Why did David Ben Gurion declare independence
70 years ago Establishment of the State of Israel
It happened on May 14, 1948 in the old art museum on Rothschild Boulevard in the center of Tel Aviv: David Ben Gurion read the declaration of independence of the State of Israel in the Jewish People's Council. 37 Jewish men and women signed the declaration, which fits on two closely printed pages. Before that, they'd discussed every single word. On the same day Sir Alan Cunningham, the last British High Commissioner for Palestine, left the country. This ended 28 years of British rule in Palestine on behalf of the League of Nations. The declaration of independence had been preceded six months earlier by a decisive event in New York.
The General Assembly of the United Nations had adopted a detailed plan for the division of the British mandate in Palestine. According to this, 56 percent of the country should belong to the Jewish state, 43 percent to the Arab state. Jerusalem should be under international administration. 33 states voted for the plan, 13 against and 10 abstained. But the neighboring Arab states were not ready to accept the state of Israel - neither the partition plan of the United Nations nor the declaration of independence. In the days following the establishment of the state, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq declared war on Israel. Shortly afterwards, Ben Gurion stated on Israeli radio:
"We are facing great dangers. As I speak, Tel Aviv is being bombed by enemy planes."
No constitution to date
According to estimates by an Israeli historian, the war cost the lives of 5,800 Israelis and 12,000 Arab fighters were killed.
On February 24, 1949, delegations from Egypt and Israel signed an armistice agreement on the Greek island of Rhodes. Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharet said of the agreement:
"It will come into force immediately after it has been signed. It is already in force. We have always been ready for peace. We would have been ready to suspend the intermediate state of the ceasefire and immediately proceed to peace negotiations, but the other side has joined our neighbors, and we are bound by it. "
By July 1949, Israel concluded further armistice agreements with the rest of the Arab war opponents. To date, the state of Israel has no constitution. In the declaration of independence, the founders of the state did not use the word "democratic", but wrote:
"The State of Israel [...] will guarantee all its citizens, regardless of religion, race or gender, social and political equality".
Both sides have a duty
To this day it has not been clarified whether the Jewish and the democratic character of the state are compatible with one another. For Shimon Peres, Israel's president until 2014, it was clear that Jewish and democratic status can only be preserved under one condition:
"Without a two-state solution, without an Israeli and a Palestinian state, we will find ourselves in a bi-national state. We have to make a serious decision today so that Israel is a model state, a Jewish and democratic state."
The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe holds both sides responsible for the goal of peace in the Middle East:
"Those are the three words that are the basis of peace: recognition, responsibility and acceptance. The Israelis must recognize and take responsibility, and the Palestinians must accept. They must close this chapter and explain: 'The historical circumstances under which You came is not decisive - you belong to this region and we no longer dream of you not. '"
Seventy years after the founding of the State of Israel and after several diplomatic attempts at peace with the Palestinians, Pappe's words still seem utopian.
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