Israel Midwife: Golda Meir in the Closing Years of the British Mandate

Israel Midwife: Golda Meir in the Closing Years of the British Mandate

מאת: Medzini Meron

Israel's Midwife: Golda Meir in the Closing Years of the British Mandate[1]

Among the major figures who led the struggle for Israel's independence, Golda Meir has often been cited as one of the key decision makers in the Yishuv. The others were the Jewish Agency's Executive Chairman David Ben-Gurion at the helm, with Moshe Sharett, as Head of the Political Department just below him and Eliezer Kaplan, Head of the Agency's Finance Department and the National Council's Executive Chairman David Remez. Since 1945 the influence of the legendary leader Dr.Chaim Weizmann began to wane, as he was unable to deal with the newly elected British Labour Government. For decades he dealt with Conservative leaders, but since the Parliamentary elections of 26 July 1945 he realized he no longer had common language with the new British leaders, especially with the Trade Union leader Ernest Bevin who decided to stake his reputation on the issue of Palestine. Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, being veteran trade unionists and Histadrut leaders, understood far better the mentality of the new Labour leaders now occupying the corridors of power in Whitehall.

Golda Meir's role in the critical years 1946-1948 has been described in detail in a number of works[2]. For many years she was portrayed as having played a central role in the shaping of the Yishuv's policies and diplomacy and of being one of the participants in a series of key decisions that determined the fate of the Yishuv and helped bring about independence. The opening of new archival sources has done little to change that evaluation. However, a closer examination of her role in those years, namely as Co-Head of the Jewish Agency Political Department, reveals that she cannot be considered a central decision maker, but rather as a Ben-Gurion loyalist whose strength lay in ensuring that decisions he made would win the support of the Mapai Party, the Histadrut leadership, the Jewish Agency Executive and the majority of the Yishuv's Jews. This paper seeks to re-assess the role she played in those critical years focusing on her work in the Jewish Agency, her contacts with the Mandatory Regime, her two meetings with King Abdullah and her major, historic, achievement: raising funds from American Jews that financed a third of the costs of the War of Independence. The diplomatic struggle in the United Nations that culminated with the 29 November 1947 Partition Resolution was the crowning achievement of Moshe Sharett. The decision to go ahead and proclaim independence, even in the face of massive State Department opposition, was Ben-Gurion's, undoubtedly the architect of Israel. He was also the recognized leader of the War of Independence whose outcome ensured the survival of Israel.
Why, then, is Golda praised so much for what she did in those crucial years?

Part of the reason has to do with the fact that she was the only woman leader at the time, and thus stood out among the men. Secondly, as she later rose to become foreign minister and finally was at Israel's helm for five years as prime minister, led many to wonder about her personality, the source of her power and her talents that eventually brought her to the highest position her party and country could offer. All this does not Meron Medzini is a Senior Lecturer in Israeli Studies at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University. detract from the role she played, but places it in a more a broader perspective.

Golda Meir rose to national prominence in the Yishuv shortly after the end of World War II. The British Mandatory regime recognized her as such when she was among the leaders invited to Government House in Jerusalem in November 1945 to hear the Chief Secretary read out the policy statement of the government which in fact postponed any decision on the future of the country, left the 1939 White Paper draconian regulations intact and created an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry to propose new ideas to the British Government. Since September 1945, she was also a member of a very small group of leaders, representing the Jewish Agency, Haganah, Irgun and the Stern Group, called Committee X, that authorized anti-British acts of terror in the framework of the Resistance Movement carried out by these organizations. The policy of active resistance was aimed at pressuring the British Government to rescind the White Paper, open the gates for unlimited Jewish immigration of Holocaust survivors, allow large scale Jewish settlements in the entire country and above all, press home to Britain that the Jewish community of Palestine was now ready to take its fate into its hands and through acts of violence aimed mainly at British military and civilian installations, force London to confront the fact that there is now a major problem in Palestine and that resistance is no longer the prerogative of the Palestinian Arabs.[3]

