When Golda Meir, whom was born Golda Mabovitch, came into the world on May 3rd, 1898 in Kiev, Ukraine, hostilities against the Jewish civilization gained greater intensity and manifested into a series of hate crimes in the form of pogroms across Russian borders. Since she was a young girl, Meir was always attuned to the overwhelming burdens of her family’s financial constraints and the effect that anti-Semitism maintained over their standard of living. Her father, Moshe Mabovitch, was a carpenter whose work was consistently underappreciated and thus led to his growing incapability of sufficiently providing for his family.
When Golda was five years old, she, her mother and her two sisters, Shaina and Tzipka, moved in with her grandfather in Pinsk in order to give her father time to get back on his feet. Once this move occurred, Moshe began to formulate his plans of emigration to the United States so that he can raise the necessary funds to support his family. Moshe remained in the United States for three years before the rest of the family relocated. During this time, Meir didn’t attend school but received private lessons in the academic fields of arithmetic, reading, and writing.
While the family initially planned on reuniting when Moshe returned to Pinsk, it was due to the revolutionary political activities of Golda’s eldest sister, Shaina, that the family decided to emigrate to the United States as well. Golda’s sister was an active member of the Zionist-Socialist Party which placed her in a position of susceptibility to threat. Partaking in the events of the political party was both illegal and incredibly dangerous. Golda recounts her terrifying memories of all the nights her sister had disappeared from the house and returned home very late. She and her mother “would hear the dreadful cries of young men and women arrested for illegal activity who were being brutally beaten”.1 Despite the fears and worries that were ignited by Shaina’s political stances and activities, Golda admired her objectives and was greatly influenced by the meetings she witnessed in her home when her sister would organize clandestine sessions to discuss various concepts that were forbidden at the time such as overthrowing the czar and creating a Jewish socialist state in Palestine.
1 Weidenfeld and Nicolson, Golda Meir Speaks Out (London 1973) pp. 20
“Jewish Problem” and Zionist Parties in Russia
The vicious cycle of anti-Semitism brought forth the notion of the “Jewish Problem” which in itself created an additional societal crisis that gave way to a clearer gap between the Jewish and Non-Jewish populations of the time. From a young age, Golda was aware of the fact that the hunger she had experienced both physically for food and emotionally for the presence of her father and a unity amongst her family had been a result of anti-Semitism. In addition to the pogroms that took place in Russia at the time, Jewish businesses were going bankrupt and were subsequently abandoned.
Despite the attempts made to regroup and stabilize their financial circumstances and states of security, Jewish families were left with nothing more than a lingering hunger and fear within them. An example of such atrocities took place in the neighboring city of Kishinev in which it was rumored that a female Christian servant was murdered by her Jewish boss. Despite the true event that had caused the girl’s death, in which she had chosen to take poison to end her life, handbills were disbursed throughout the streets encouraging civilians to inflict punishment on the Jewish population of the town. Golda recounts the story that Shamai (Shaina’s friend and future husband) had told her:
“It started at noontime, when the Easter church bells began to ring…a large crowd of townspeople broke into Jewish homes and shops, stealing or destroying everything in sight…the police did nothing, they stood by watching so by nightfall the looters turned into murderers, fell upon Jews with knives and clubs, torturing them, killing them…only once did the police step interfere when a group of Jews were trying to defend themselves with sticks, so the police stepped in to disarm the Jews.”2
This state of havoc and destituteness led to what is formally known as the “Jewish Problem” which was considered the result of “Jewish homelessness that could not, and would not, be solved unless and until the Jews had a land of their own again”.3 It was the desire for a Jewish state that fueled the creation and maintenance of numerous Zionist parties which originated in Russia. Similar to the Socialist-Zionist organization which Shaina was a member of, other Zionist parties such as Hovevei Zion and Poalei Zion thrived in their aspirations to create a Jewish state devoid of persecution.
