Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jerusalem and the United Nations (II) Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit

Here's some background to the story we posted the other day about Ben Gurion cabling Moshe Sharett to declare that if forced to choose between Jerusalem and the UN, Israel would choose Jerusalem. In the Israel State Archives' collection of documents in memory of Israel's first Foreign Minister and second Prime Minister, Moshe Sharett, you can see the different points of view of Sharett and Prime Minister Ben-Gurion as to how Israel should react to the General Assembly decision to internationalize Jerusalem.
Sharett, who was at the UN in New York, thought Israel should simply declare the resolution unenforceable. Pushed by the Catholic Church, it had passed as a result of a chance combination of circumstances, such as the upcoming elections in Australia and the Catholic vote. There were no practical plans to carry it out, and Transjordan, at which the resolution was also directed, had no intention of giving up East Jerusalem. He wrote on 12 December to the director-general of his ministry: "My line is …..to hasten peace with Transjordan if possible….in Jerusalem itself sit tight, do nothing."
Meanwhile in Israel the public was greatly alarmed. Ben-Gurion feared that the USSR, which supported the resolution, might send forces to Jerusalem, and felt decisive action was needed. In a defiant speech in the Knesset, then still in Tel Aviv, he declared that it would be transferred, together with the government ministries, to Jerusalem, Israel's capital.
Sharett wanted to resign, as he had failed to foresee the success of the resolution and his advice had been rejected. Although they would later quarrel bitterly,  Ben-Gurion replied: "Your request cannot possibly be accepted…..Those who carried out [the establishment of the state on] May 14 should not be parted."

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