At the time Golda was Head of the Political Department of the Histadurt, in charge of its ties with sister trade union organizations, the Mandatory Government and the Jewish National Institutions, mainly the Jewish Agency and the National Council. She was also among the ten senior Mapai leaders whose opinions on defense, foreign affairs and organization were highly sought after and respected. She had been in politics since the late 1920's and fulfilled a number of positions in Palestine and missions in the United States with much distinction. Although not an orator or an intellectual, like many of the other top Mapai leaders, she was by then a shrewd and seasoned politician, a member in every major Histardut and Mapai organ. Like her colleagues, her world views were shaped from early youth by Zionism and Socialism, tempered by the Holocaust and the fear that this horrific event could well bring about the end of the Jewish People unless they establish their own state. The new British policy only strengthened her belief in the armed struggle as a political weapon of the weak Yishuv. She also feared that if the Haganah will shun resistance, young native born sabras will tend to join the dissident Irgun and Stern underground organizations, viewed by many as actually fighting against the British. 

Her first opportunity to display her unique talent of explaining the Yishuv to the outside world came on 25 March 1946, when she was asked to testify on behalf of the Histadrut before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry. After explaining the role of that body she decided to go beyond her immediate assignment and express her views on the urgent need to find a solution to the Palestine Problem, as it was then (and now) called. She concluded her presentation by a direct plea to the members of the Committee by speaking without a prepared text and asking them "what is means to be a member of the people whose very right to exist is constantly being questioned… Our right to be Jews such as we are, no better, but no worse than others in this world…Our children here don't understand why the very existence of the Jewish people as such is questioned. For them, at last, it is natural to be a Jew." Not only did the contents of her presentation impress the Committee's members, but also her English. The American chairman wondered about her English and she replied that she came from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The next day the Palestine Post wrote: "With her direct approach to the essence of the Jewish problem, her assumption that it was understandable and human, and in her clear and unevasive replies, Mrs. Golda Meyerson, the only woman to testify before the Inquiry Committee in Jerusalem yesterday morning, dispelled the uncomfortable court-room atmosphere, the irritation and boredom that had latterly prevailed."[4]

The Committee decided that the Mandate should remain in force for the time being and eventually Palestine will become a bi-national state, but that 100,000 Jewish refugees should be admitted to the country. The British cleverly reacted that if the Jews give up their weapons and abandon the armed struggle, they will allow the refugees to enter. They knew well that the Haganah had no intention of placing the Yishuv's security in British hands. In view of the stalemate, the Resistance Movement undertook a number of spectacular operations against the British regime, culminating with blowing up in one night most of the bridges connecting Palestine to the neighbouring countries. Golda was among those who authorized this operation. The British response was short of a declaration of war on the Yishuv. On 29 June 1946, "Black Saturday", as it became known in the annals of the Yishuv, they launched "Operation Agatha" in the course of which they arrested most of the members of the Jewish Agency Executive, including Sharett, some 3000 Haganah officers and soldiers (including young Yitzhak Rabin), and uncovered vast caches of weapons.