2Peggy Mann, Golda: The Life of Israel’s Prime Minister (New York 1973) pp.7
3Golda Meir, My Life (New York 1975) pp. 23
Poalei Zion and Participation in Politics
It was in the year of 1906 that Golda, her mother and her siblings reunited with her father in Milwaukee where he had become a trade union member who worked in the railroad workshops. After completing her elementary school studies, Golda wanted to advance onto high school so that she could one day become a teacher. Her desire to continue studying was met with great adversity by her parents due to the contemporary law in the state of Wisconsin which prohibited married women from teaching. In order to free herself from her parents’ control, Golda ran away to her older sister’s home in Denver and stayed there until she received a letter from her father asking her to come back home. Due to her knowledge of his stubborn nature, she knew that his letter signified tremendous progression and thus returned home with a newfound freedom to continue with her education without any hindrances from her family. She graduated from high school and continued to study at the Teachers’ Training College in Madison.
Shaina’s apartment had become a renowned meeting place for Jewish immigrants from Russia who had moved west seeking treatment at Denver’s Jewish Hospital for Consumptives. These visitors spent much of the day discussing and arguing their opinions on various issues of the time as most were very passionate about politics. Of all the speakers, Golda found herself most intrigued by and invested in the Social Zionists due to her understanding of their aspirations for a national home for the Jews in Palestine.
They wanted “one place on the face of the earth where Jews could be free and independent”.4 The political atmosphere did not escape Golda even when she returned home to her parents due to her mother’s generosity in opening her home to Jewish Legion soldiers fighting with the British army to liberate Palestine from the Turks and her father’s deep involvement with the Jewish community and his numerous socialist colleagues, known as Labor Zionists, which frequented the family’s home. When Golda was still in high school, World War I broke out in Europe and with the war came an increase in pogrom activities as the White Russian Army and German Army slaughtered the Jews they found in their paths.
4Golda Meir, My Life (New York 1975) pp. 46
It became clear to her that the establishment of a Jewish homeland was no longer a mere dream but had to become a tangible goal, after all, what hope would be left for the Jews in a world that maintains such hate towards them? At the age of seventeen, Golda joined the Labor Zionist Party called the Poale Zion. Her mission was to save up the funds necessary to facilitate her move to Palestine and help in the creation of a land built for the Jews. She continued studying towards her degree in teaching while working part-time at a Yiddish-speaking school which advocated Labor Zionism. She, however, felt removed from the goals she had initially set for herself upon joining the organization and decided to speak for the Poale Zion. She was quickly recognized for her talent as a public speaker and was soon sent to numerous conferences as a representative lecturer in order to educate young American Jews in the ideologies of Labor Zionism. Even her father, who initially objected to this position she had been awarded as a speaker, lost his stance on the matter once he heard her eloquent speech to a crowd listening on a street corner in Milwaukee.
With the help of her sister’s Zionist friend, Chaim Weizmann, and his connections to the British government, which were obtained through his sale of the discovery of the production of synthetic cordite (an explosive which greatly aided the British war effort), a man named Arthur James Balfour, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, and several other influential British leaders supported the Zionist plan for Palestine. The Balfour Declaration was then issued on November 2, 1917 which stated that the British government supports the establishment in Palestine as a national home for the Jews. While the declaration was ambiguous in regard to its legal terms of the territory, it was a step in the right direction for the Zionist cause.
Move to Palestine
While staying with her sister in Denver, Golda met an intellectual named Morris Myerson who was a socialist at heart but not a Zionist as Golda was. Despite his initial rejection of the concept of moving to Palestine and pursuing the ideological goals of the Zionist cause, Morris soon realized that he could not leave Golda behind and married her with the promise that he too would move to Palestine once it became a feasible matter. On May 23, 1921, Golda, her husband Morris, her sister Shaina and her two children boarded the S.S. Pocahontas. The ship was to sail to Naples and from there, the passengers would board another ship which would bring them to the port of Jaffa. This voyage took forty-four days to complete as a result of the crew going on strike during the trip which placed the ship and its passengers in danger.
Fortunately, Golda and her family arrived safely but found new obstacles once they had arrived in Naples. Their initial plan to sail from Naples to Palestine was terminated as a result of the Arab riots which occurred in Jaffa and surrounding areas which brought forty-three Jews to their death. When they tried to purchase tickets for the ship, they were told that Jews could not buy tickets because the Arabs would throw them into the sea.5 The group was able to maneuver around this obstacle by purchasing visas to Egypt, boarding a train from Naples to the port of Brindisi and from there, they sailed to the port of Alexandria throughout the course of three days. From Alexandria, they took a train to Palestine and while they were thankful to finally be on the right track, they were also aware of the fact that their luggage had been left behind in Naples as it was in transit to be shipped to them in Jaffa.
