Monday, December 31, 2012

Cabinet Protocols, August 8, 1948: Governing Jerusalem

The second weekly cabinet meeting of the week, on August 8th 1948, began with questions from the ministers:

Mordechai Bentov: How many non-Jewish Englishmen are left in Jerusalem? (Ben Gurion: That's not a question for the cabinet.)
Bentov: When can we lift the nightly blackout measures? (BG: Not yet.)
Bentov: Who authorized the destruction of an Arab village? (BG: No-one; we'll investigate.)
Ben Gurion also promised that a department was being formed to deal with matters of abandoned property.

Most of the meeting was spent on political haggling about Jerusalem. It was decided not to hold elections for a city council at this stage, but rather to appoint a council according to the relative political power of the various political parties, including those not represented in the cabinet.

So far so good. But then they had to decide what the relative political strength is, and how to allocate the seats on the council. Although our document is a protocol, not a stenogramn which records every word, the discussion appears to have been prolonged and heated. Even if you don't read Hebrew, have a look at pages 2 and 3 and you'll see the list of political combinations discussed and voted down: for a council with 16 members, or 19, or 21, or 25. It was only once the ministers had allocated their parties 27 seats at the council's table that they managed to reach agreement. (There were 15 cabinet ministers at the time.) These were men who regularly made decisions on matters of life and death, war and peace, economy and postal stamps; yet when it came to Jerusalem's City Council, the only way out of the political impasse they could agree on was to add more members.

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