Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Cabinet Protocols: Late August 1948

OK, our original game plan hasn't quite worked out on this thread. The original intention was to put up a weekly post, following the weekly cabinet meetings from May 1948 onwards, to give a feeling of the pace of work of the cabinet and the subjects it dealt with. For whatever reason, we've not been keeping pace. Still, interested readers are encouraged to follow the posts marked with the "govt protocols" label. Also, keep in mind that these are brief protocols, not wordy stenograms which capture everything said in the meetings.

The protocols of late August and early September 1948 are sparse in information, so today's post presents four meetings of two weeks, between August 25th and September 5th.

August 25, 1948:
The cohort born in 1931 are to be enlisted for military training. A second decision will be necessary before sending them into combat. Special dispensation will be made to allow them to complete their high-school studies and examinations after the war. (We're talking about 17-year-olds).

The President, his wife, and Israel's ambassador to the UN are given Israeli citizenship. (Before the rest of the populace, as the procedures are not yet finalized.)

The peace negotiations with the UN mediator continue.

The Finance Minister (Eliezer Kaplan) gives a presentation about taxes, but no decisions are made.

August 28, 1948:
After what appears to have been a lively discussion and a series of specific votes, the cabinet determined rates of income tax. Unmarried individuals would start paying once their annual income was 240 Pounds, and families would pay if their income was greater than 340. The highest rate would be 75% (!). Corporate tax would be 20%. There would be an emergency tax on fuel. Two separate administrative decisions were made pertaining to the payment of wages of laborers working for the government and of clerks. This seems to reflect an important distinction in the mind of the (mostly socialist) ministers.

The September 1st meeting opened with ministers' queries: Is it true Arab families are being evicted from their homes in Haifa? Is Haifa under military rule? Ben Gurion said not, but Yizhak Grinbaum, the Minister of the Interior, said he'd have go and see for himself. The most puzzling exchange was when Bechor Shitrit asked if Arabs would be able to vote in the approaching elections, and Ben Gurion said this wasn't a legitimate query. (Puzzling because the only possible answer was Yes, according to the Declaration of Independence and also everyone's intentions.)

There was a report about Israel's relations with the United States, and then the cabinet adjourned after deciding that construction of the Burma Road, which broke the Arab blockade of Jerusalem, would be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labor and Construction.

September 5, 1948:
Decision: official forms will be in Hebrew and Arabic.

Decision: lots of officials from lots of ministries will participate in meeting of the Board of Agriculture.

On the occasion of the beginning of the school year there appears to have been another lively discussion, at the end of which a series of decisions were made; their thrust was that various strategic decisions regarding how education would be done and its relationship with the government would be postponed until there was an elected government; in the meantime, the government would work with the Jewish Agency (which had been functioning as a government-in-waiting before the creation of the state). Also, the Agudat Yisrael schools would have to choose how their system would relate to the national one. (This issue has yet to be resolved in 2013.)

A ministerial committee of four was set up to allocate empty apartments in Jaffa.

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