They arrived in Tel Aviv on July 14, 1921 but found that it had not been the exciting city they expected to encounter but rather a stretch of sand surrounded by sand dunes and blistering under the scorching sun. They temporarily stayed at the Hotel Barash and awaited their American comrades, the Hadari family, but found that they had not come due to their inability to cope with the terrain.
This was certainly a foreshadowing of the difficulties that the new immigrants would face in the true beginnings of Eretz Israel. Financial constraints remained an issue due to the fact that finding a job was very difficult. Although Golda was offered a position as an English teacher at the first Hebrew high school in Tel Aviv named the Gymnasium Herzlia, she turned it down because it did not accommodate her reasons for coming to the country. She came to Israel in order to work the land and contribute to the Zionist cause in creating a Jewish Nation. Instead, she applied for membership in a communal settlement called Kibbutz Merhavia which was located in the Valley of Jezreel.
5 Peggy Mann, Golda: The Life of Israel’s Prime Minister (New York 1973) pp.48
Chapter Two: Kibbutz Life
Golda’s Experiences on Kibbutz Merhavia
In order to join kibbutz Merhavia, an applicant had to be voted upon and then accepted for entrance into the community. At first, odds were against her due to the gender breakdown of the community which consisted of thirty-two men and eight women. As a whole, there was a greater preference for single women who have had experience in the agricultural setting and it was clear that Golda did not satisfy either of these requirements. Golda was also perceived as sheltered and a stranger to hard labor due to her background and upbringing in America. The community, which at the time was called a “kvutzah”, could not afford to care for children and thus remained firm in their support of exclusively single individuals.
After the first two meetings, the applications of Golda and Morris were rejected. Even though they were rejected, the couple was invited to come back to Merhavia for a trial period of a couple of days so that the members could test and see if they were capable of contributing to the community. Golda did her best to impress the members in the job assignment she received, however, the couple gained more support once they presented the phonograph and records they had brought with them. Following the short trial period, they were brought back for a third meeting and were accepted into the kibbutz.
While Golda had an easier time adjusting to kibbutz life, her husband Morris was struggling and as a result, became very depressed. He did not maintain the same passion for Zionism as Golda did. Golda flourished in the kibbutz and took every job she was assigned with a deep sense of commitment and energy as she felt that kibbutz life suited the ideologies she had so long believed in. Six months after their entrance to the kibbutz, Golda was instructed to take a course in poultry breeding. Initially, the kibbutz had relied on the egg production from neighboring Arab communities. However, as a result of the growing hostilities perpetrated by the Arab civilians, the kvutzah made an executive decision to begin producing eggs on its own. Within a year, profits resulting from the sale of the eggs contributed a substantial portion to the economy of the kibbutz.
Problems on the Kibbutz
Despite Golda’s instantaneous adaptation to the kibbutz way of life, there were many issues which plagued the lives of the communal members. One major hardship faced by the kibbutz was the presence of rampant malaria as a result of the swampy land on which the kibbutz was established. The threat of contracting malaria was so consistent and tremendous that a “dish that was regularly served was quinine”6 which was meant for prevention. Besides malaria, many members contracted other diseases such as dysentery or sand-fly fever. The quality of the food was tremendously lacking, especially due to the oil bought from an Arab community which was not refined yet still served as the base for many of the meals.
When it was Golda’s turn to work in the kitchen, she made adjustments to the menu such as serving porridge in the morning rather than “fresh” breakfast which consisted of canned herring in tomato sauce. She also removed the use of the oil which had ruined many of the dishes it had been used as an ingredient for and she also made sure to invest in a few glasses for drinking. While it was a hassle for the whole community to share a few drinking glasses, since they were more expensive than the enamel mugs they previously used, it was a lot more hygienic because it did not chip or rust as the mugs did over time. While her work was appreciated, Golda was still perceived in a distorted light by her fellow kibbutz members due to her “bourgeois” mannerisms such as ironing her dresses and setting a tablecloth on the table for Shabbat dinners which resonated with her since her time in the United States.
