Monday, January 7, 2013

Cabinet Protocols: Mid August 1948

In mid-August 1948, the cabinet slowed down for some reason. In the first few weeks after Israel's creation and in the midst of a bitter war for existence, the cabinet had convened three, sometimes even four times a week. Then for a while there were two regular weekly meetings. In the weeks of August 11 and 18, 1948, however, there was only one weekly meeting each - and even these don't appear to have been particularly dramatic. I don't know the reason for the slackness - clearly, it wasn't because everyone was trooping off for their summer vacations, since there were no fewer participants than usual. We'll have to see as this series progresses if this was a new norm.

The scanned protocols are here.

The meeting of August 18 began with two questions from Rav Maimon (Fishman), Minister of Religious Affairs. The first had to do with taxes, and Ben Gurion shot it down, as he did sometimes, by saying it wasn't a real question. I wish I knew how he decided what were and weren't legitimate questions - clearly, his ministers hadn't yet figured this out. Maimon's second question was about political turf-fighting: was it true the responsibility for the Holy Places had been given to the Ministry of Labor and Construction? Answer: oversight of ancient sites has gone to Construction. (If this sounds like hair-splitting to you, you may be right.)

There was a report about the ongoing UN-led armistice negotiations (no details in the protocol) and a presentation about the currency. There was a vote about what to do with the IZL and Lehi troops, and the cabinet was not in a magnanimous mood: an ultimatum would be issued telling them to join the IDF (thereby losing their own organizational identity) or force would be used against them.

The Minister of Interior, Itzchak Grinbaum, reported on the efforts to register the populace in preparation for holding elections. The cabinet preferred the registration to be authorized by decree rather than the less seemly option of using the Emergency Rules, but no final decision was made.

On August 18, Grinbaum wanted to know why the import of non-kosher meat had been blocked. The Minister of Commerce and Industry replied that he hadn't blocked the import, he had merely halted the negotiations about the import because of public opinion. (See if you can find the difference.)

It was decided that the Minister of Labor and Construction had the authority to requisition private homes to make room for foreign diplomatic delegations. The Minister of Transport was tasked with creating a national airline. There was a discussion about licensing private radio stations, but the only decision made was to forbid an IZL-inspired station.

Finally, touching for the first time on a subject which is still contested in 2013, it was decided that Israeli citizens who are abroad on election day would not be eligible to vote.

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