Ben-Gurion and Begin were both right - Comment - Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper
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    • ERSB
    • 19.06.11 | 15:09 (IDT)

    The Israeli right has incorrectly and unjustly turned the Altelena affair into a cause-celebre with which to bash first Ben-Gurion and later Rabin, for political reasons of course. We should remember that Ben-Gurion's political philosophy was centered on "mamlachtiut" (I don't know how to translate it, something like a philosophy of sovereignty). He understood that the voluntary organizations (largely party affiliated) that had organized everything from education, healthcare, culture and sports to defense in the pre-state Yishuv period had to be subordinated to state institutions once the State had been declared and nowhere was that as important as in military matters. Few remember this now, but the Palmach was widely seen as being associated with Mapam, a powerful rival of Ben-Gurion's Mapai party and Ben-Gurion disbanded the Palmach's autonomous command structure (much to the displeasure of the Palmach's fighters and political patrons) well before the Altelana affair. Getting back to Altelena, after the declaration of independence, Ben-Gurion recognized that in order to secure Israel's survival and sovereignty he needed to abolish all of the pre-state militias and integrate them into the fledgling IDF and Irgun units were already being integrated into the IDF at the time of the Altelana. The problem was that the Irgun wanted to be able to direct the course of the war outside the IDF's chain of command so when it obtained a shipment of weapons (the Altelena's cargo) it demanded the right to determine where the guns would go (i.e. to remaining Irgun units and IDF units containing a lot of former Irgun members) but Ben-Gurion refused to permit the Irgun to determine military priorities based on political considerations. A number of attempts were made by B-G to solve the dispute peacefully. The order to open fire on the Altelena was only give after the impasse had carried on for a number of days and it became known that Irgun fighters were abandoning their units in the field and heading towards Tel Aviv. B-G feared an Irgun sponsored coup if the Altelena affair wasn't brought to a prompt end and only then ordered the IDF to open fire. As to Begin, though he should have recognized that with independence, times had changed and he could no longer expect to command his own militia, he still deserves a lot of credit for calming the situation and preventing the out-break of a civil war.

    from the article: Defense Ministry: Altalena fallen were 'murdered'
    First published 00:42 19.06.11 | Last updated 00:42 19.06.11
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