The climate was also difficult to get used to, particularly the summers in which the scorching sun burned hot on the backs of the workers in the fields. Bugs such as gnats, sand flies, and mosquitoes were prevalent in the region which fueled both the aspect of disease and the uncomfortable conditions under which the settlers had to work. These were not the only difficulties Golda faced. Her husband grew more disheartened by the conditions of the kibbutz and continuously urged her to leave with him. When he contracted malaria and wanted to return home, Golda and he came to a compromise that he would remain in Palestine with her so long as they left the kibbutz and moved to a city.
6 Weidenfeld and Nicolson, Golda Meir Speaks Out (London 1973) pp. 40
Golda and Morris moved to Tel Aviv where Golda had found a job as a cashier in the Histradrut’s Public Works and Building Office (also known as Solel Boneh). However, times were hard in Tel Aviv due to the lack of income the couple was producing and their newfound need to feed an additional mouth after their son, Menachem, was born on November 23, 1924 and later their daughter Sarah was born in the spring of 1926. Their luck soon turned around when Golda ran into David Remez who was an official of the Histadrut (a trade union for Jewish workers in Palestine) whom she had met at a conference in Degania when she was sent as a delegate from kibbutz Merhavia. Remez offered her a position as the secretary of the Moatzot Poalot (the Women’s Labor Council). The office was located in Jerusalem and thus facilitated the family’s move away from the hardships of Tel Aviv to a more promising region.
Just as her talents were discovered by her fellow members of the Poalei Zion, Golda’s speaking skills soon got the attention of many of the executives at the Moatzot Poalot. Golda was also a fluent English speaker which was seen as a tremendous advantage in the organization’s goals to gain understanding and sympathy for the Zionist effort in England. In the year of 1920, Britain was issued a mandate to govern Palestine. However, it was only a year later in which the first breach of the Balfour Declaration had taken place when Britain offered more than three-fourths of the country to King Abdullah so that he can build an Arab Kingdom which he soon named Trans-Jordan.
Their offering of the land was done without the consultation of any other party outside of Britain and the administration of King Abdullah. Following the year of 1929 in which the creation of the Jewish Agency took place as a means of representing the Jews of Palestine and their association with the Mandatory Government, Golda took it upon herself to increase the number of trips she made to Great Britain in order to explain and prove to the British that a Jewish State is necessary and beneficial to the parties involved.
When Golda’s daughter, Sarah, fell ill with a kidney disease in 1932, Golda went straight to the Histradrut and filed a request to transfer there for a period of time because she knew that doctors were currently researching new cures for the disease in New York City. The Histadrut agreed to her request and assigned her a position in an organization located in New York City called the Pioneer Women.
Chapter Three: Political Achievements in the Progression of a Jewish State
Pioneer Women and Serving in America
Pioneer Women was an organization which sponsored activities that encouraged women to take on a larger role in the recovery of Palestine. The organization greatly suited the needs of Golda as it consisted of mostly Yiddish-speaking immigrant women who believed in the Zionist ideology. Golda’s position required for her to educate Jewish women who were considered to have assimilated into American culture about the mission of Pioneer Women and thus gain their interest and their aid by either working for the organization of financially supporting its efforts.
Golda would tell stories of the first and second Aliyot and the hardships the pioneers faced when they had arrived at the land they expected to resemble that of milk and honey. She taught her audiences about the goals of Zionism and why it is so important to establish a national home for the Jewish population. She was able to inspire her listeners by creating a foundation to which they could relate to. They wanted to be a part of the struggle that these courageous Jewish pioneers took upon themselves in order to establish a land where their people could live free of persecution. Due to her talent and eloquence in public speaking, Golda contributed a great deal of aid to the Pioneer Women through her widespread lectures and educational services to fellow American women.