Ben-Gurion was in Paris at the time and the head of the Haganah, Moshe Sneh, escaped to Lebanon and sailed to France from Beirut.[5] Golda was spared due to British unwillingness to arrest a woman, perhaps also because she won the admiration of the High Commissioner, but mainly the fear that her arrest would arouse much anger among British and American Jews. "Operation Agatha" failed to win its goals – to break the spirit of the Yishuv and force it to lay down its arms. It was successful in linking the Jewish Agency to the Resistance Movement, but that was no great secret. One of the unexpected by products of "Operation Agatha" was to catapult Golda to the top echelon of the Yishuv's leadership. But her selection was not automatic. From Latrun Sharett wrote that there should be no rush to select his temporary replacement and obviously he preferred Kaplan. He never had much respect for Golda's intellectual qualities. However, Mapai's leaders felt that Kaplan was not up to the job and decided that Golda should replace Sharett as acting head of the Political Department as long as he was detained. This decision won the support of Ben-Gurion from Paris and belatedly that of Sharett and Remez from their detention.[6] The Yishuv regarded her elevation as a natural and obvious solution to the leadership problem. One discordant note was sounded by the newspaper of the Mizrachi Religious Party. They thought it was against the laws of nature to place a woman at the head of a major public instrument of the Jewish people and that each sex must know its limits.[7] The majority viewed this salvo with bemused tolerance and in early July Golda settled into her new office in the Jewish Agency compound in Jerusalem, with British soldiers still in the building sifting through piles of documents.
Her major task now was to fashion a proper Yishuv response to "Operation Agatha". She supported the policy of non-cooperation with the Mandatory regime and literally advocated civil disobedience, suspension of payment of taxes and boycotting the Palestine Administration. Weizmann and Kaplan were totally opposed. There was a heated argument with Weizmann, in the course of which she stormed out of his home. He was terrified that the British will destroy the national enterprise and decades of efforts would go down the drain. Golda was not that sure this would happen, but she had second thoughts. Her ardor cooled off and gave way to a sense of realism and pragmatism which became evident when she supported the policy of halting for the time being the armed resistance. On 3 July she addressed the Histadrut Executive Council saying in effect that that "the day we embark on this road (civil disobedience) it will be different…something did happen in the country…" She did not think the British will dare do to the Yishuv what they have done in Ireland or in India.[8]

Meanwhile, an operation prepared by the Haganah and the Irgun, to blow up the southern wing of the "King David" Hotel in Jerusalem, the seat of the Mandatory regime and headquarters of the British army in Palestine, was in advanced stages of planning. The idea was to place explosives in the building in the afternoon when the offices would be empty. Few days before the attack, the Haganah pulled out of this operation and suggested to the Irgun they should carry out the attack on their own and in the afternoon. The Irgun decided to attack in midday, but made sure they warn the British authorities to clear the building. This they did, but the Chief Secretary refused to order the evacuation of the offices saying the Jews will not dictate to us our moves.

On 22 July 1946, with Political Department officials standing on the balcony of the Jewish Agency building waiting for the explosion, it went off at 12:26 killing 91 people, mostly civilians including many Arabs and Jews. Scores were wounded. The Yishuv was stunned – why so many casualties, most of them innocent people. The Jewish Agency had no alternative but to issue a statement condemning the attack in harsh language. The British Government may have considered massive retaliation, but thought otherwise lest the country be plunged into an uncontrollable spiral of violence.[9]

Meanwhile, following the failure of the Anglo-American Committee to achieve any tangible results, Britain and the United States came up with a new idea, a plan that called for dividing Palestine into four cantons: a Jewish canton to include the Galilee and the Valleys, a Jerusalem-Bethlehem canton, the Negev and the fourth and largest an Arab canton. The High Commissioner will continue to run defense, foreign affairs, finance as and the Jerusalem-Bethlehem and the Negev cantons. The Arab canton will be closed to Jewish settlement. The scheme, called the Morrison-Grady plan, was presented in Parliament on 31 July 1946 by Herbert Morrison, the British Deputy Prime Minister. Grady was a senior American diplomat. As expected, it was rejected out of hand by both Jews and Arabs, but Britain still wanted to discuss it in a conference in London with Jewish and Arab leaders. The Jews refused to enter into any talks on this or any plan as long as so many of their leaders were still interned, but it became obvious that in order to break the impasse, new ideas will have to be considered and presented to the United States, now seen as the determining power.[10]

Ben-Gurion and Golda led the camp of those who opposed the Morrison-Grady plan, while others, including Kaplan, thought it should be examined as it may eventually lead to a state. Nahum Goldmann, the Jewish Agency's main contact with the American government, was able to persuade his colleagues in the Jewish Agency Executive to meet and decide which policy they now favored. From his sources in the Department of State he understood that the United States was prepared to support a plan that had a chance of being accepted by the Jews. They realized that the Arabs would oppose any plan that does not call for a Palestinian state with majority rule, and that the British are reaching the end of their tether and looking for an honorable exit from an impossible situation. The United States could under no circumstances endorse the idea of a Jewish state in the entire area of Palestine. In effect, it meant the return of the Zionist Movement to the idea of partition, an idea presented by the British Peel Commission in 1937.

