew from Sinai following an adamant stand by Eisenhower. Withdrawal from Gaza took place on 8 March and the Egyptian military government was restored in a few days.
UN General Assembly adopted a resolution mandating deployment of a UN Emergency Force (UNEF) in Sinai in February and the Suez Canal was reopened for shipping on 22 March.
Israeli plans for expansion and rearrangement of the Middle East to accommodate Israel’s wishes had to wait for a more convenient time and a more acquiescent and accommodating President in the United States of America. Such an opportunity came in 1967 with President Lyndon B. Johnson.