Golda had spent two years working in America and within this short time frame, her name became renowned due to her success in educating and gaining more assistance from women who before her, were unaware and/or indifferent to the circumstances of the pioneer efforts. It was said that “her down-to-earth simplicity, her rock-bottom sincerity, tempered by her warmth and her wit, somehow transformed “speeches” into memorable experiences for her audiences…and transformed thousands of apathetic American women into ardent-and contributing-Zionists”.7 In addition to her success in Pioneer Women, Golda was fortunate that her daughter, Sarah, was treated at Beth Israel Hospital and was finally cured of her kidney disease. A resurgence of the disease was a possibility but doctors told her that it could be controlled and cured by special treatment and by placing her on a certain diet.
7 Peggy Mann, Golda: The Life of Israel’s Prime Minister (New York 1973) pp.69
A People in Need of Relief and a Woman Willing to Risk It All to Help Them
Following her two year service in the United States and the resulting success she had accomplished there, Golda was made a member of the executive committee of the Histadrut called the General Federation of Jewish Labor in Palestine. Within a year, Golda was elected to the position of secretariat of the Executive Committee which indicated a level of leadership within this federal body. The year after that, she was elected to be the Chairman of the Board of Director of the Kupat Holim which was also known as the Workers’ Sick Fund.
On May 17, 1939 the British government issued the White Paper which declared that the promise made by the Balfour Declaration which guaranteed Jews a national homeland in Palestine was no longer valid. Prior to this, Jews were able to buy any strip of land that the Arabs were willing to sell but once the White Paper was created, Jews could only purchase land that was located within 5% of the country. Another restriction which solidified as a result of the White Paper was that during the next five years, a maximum limit of 75,000 Jews could be admitted to Palestine and once those five years are over, Jews would not be granted admittance to the country. The fact that Britain had chosen to issue the restrictions of the White Paper during a time where Jews were falling victim to the evils of the Nazi campaign in Europe demonstrates how little regard the British government truly had for the Zionist cause and reclamation of the holy land for the Jewish people.
Even before the Nazis gained political power in Germany, Jews were being persecuted in Palestine by the hands of Arabs who were made to believe that the Jews were coming to take all the land away from them. A man named Mufti Haj Amin, member of the Husseini family who were known for both their wealth and power in Palestine, a series of pogroms against Jews beginning on Passover of 1920. In 1929, Mufti Haj Amin fueled the fire for another pogrom by distributing faulty pictures of Jews exploding bombs in the Mosque of Omar. This led to the murder of a hundred and forty religious elderly Jews in the areas of Safed, Hebron and Jerusalem.
The violent acts of anti-Semitism not only related to one another in their campaigns of propaganda and slaughtering but Haj Amin and Hitler were actually in contact with one another as Hitler had promised Haj that they will work together to eliminate the “Jewish Question”. Clearly it was time to formulate a form of defense as the Jews were being attacked not only abroad but in their home land as well. During World War II, Golda did her utmost to assist the Jews trying to escape from Europe by smuggling them into Palestine despite the strict and minimal quota the British had stamped on Jewish immigration. Her apartment became a center for directing illegal immigration and was capable of carrying on with such operations without being ambushed by the British police or government due to the work she had done in the past and the high societal stature it had awarded her.
The Establishment of a Jewish State
After the war ended, Golda spoke before an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry and taught them about the atrocities committed against the Jews in Europe. She had hoped that by giving the full picture of the horrors families had suffered, she would be able to convince the committee to lift the quota and allow entrance to the lasting survivors who want passage into the homeland. She had persuaded the committee to advocate that the White Paper be abolished and that 100,000 Jewish refugees be admitted to Palestine. The committee turned to the British government and found that the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, had rejected the request despite its unanimous agreement among all committee members.
When Moshe Shertok, head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency, was arrested for the acts of Haganah (a defense group organized by the Jews in Palestine) in their setting up impediments against the British army in Palestine and Ben Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency, was out of the country, Golda became the governing body of the Jews in Palestine in her position as the Acting Head of the Political Department of Jewish Agency. In 1947, Golda presented the case to another Commission of Inquiry from the United Nations.