In early August 1946 Golda traveled to Paris to attend what was probably the most crucial Executive meeting. This time she was a full fledged member of the Executive with voting rights. The discussion in Paris focused on what to suggest to the United States. Goldmann thought the Americans will accept partition. He argued that the Executive should empower him to present this acceptance to the State Department and seek its support. Ben-Gurion and Golda did not trust Goldmann to deliver to Washington the true intent of the Zionists, namely their agreement to accept a Jewish state in a viable part of Palestine, and voted against a resolution that so authorized him. They feared he will enter into talks on borders and wanted a broad and vague formula. Goldmann went to Washington, and within few days was able to convince the Truman Administration that under the circumstances partition was the best solution and that the Jews were prepared to accept it. America should now try to pressure Britain to agree to partition. In Paris Golda spoke at length, describing the harsh reality of the situation in the country and thought that if pushed to the wall, the British could destroy the national home. She led an attack on Weizmann who she claimed was prepared to go to London to discuss the Morrison-Grady Plan. She feared that the starting point for partition could be the Morrison-Grady plan that could never be accepted. The Executive decided to postpone any resolution on participation in the proposed London conference until the next Zionist Congress due to take place in Basel in December 1946. In October 1946 Truman issued a lukewarm endorsement of partition.[11]

Upon her return to Palestine, her task was to win acceptance for partition by the Mapai party. Its decision will in fact bind the Yishuv. From Paris Ben-Gurion demanded the continuation of the combined military-diplomatic struggle. Weizmann, Kaplan, Remez and Sharett opposed the continuation of the armed struggle and called for a cease fire. They prevailed and the Jewish Agency's Executive voted to suspend the armed struggle. Golda led the effort to explain the new Ben-Gurion policy to the Mapai Convention held in September 1946. She explained to the gathering in elliptical language why the armed resistance against the British had to be suspended, and turning to the Haganah, she said: "Even this wonderful camp…must accept with love even this thing, if there is consideration not to act for a while, we don't act, and impatience, inability to sit and wait…this must never appear as an argument." She was able to inform Ben-Gurion that of the 460 delegates, 340 voted for his policy, 10 against and 21 abstained. "The resolutions are in your spirit", she cabled him.[12]

Meanwhile, Britain decided to deport all illegal Jewish immigrants to detention camps in Cyprus. They applied these draconian measures from August 1946, but this did not stop the "shadow fleet" from sailing with it human cargo to Palestine. In 1946 24 ships, with 15,000 arrived. In 1947 – 25 ships bearing 35,000 immigrants tried to break the naval blockade. In the first two months of 1948 17 additional ships with 24,000 immigrants were deported to Cyprus. British efforts to stem the tide in European ports utterly failed. Haganah attempts to prevent the deportations to Cyprus were equally ineffective. In the sphere of settlements, the Yishuv intensified the establishment of new settlements, mainly in the Northern Negev. The idea was that areas where there will be Jewish settlements will eventually be included in the Jewish State. On 30 September, Golda was among those who approved the establishment of 11 new settlements in the Northern Negev. They were aimed also at showing that the Morrison-Grady plan is worthless. At the end of Yom Kippur, 6 October 1946, with military precision, 11 settlements were added to the map of the country. The British and Arabs were powerless to prevent this act as it was legal, even by the 1939 White Paper standards.[13]

Golda's main activities in the closing months of 1946 were to maintain the ties with the Mandatory Government, to bring about the release of the interned leaders and start the preparations for the Congress. In the talks held by Britain with Arab representatives in London on the Morrison-Grady plan, they rejected the idea and called for immediate independence for Palestine. The failure of these talks convinced the British that not only the Jews wanted them out of Palestine, but the Arabs, too, will never accept anything less than independence with majority (i.e. Arab) rule. The Jews conditioned any negotiations with Britain on the release of their leaders, and they were let out on 3 November 1946. Golda was totally opposed to negotiations with Britain unless they focused on the establishment of a Jewish state. She was also involved in a major effort to ask the dissident military organizations, the Irgun and the Stern group, to suspend their attacks on the British, at least until early 1947, fearing that in an act of despair, the British will use acts of terror to reject all Zionist claims and repress the Yishuv with all the means available to them. That could spell doom to the Zionist enterprise. Here she supported Weizmann's views.

