Behind the Ben-Gurion-Sharett ‘Controversy’
Ma’ariv, June 11, 1956
“I do not know of many cases in our public life in which there is such sincere and fruitful collegial cooperation than the ‘ideological,’ moral, and public cooperation existing between Moshe Sharett and David Ben-Gurion, although they are not obliged to think the same on each and every question.”
Thus wrote David Ben-Gurion less than a year ago, when he
was asked to form a government after the elections to the Third Knesset. In the
same article he vigorously denied reports that he intended to take foreign
affairs out of Moshe Sharett’s hands. In an interview given to the
At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, one of the ministers
indirectly raised the question of the rumors about Mr. Sharett’s resignation as
Ben-Gurion did not want to hurt Moshe Sharett. He did not
want to “throw him out,” as many thought. His comradely feelings towards
Sharett are as ever. The recent contention between the Foreign
When a “line” of policy changes, B.G. knows how to sacrifice people on its altar. He knows how to dismiss and replace advisers as need be. Sharett, in contrast, less resolute than B.G., is more loyal to his advisers. He always tries to cover up their errors and is not inclined to replace them.
Sharett is more hesitant. B.G. makes decisions very quickly. The differences in their temperaments have borne differing approaches to security matters which are the focal point of our foreign policy. Yet it is difficult to draw a precise boundary between Ben-Gurion’s activism and Sharett’s non-activism.
It is a matter of record that it was during Sharett’s
tenure as Prime
B.G. could have called for military action to express this
dissatisfaction, but because of Sharett’s arguments and the pressure exerted by
the Great Powers, he preferred diplomatic action. He came to feel that
Sharett’s resignation from the Foreign
Be that as it may, he did not wish to cause Sharett personal anguish and tried to execute the surgery painlessly by giving him another distinguished post, that of General Secretary of Mapai.
Sharett would have been able to influence foreign policy from this post just as he does today. He was even disposed to accept the post and might even have agreed to the political rationale behind the reshuffle.
But Sharett’s aides and advisers thought otherwise. They knew that in any reshuffle of this kind they would bear the main brunt, so they embarked upon a struggle to overturn the “verdict.”
The first intimation of this came in a New York Times article on the political damage that Sharett’s resignation would cause.[*]
Then rumors began to spread. It was as though Sharett’s
departure from the Foreign
In fact, Ben-Gurion too does not intend to go to war. He
does not want war. Not out of a fear of the response of the Great Powers, but
out of purely national considerations. But he knows that without pressure the
Western countries will not agree to supply the weapons that
The advice given to him by his advisers caused Sharett second thoughts about accepting the post of General Secretary of Mapai. Although he had already given his assent, he later argued that the decision regarding the reshuffle should be made by the Party Central Committee, and not by the Secretariat or the Party Political Committee.
Those who advised Sharett to use this strategy granted him a temporary victory. The reshuffle has been postponed. But the advisers did not do Sharett a personal favor, for as a result of their advice, relations with B.G. have been aggravated – something that Sharett does not relish. They have also obviated the exploitation of the reshuffle abroad. Sharett’s strategy has succeeded so far, but the government has not been saved from the shocks that await it.
the New York Times of May 31, 1956,