He convincing demeanor and eloquent speech led to their decision to have the British mandate removed and the land to be divided into two halves which would be distributed partly to the Jews and partly to the Arabs. Jerusalem, however, would remain an international city which the United Nations would oversee. The Jews immediately accepted the proposal while the Arabs rejected it with such affirmation that they threatened a war to erupt if the land is divided in half between the two groups. When it came to a vote on November 29, 1947, thirty-three nations voted in favor of the partition while only thirteen voted against it. The British were schedule to withdraw from Palestine on May 14, 1948 and it was on this day that a Jewish state would come into existence.
The Proclamation of Independence
As the Arab world waged war on the Jews of Palestine, the Jewish populations were scrambling to find the means by which to defend themselves and their land. Following an executive vote, it was decided that Golda would travel to the United States as a representative of the Jewish Agency and persuade the American Jews to provide financial aid in the war effort for the protection of their homeland, the only Jewish state in the world. She spoke before the Council of Jewish Federations which was comprised of leaders of organized Jewry in the United States who were not only apathetic to the Zionist cause but planned on gathering in order to discuss the needs of Jewish communities in the United States. Her speech truly touched the hearts of her audience as once it came to an end, the leaders pledged to provide $25 million in aid. Throughout the duration of her work in the United States, Golda had raised a total of $50 million by raising awareness and concern for the circumstances that the Jews were currently facing in Palestine.
In order to avoid the dangers of a country soon to be war-torn and to aid the Muslim holy war, countless Arabs fled from Palestine and which severely damaged the Jewish economy. When the Proclamation of Independence was drafted, Arabs were given full and equal citizenship and all the rights that came along with that status. It was only in Palestine that Arab women were allowed to vote and that Arab children were guaranteed schooling between the ages of five and fourteen. Golda believed that the best way to end the vicious cycle of anti-Semitism was to rid the world of any act of persecution and by this token, she felt that granting Arabs equal rights would be a step in the right direction.
She also thought that these rights would appeal to the Arab populations and prevent them from leaving the country. While it did convince some to stay, many fled in order to impede the progression of the economy which would ultimately weaken the Jews’ arterial powers and defenses. When the day finally came to sign the Proclamation of Independence, Golda was one of the thirty-eight Yishuv leaders to make history in her signing the document offering a place of belonging for all the Jews in the world. This Jewish sanctuary, however, did not come at a cheap price. It was soon after the declaration of the state that the Jews of Palestine realized the lengths to which the Arab populations would go to take all the land and remove the Jews from it in entirety.
Chapter Four: The Prime Minister of Israel
The War Had Begun and Golda Arose with the Call of Duty
A mere seven hours after President Truman announced that the United States has recognized Israel as a new nation, Egyptian planes began dropping bombs over Tel Aviv. Soon came fighter planes and bombs from Syria and Iraq as well. The weaponry that had been purchased from abroad had not yet arrived and the only available weapons were could be compared to that of a slingshot in the story of David and Goliath. It was very clear that in this case, Israel took the place of David and the Arab invaders reigned over as Goliath. In terms of size, Israel was also at a loss since the Jewish population amounted to 700,00 while the Arab population dominated at a total of 50 million.
Golda was soon sent to the United States again in order to raise more money for the defense of the new state of Israel. She was amazed to find that the Jews of America were incredibly enthusiastic and willing to offer more aid. While she was still in the States, she received a call from Moshe Shertok, Israel’s new Foreign Minister, appointing her the new Minister to Soviet Russia representing the new Jewish state. While Golda knew that her position in Russia was important, she felt that her country needed her at this time of war. Amazingly, in January of 1949, Israel had won the war. David had beaten Goliath despite all the obstacles he faced along the way and the odds that were against him.
Once the country was no longer on a defensive mode of war, it came time for order and federal legislation to be made. The Prime Minister, Ben Gurion, announced the members of his cabinet which included one woman, Golda Meir, who was appointed the nation’s first Minister of Labor and Development. It was on April 20, 1949 that Golda left Moscow and returned to Israel to serve in her new position. As the Labor Minister, Golda had to find a way to incorporate all the new immigrants and refugees flooding into the country in a cohesive manner that would unite the people despite their varying backgrounds and languages.