When Sharett returned to his post in Jerusalem, Golda went back to hers in the Histadrut in Tel Aviv. Her brief baptism of fire in Zionist diplomacy was successful. It included a major decision – the acceptance of partition. Golda was now a familiar figure in the country and making her name overseas. Her name begins to appear in British and American diplomatic dispatches. She also learned how to work with the staff of the Agency's Political Department, the core of Israel's future Foreign Ministry. The way she fulfilled her tasks was marked by simplicity, charm and tact. She was the first to understand that the policy was determined by Ben-Gurion and partly by Sharett. She was now an integral part of the national leadership, almost on the same level as that of Sharett, Kaplan and Remez. Her ascension was natural. The four months during which she replaced Sharett served to confirm her senior position and to her colleagues in the Histadrut it became evident that her days in that body were numbered. Those who worked with her closely were impressed by her ability to convince others with her cogent arguments, her ability to listen.

They saw how she prepared herself for discussions, marshalling her facts, figures and arguments. Few claimed that Golda grew intellectually, but her curiosity did grow. She was now more exposed to Arab affairs as she held daily meetings with the Jewish Agency's Arab affairs specialists. She did offer advice on tactics but preferred to leave the key decisions to Ben-Gurion and contented herself with popularizing his views and winning support for them where it counted most - in the party and Histadrut. She also excelled in public relations, becoming the most effective spokesperson for the Jewish Agency. She easily established a close working relationship with the growing foreign press corps in Jerusalem. She was accessible, spoke their language and was able to come up with headlines. It was natural that her voice will carry weight in the 22end Zionist Congress.

This supreme decision making body of the Zionist movement was faced with a number of crucial decisions – participation in the London talks, resumption of the armed struggle and the re-election of Weizmann as President of the Organization. Golda's role was to help guide resolutions that would confirm Ben-Gurion's supreme leadership of the Zionist Movement, opposition to attending the London talks and in fact acceptance of the partition idea. Mapai did not control the Congress. Its former base of support in Eastern Europe had been annihilated by the Holocaust. It did not have sound support in the United States. It feared the control of the American Zionists over the fund raising apparatus, and worried that a combination of American Zionists and the moderate Weizmann camp could mean seeking accommodation with Britain and postponing the establishment of a Jewish state. Golda was convinced that the time for diplomacy was over. The Jews have exhausted all avenues with the British government and the time had come to renew the armed struggle as part of a possible negotiating process. The struggle, she told the Congress plenary must be waged by "constructive means". She explained that "we are seeking the establishment of a Jewish state now…when it became evident that we must assume total control over our lives, of immigration, that it must be in the hands of the Jews not as a distant goal but as a matter of supreme urgency."[14]

The Congress was replete with political and personal crises. Ben-Gurion threatened to resign and return home charging the moderates and their American allies with betraying Zionism. But at the end the activist line of Ben-Gurion carried the day. Weizmann was not re-elected as President of the Movement, a terrible blow to the aging leader and the policies he represented. On the key issue – participation in talks with Britain, the decision was postponed. Golda chaired the key session that lasted an entire night. Being a good tactician and realizing that there was a majority for the London talks, she proposed that the matter be deferred to the newly elected Jewish Agency Executive. This was rejected by 167 against 158. She then proposed a resolution saying the Congress notes the resolutions adopted by the Executive in Paris in August 1946 regarding the London talks. This in fact meant an endorsement by the Congress of the Executive's refusal to enter into any talks on the basis of the Morrison-Grady plan. The Congress authorized the new Executive to decide on the London talks only on the basis of the immediate rescinding of the 1939 White Paper. In fact, a return to the original Mandate as long as it remains in force with immigration and settlement in Jewish hands. This was approved by a majority of 171. The key decision making powers was left in the hands of a small group headed by Ben-Gurion and included five other Mapai leaders. To this group there was a new addition: Sharett recommended that Mrs. Golda Meyerson be appointed co-head of the Political Department. He will continue to serve as its head but will move his base of operations to the United States which had become the key arena for Zionist diplomacy. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Executive, Ben-Gurion took over the defense portfolio and would now be responsible for the conduct of the struggle against the British and later against the Arabs. Golda moved back to Jerusalem, settled in a spacious apartment rented for her, had a car and chauffeur at her disposal, an expense account but limited political responsibilities.

