Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Cabinet Protocols: Israel's third week

In its third week of existence, Israel's provisional cabinet was very busy, and convened four times, on Sunday (May 30th), Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (June 4th). The deliberations continued to focus on the nitty-gritty of creating a functioning administration, running a war and negotiating a peace, forging relations with other countries, and the minutiae of symbols.
On Sunday May 31st the provisional government authorized the wording of the oath each soldier would be required to make upon enlisting. (The wording has changed a bit since then). Ben Gurion reported on military developments, while noting that a British request had reached the government to enable Haifa Arabs to return to the city. Moshe Shertok reported on the efforts to acquire diplomatic recognition - Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Uruguay had recognized Israel, the US was discussing the exchange of representatives, and the French had sent a letter of complaint about French-owned buildings in Jerusalem which had been damaged during the hostilities. (An American and French letter were attached to the protocol).

Eliezer Kaplan reported on the work of a committee which was drawing the jurisdictions of the various ministries (probation officers will be in the ministry of welfare; citizenship in the ministry of the interior; marriages and divorces in the ministry of religious affairs, and so on). These are not insignificant matters: deciding that marriages are a religious matter rather than a civil one, for example, reflects a value system, as does the understanding of what system probation officers are part of.

Two other overlapping topics were the ongoing discussion of how to respond to UN pressure to agree to a cease-fire, and the legal status of territories beyond the 1947 partition lines: if everyone stops and goes back to the partition plan, so will Israel; until then, here's how we'll apply our law to the newly acquired areas.

Ah, yes: and the British income tax laws will stay in place for the time being. You can't have a functioning state without taxes.

Tuesday June 1st 1948: The cabinet discussed putative terms for accepting a UN cease-fire. The principle was that fighting must cease, new arms must not be brought in (this was a UN demand), but that military achievements not be whittled away.

The government needs a loan. ($8,000,000, which was a lot in those days and in this country).

The Lehi organization has merged into the national army. The Etzel seemed close, but the negotiations weren't quite completed. The Etzel wished to preserve a measure of identity within the larger army. The government authorized a version of an agreement. As we know, this matter was not fully resolved, as the Altalena story would dramatically demonstrate within a few weeks.

Wednesday, June 2 1948: the government dealt with a series of administrative matters.

Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and the first and last days of Sukkot and Pessach, along with Shavuot, were decreed to be vacation days. On the other hand, a committee was formed to decide what the work hours of the ministries would be. (The wags might say: well, the hours of employees being in their offices, at least). There was discussion of a law describing the operations of the courts, the line between military and civil authority, the name of the ministry of agriculture (the upshot of the discussion was that its name would remain unchanged) and other such mundane matters which an administration needs to have so as to function.

Borders: the cabinet reiterated its commitment to the partition plan only if the other side accepted the plan. This matter, as we're seeing in this series, preoccupied the cabinet frequently, almost daily.

The name of the section of Tel Aviv in which some of the ministries resided was changed from the German Sarona to the Hebrew Hakirya.

On Friday June 4th the cabinet reconvened for the sole purpose of hearing reports about the war and the negotiations with the UN. No decisions were made.

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