In order to execute a program in which the state could house and supply jobs to the overwhelming numbers of immigrants, Golda was sent to the United States, South America and Europe with a mission to raise money as she had done so successfully in the past. Fundraising at this point was more difficult as it was no longer a question of life and death but rather a way to help facilitate the proper accommodations for the new Israelis. Amazingly, by the end of her seven year term as the Minister of Labor and Development, over 200,000 apartments had been built and no Israeli family was forced to live in a tent. Golda’s fundraising campaigns abroad remained an integral part of her work for Israel.
The World’s First Female Foreign Minister
In June of 1956, Ben Gurion offered Golda the position of the Foreign Minister of Israel. This was a monumental point in history as she was the first woman to ever serve as a Foreign Minister. On September 28, 1956, Golda was asked to attend a secret meeting with Moshe Carmel, the Minister of Transport, Shimon Peres, the Director of the Defense Ministry, and Moshe Dayan, the Army Chief of Staff. The meeting was organized by Christian Pineau, the French Foreign Minister who had recently attended a conference in London with the British Foreign Minister.
There were three main issues that could become detrimental to the state of Israel which included: 1) the fedayeen campaign, led by Colonel Nasser, in which gunmen were trained by the Egyptian army who then terrorize Israelis by way of shooting or bombing their homes, 2) the accumulation of Egyptian Army troops on the borders of Israel who were being aided by Soviet Russia, and 3) once Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, Nasser banned Israeli ships from the waterway which prevented any Israeli ships from entering or exiting the Red Sea which halted the necessary process of overseas trade which greatly helped the economy at first.
On October 22nd, Jordan, Syria and Egypt signed an armistice uniting their armies under Egyptian military command. Knowing that Israel would be facing these powers in a near future battle, the leaders of Israel had decided to proceed in a secret mobilization of forces. They went to war on October 29, 1956 and by the time the battle came to an end, Israel stood victorious once again. On November 8, after being asked to withdraw her forces on the condition that the United Nations station Emergency Forces along the Gaza Strip to prevent the fedayeen from continuing with their terrorizing acts and for forces to be stationed in Sharm el Sheikh in order to ensure the passage of Israeli ships, Israel had successfully withdrawn from the Egyptian territories. However, the Egyptian army came and conquered the Gaza strip once UN forces replaced Israeli troops. Over the years, Golda traveled to Africa, Asia, South America and Europe in order to establish a feeling of peace and camaraderie between Israel and the nations. She was welcomed with open arms as she found her way into the hearts of those she had met and enchanted with her diplomatic skills in speaking and her firm but motherly nature.
Becoming Prime Minister was Destined for Golda
During the elections in 1965, Golda had announced her intentions to retire at the end of the term as she had grown tired and felt that her family needed her to be there as she was not only a mother but a grandmother to five grandchildren. After her term ended, the country had entered a state of economic recession and there were issues within the inner workings of the government as Ben Gurion opposed Eshkol and proceeded with a campaign of his own by forming a separate party. Merely a month after she had retired, Golda was asked to return as the Secretary General of Mapai as they believed that she was the only one capable of reuniting the leadership of Israel. On May 18th, Golda was called to a meeting in which she was told that the United Nations Forces complied with the orders of Nasser which dictated that they must leave their station at Gaza. On May 22nd, Nasser close the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli ships and any other ships providing Israel with military resources.
On June 5th, 1967 Israel had gone to war with the Arab powers once again. It was then reported that in the time period of three hours, the Israeli Air Force had demolished the majority of the Egyptian Air Force which was a much larger and better equipped in comparison to what was available for the Israeli effort. Throughout the day, Israel had conquered the fighter planes of Jordan, Iraq and Syria as well. After four days of battle, the UN demanded a cease-fire. The war ended with Israel having gained the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Suez Canal and Sharm el Sheikh. However, Israel was still in a war with Syria and Jordan on the western borders.
The battle continued until the 6th day thus granting this war the name of “The Six Day War” which rings powerfully in the history of Israel for it was after this war that Israel had gained the territories most strategic to the country’s state of security. On January 21, 1968, Golda had formed the Israel Labor Party which was soon regarded as a tremendous strategic achievement as it had once again brought order and unity to the government of Israel. Golda retired following her formation for the Party but eight months later, on February 26, 1969, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was pronounced dead and she soon returned to the place she knew so well in order to offer her help. The Party Bureau chose her as the perfect candidate to serve as the interim Prime Minister. At the time, Israel was also suffering from countless terrorist attacks from her Arab neighbors.