In February 1947 Britain had reached the conclusion that the mandate was no longer workable. The talks with Arabs and Jews in London yielded no results, although Ben-Gurion was prepared to let Britain carry on with the original Mandate provided it annul the restrictions on immigration and land purchase. He felt the Yishuv was not yet ready to take on the Palestinian Arabs and the neighbouring Arab states. Already in late 1946 it became evident to the British Labour Government that Britain, irrevocably weakened by World War II, realized it would have to abandon Palestine, more so after they decided to partition India and leave that country on 15 August 1947. Palestine had spiraled out of their control. The costs of maintaining tenth of their armed forces there were mounting, so were the casualties. The Palestine problem visibly strained their relations with the United States. Public opinion in Britain wanted out. The question was how, when and who to transfer power to. They knew well that once they leave, the Jews and Arabs will start killing each other. Some British diplomats still had hopes that if they turn to the United Nations to decide on the future governance of Palestine, this body may still grant them a renewed Mandate as a UN Trusteeship. Then, they felt, they will crush all Jewish opposition and prepare the country for independence as a bi-national state, Bevin's dream all along. The fate of the Jews in such a country interested them little. At best they will have to live under British protection.

In the early months of 1947 Golda was engaged in maintaining very fragile ties with the Mandatory regime, which meant being summoned on occasion by the High Commissioner or the Chief Secretary who complained of acts of terror committed by the Irgun and the Stern Group. She in turn complained of British atrocities and the continued forced departure of illegal immigrants to Cyprus. From her reports to the Jewish Agency Executive it was obvious that while waiting for the convening of a special session of the United Nations, the Yishuv was torn between acts of Jewish terror and British repression. Above all, the leaders feared a sudden British withdrawal before the Yishuv had time to organize its defenses properly to face the anticipated Arab onslaught. In those days Ben-Gurion was in the midst of a major study of the Haganah's structure, armaments and capabilities. One day, she wrote in her memoirs, he called her to his office, "I am telling you – he said – I have a feeling I am going mad, what will happen to us?"[15] But the decision was no longer in the hands of the Yishuv or the British. The Palestine question has now become an international issue. Sharett led the Zionist diplomatic effort while Golda performed a rearguard holding operation in Jerusalem. Sharett skillfully established close working relations with the Soviet delegation to the UN. Its ambassador, Andrei Gromyko, dropped a bombshell on 14 May 1947 when he announced at the General Assembly that his government now favoured partition and the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine as a serious option. The Yishuv was ecstatic, the Arabs furious, the British totally embarrassed. Any hope they entertained of retaining the Mandate was shattered. For the first time since the advent of the Cold War, the two super powers agreed that partition could be the solution for the Palestine question. The General Assembly empowered a special committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to travel to the region and make recommendations that will be discussed in the second regular session of the General Assembly in September 1947.

