The Declaration of the State of Israel
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As the British forces pulled out of Palestine and the mandate came to an end, the Executive Committee of the Jewish "Yishuv" (community) in Palestine met to decide whether or not to declare a state, as has been envisioned under UN Resolution 181. The Arab states had declared that if such a state was declared, they would invade it. Nonetheless, the committee decided to declare a state, armed with the promise of US President Harry S. Truman that he would recognize such a state if it was declared. The Israeli Declaration of Independence was read out on Friday, the 14th of May 1948 by David Ben Gurion, who then became the first Prime Minister of the new state. The State was quickly recognized by the United States and the USSR.
The Palestinians did not declare a state immediately, and though several attempts were made to do so, they were blocked by the Jordanians and then by the Egyptians. The Egyptians later allowed the declaration of such a state in Gaza in September 1948, but it was recognized by no-one and had no resources and no real existence. Arab states had no interest in the formation of a separate state in Palestine, both because each state had territorial ambitions in Palestine, and because they feared the radical influence of Palestinian leadership under Haj Amin El-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
The declaration stated that Israel "will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. "
The last sentence of the declaration refers to "the rock of Israel" (tsur Yisrael). This is one of the synonyms for God used in Hebrew. According to Tom Segev, in The First Israelis, the wording represents a compromise between the demand of Moshe Shapira representing the religious party that the declaration incorporate a reference to the Lord of Israel, and the demand of the leftist Mapam party representative that the declaration must not incorporate such a reference. The compromise formula made it possible to approve the declaration and publish it before the Sabbath and before the British left the country. May 15, 1948 was a Sabbath. David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister, who was a deist or possibly a polite atheist, was agreeable to this compromise. He said on other occasion that for him "the rock of Israel" was the Old Testament with its history and traditions.
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The land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.
Exiled from Palestine, the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all the countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and the restoration of their national freedom.
Impelled by this historic association, Jews strove throughout the centuries to go back to the land of their fathers and regain their statehood. In recent decades they returned in masses. They reclaimed the wilderness, revived their language, built cities and villages and established a vigorous and ever-growing community with its own economic and cultural life. They sought peace, but were always prepared to defend themselves. They brought the blessing of progress to all inhabitants of the country.
In the year 1897 the First Zionist Congress, inspired by
This right was acknowledged by the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, and re-affirmed by the Mandate of the League of Nations, which gave explicit international recognition to the historic connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and their right to reconstitute their National Home.
The Nazi holocaust, which engulfed millions of Jews in Europe, proved anew the urgency of the re-establishment of the Jewish state, which would solve the problem of Jewish homelessness by opening the gates to all Jews and lifting the Jewish people to equality in the family of nations.
The survivors of the European catastrophe, as well as Jews from other lands, proclaiming their right to a life of dignity, freedom and labor, and undeterred by hazards, hardships and obstacles, have tried unceasingly to enter Palestine.
In the Second World War the Jewish people in Palestine made a full contribution in the struggle of the freedom-loving nations against the Nazi evil. The sacrifices of their soldiers and the efforts of their workers gained them title to rank with the peoples who founded the United Nations.
On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a Resolution for the establishment of an independent Jewish State in Palestine, and called upon the inhabitants of the country to take such steps as may be necessary on their part to put the plan into effect.
This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their independent State may not be revoked. It is, moreover, the self-evident right of the Jewish people to be a nation, as all other nations, in its own sovereign State.
ACCORDINGLY, WE, the members of the National Council, representing the Jewish people in Palestine and the Zionist movement of the world, met together in solemn assembly today, the day of the termination of the British mandate for Palestine, by virtue of the natural and historic right of the Jewish and of the Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations,
HEREBY PROCLAIM the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL.
WE HEREBY DECLARE that as from the termination of the Mandate at midnight, this night of the 14th and 15th May, 1948, and until the setting up of the duly elected bodies of the State in accordance with a Constitution, to be drawn up by a Constituent Assembly not later than the first day of October, 1948, the present National Council shall act as the provisional administration, shall constitute the Provisional Government of the State of Israel.
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open to the immigration of Jews from all countries of their dispersion; will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be ready to cooperate with the organs and representatives of the United Nations in the implementation of the Resolution of the Assembly of November 29, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the Economic Union over the whole of Palestine.
We appeal to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building of its State and to admit Israel into the family of nations.
In the midst of wanton aggression, we still call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, with full and equal citizenship and due representation in its bodies and institutions - provisional or permanent.
We offer peace and neighborliness to all the neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Hebrew nation for the common good of all.
Our call goes out the the Jewish people all over the world to rally to our side in the task of immigration and development and to stand by us in the great struggle for the fulfillment of the dream of generations - the redemption of Israel.
With trust in the rock of Israel [sometimes incorrectly translated as "Lord of Israel or "Almighty God -tr], we set our hand to this Declaration, at this Session of the Provisional State Council, in the city of Tel Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the fifth of Iyar, 5708, the fourteenth day of May, 1948.
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