In October of 1969, Golda made more trips to the United States in order to educate the public about the crises that Israel is facing and to gather additional support in terms of weaponry and planes. When elections came on October 28, 1969, Golda was favored to become the official Prime Minister by eighty percent of Israeli voters. At this point in time the recession was coming to an end and the economy of Israel began to boom. Golda’s administration had also distributed a great deal of the funds to better the lives of the Arabs living in the designated territories of Israel. While many of Golda’s policies were monumental to the growth and success of Israel, her administration suffered in their diverging views regarding the cease-fire and the following talks of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Many members of the Knesset believed that the proposal of a cease-fire was part of Nasser’s plan for an ambush. Those opposing the proposal, also known as the Rogers Peace Initiative, claimed that the cease-fire would give Egypt ample time to work with Russia and produce a powerful SAM mission system which would prevent Israel Air Force raids and would also leave Israel vulnerable to the Egyptian Air Forces.
After numerous conferences, Golda’s administration had finally announced that the cease-fire will take place and it did so on August 8, 1970. Jordan had also joined in agreeing to enter the peace negotiations between Israel and Egypt. Despite the knowledge that Egypt had installed over a dozen SAM-2 batteries in areas deemed peaceful in the cease-fire, Israel was convinced by the United States to continue in the peace talks. After numerous debates, it was decided that the peace talks will remain in tact so long as Egypt removes the SAM missiles. Nonetheless, it was found that the number of SAM batteries increased to 40-50 which included 500-600 missile launchers.
A series of terrorist attacks and massacres commenced including those that occurred in the Lod airport and in Munich in 1972. The terrorists that captured the Israeli athletes in Munich set the ultimatum that Israel must free two hundred Arab terrorists from their jails otherwise, they would kill the hostages. Following a meeting held by the Knesset, it was concluded that Israel would refuse to enter into negotiations with terrorists but the country would do all that is possible to save the hostages. Despite efforts made to save the hostages all of them were killed. Terrorists began a campaign of bombing by distributing mail laced with explosives or a poisonous gas to Israelis and Jewish friends of theirs.
On October 6, 1973 Syria and Egypt launched a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur, the holy Day of Atonement. Not only did Syria and Egypt come together against Israel but they were also supported by other Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon and other countries in North Africa and the Soviet Union. As a result of the Soviet Union’s interference with aiding the Syrian-Egyptian effort and refusing a cease-fire, the United States came to aid the Israeli effort in the war. The war ended on October 22nd when the United Nations Security Council issued a cease-fire right as Israel had isolated the Egyptian Third Army and was preparing to destroy it. While the Israeli army considered the war to have been a success on the fields of battle, the country perceived it as a diplomatic failure which resulted in the tremendous loss of Israeli lives with a death count totaling 2,688 soldiers and 7,250 soldiers suffering from wounds and injury.
Amidst all the violence and bloodshed, Golda reflected on the masses of Arab tourists whom, under the government of Israel, were granted permission to come at any time to visit their families in the dictated territories and reminded herself that with the peaceful coming and goings of the hundreds of thousands of Arab tourists, peace was certainly still a possibility and should never be given up on. Golda later resigned in 1974 giving way to Yizthak Rabin taking the position as the new Prime Minister of Israel.
Chapter Five: Conclusion
Golda’s Impact on Israel
Golda Meir left a lasting impression in Israeli history and the world alike. She has been regarded as one of the world’s greatest diplomats. If it was not for Golda, Israel would not have won over the hearts and concerns of its Jewish counterparts abroad and would have suffered without the aid Golda brought back with her each time she took trips to different countries. Golda not only offered Israel comprehensive plans to boost the economy and incorporate the masses of new immigrants into the Israeli culture and community, but she also showed the world that Israel is a peaceful country that longs to create bonds of friendship throughout the world. Golda was both a grandmother to her five grandchildren and a nurturing mother figure to all she came in contact with. Golda had the power to reconstruct the bonds within the inner workings of the Israeli government and facilitate for the creation of amicable relations between Israel and its greatest ally, the United States.
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