Sharett came back to Jerusalem to organize the Yishuv's presentation to the Committee. While the entire staff of the Political Department was mobilized for that task, Golda was not involved in the daily preparations which meant collecting data, preparing written presentations and writing speeches for the leaders. The rising star Abba Eban wrote Weizmann's speech. Ben-Gurion and Sharett prepared their own. Golda was not even asked, and she did not insist, on appearing before UNSCOP. While UNSCOP was in Palestine, three of its members witnessed the horrific scene in Haifa port when British troops forced 4500 illegal immigrants who arrived on the "Exodus" to transfer to deportation ships that would take them back to France, from where they sailed few days earlier. Another event occurred at the same time. On 29 June 1947 the British executed six Irgun members knowing fully well that the Irgun was holding as hostages two British sergeants whom they threatened to kill. The sergeants were executed and their bodies booby trapped. This somewhat over shadowed the events of the "Exodus" which was probably what the British wanted. The British were outraged, so were the Jews. "We have never been so ashamed" said Golda to the High Commissioner on 31 July. He asked the Haganah to uproot the Irgun. She refused. He remarked that he could not guarantee that British soldiers will not commit acts of revenge. "You come from America", he said, "I think you can assess what may happen in this country if the American army were here. How long can I restrain the army?" he asked. She had no reply.[16] At the end of August the majority of the UNSCOP members recommended the termination of the mandate and the partitioning of the country into two states – Jewish and Arab tied together by an economic union. Jerusalem was to be internationalized under a special United Nations regime.

A week later the British Cabinet adopted a secret decision. Whatever happens, Britain will leave Palestine no later than 15 August 1948. It will not be involved in implementing any UN resolution on Palestine and will follow what a senior British diplomat called "masterful inactivity". Bevin's morally reprehensible and indefensible personal order to return the "Exodus" immigrants to Germany for internment in concentration camps in that country, as well as the impact of the affair of the sergeants was seared into British psyche as the height of shame, humiliation and the futility of it all. It was best summed up by the High Commissioner who told Ben-Gurion in late September: "You think we shall not leave the country, I can tell you, I have just been to England. The people will force the government to evacuate Palestine. The British people are bloody fed up with the whole mess."[17] The Yishuv realized that which it feared most is going to come about – a very early British withdrawal leaving the country in a state of total anarchy. In a press conference the High Commissioner confirmed Britain's intention to leave no later than August 1948. The Jews were surprised. Golda reacted in a meeting of the National Council Executive: "there are some senior officials who intend to organize anarchy in this country. The slogan is: there is no one to transfer things to, and when there is no one to hand things over to it is necessary that there will be nothing to transfer and leave the country in such a way as the High Commissioner said – anarchy".[18]

Even before the General Assembly adopted the partition resolution, the Yishuv began to prepare. On 21 October 1947 the Emergency (Situation) Committee was established to prepare the Yishuv for transition to statehood. Among tits tasks was mass mobilization. Ben-Gurion was convinced that the Haganah did not possess enough manpower to deal with the new emergency, and created a new body called The Center for Mobilization for National Service. Golda was put at its head. She initially asked for the mobilization of 20,000. At the end of the month she announced plans for the call up of 40,000 soldiers. Once again, when it came to heading a central organization, this time responsible for call up, Ben-Gurion entrusted Golda to handle this crucial task.[19] Meanwhile, in New York, the General Assembly was discussing the partition proposal and the Zionist team headed by Sharett and bolstered by the presence of Weizmann who was asked to ensure that Truman issue orders to the American delegation to include the Negev in the area of the future Jewish state (which he did). The Zionist diplomats lobbied, cajoled and persuaded some thirty delegates to ensure their vote. Golda was not a participant in this final effort, neither was Ben-Gurion. They were busy in Palestine readying the Yishuv for the inevitable.
Meanwhile, the Jewish Agency Arabists thought the time had come to divine the intentions of King Abdullah of Jordan. Their long contacts with him convinced them that he would accept partition as long as the Arab part of Palestine would come under his rule. Since Sharett was away in New York, it was obvious that the most senior Jewish official would handle this delicate mission. Ben-Gurion did not want to meet the King (and never did). Delicate negotiations preceded the meeting and the King was informed only at the last moment that his interlocutor would be Golda. They met on 17 November 1947 at the Guest House of the Palestine Electric Company facility in Naharayim. The King clung to his dream of incorporating Palestine into Jordan as part of his idea of Greater Syria and was prepared to grant autonomous rights to the Jews. Golda was accompanied by Eliyahu Sasson, head of the Arab Affairs Department of the Jewish Agency, who knew the King for many years, who translated, and Ezra Danin who took notes, did not enter into detailed negotiations. There were no maps, or position papers. Basically certain ideas were discussed in the fifty minute conversation. The key one was the Jewish attitude to the King taking over the West Bank of Palestine. Essentially they had no objection as long as he would not interfere with the establishment of the Jewish state. Ideas of implementing the partition plan, international forces and continued British presence were also mentioned. The main point made by the King was that he advised the Iraqis that he will not permit their army to cross Jordan on its way to Palestine and that his army will not participate in any military action. He was even prepared to sign a joint written agreement provided he was shown a draft in advance. Golda and her associates came away from the meeting, and so reported to the Executive, that the King will accept the idea of a Jewish state provided he gets the West Bank including Lod and Ramle. For the time being it was assumed that he will not join an Arab invasion of Palestine. This was her first meeting with a major Arab leader and she thought it went off well.[20]

Two weeks later, on 29 November 1947, the Zionist effort reached a climax. Rejecting Arab motions to delay the vote, the President of the Assembly called on that body to decide the future government of Palestine. That night few slept in Palestine. Like the rest of the Yishuv, Golda sat alone at home with the roster of the voting countries in her hand, following the radio broadcast of the historic decision, ticking off each country as it announced its stand. Tension rose. The Zionists were not sure until the last moment they had the necessary two thirds majority. When the President announced the results – 33 for, 13 against, 10 abstentions (including Britain) and one absent, the Zionist struggle won a resounding victory and an international recognition for the right of Jews to their own homeland. The Jews danced in the streets. The Arabs huddled in their homes with impotent rage. Their delegates rose one by one to denounce the resolution as immoral, undemocratic and illegal and stated simply they will go to war to prevent its implementation. For the first time in its history the UN adopted such a major resolution and for the first time six member states challenged its right to do so. Golda did not sleep a wink that night. In the following morning she addressed a large crowd gathered at the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem. "We are delighted. We are ready for the future. Our hands are extended to our neighbours. The two states can live side by side for the benefit of all. Long live the People of Israel." Deep in her heart she knew these were idle words. The Yishuv now faced its supreme test. 

While the victory in the United Nations remains to this day Sharett's greatest achievement, Golda did play an important role in the events that led to this great day. Being for decades a loyal member and leader of the Histadrut and Mapai, she became a central figure in the bureaucracies of both and won the reputation that important missions could be entrusted to her. She was never a threat to the veteran leaders and willingly accepted the views of Ben-Gurion with rare objections. One such a time was her opposition to his wish to accept the 1937 partition proposed by the Peel Royal Commission. Very early in her career she hitched her wagon to that of Ben-Gurion whom she considered the greatest living Jew of this generation. She never created her own faction in the party or the Histadrut. As she developed and grew in importance, so did her self confidence. Her colleagues began to appreciate her serious personality. Her views were sought and support assured before any major decision had to be taken. She always opted for consensus. This would be her style when she would be prime minister. Decisions would be made by a small informal group that was called Golda's "kitchen cabinet". During the years of the Mandate she developed her own style of personal persuasion that usually worked wonders. She was at her best in small groups, stating her case in simple language. She never sought to over awe people by being clever, citing from scriptures or literature. She never engaged in long monologues and allowed an exchange of views. When it came to dealing with the British she always tried to show how shameful their position was and how morally wrong. A visit to her office was an intimate affair, over cups of coffee and endless cigarettes. She hated reading from prepared texts and looked at her audience in the eye. She could be motherly, kind and warm hearted, but at times cynical, sarcastic, cold. Golda Meir had no doubt that it was the Labour Movement that led the Yishuv to the edge of establishing the state. She knew well her own central position among the small group of leaders that will now have to transform the dream to reality. She had every reason to believe that her place at the highest level of authority was assured. After all, she had given all her adult to the party, Histardut, Movement and the country. Her best qualities would now be required as 1948 began.

During the first six weeks of the first phase of the War of Independence, Golda concentrated her efforts on keeping the contacts with the Mandatory regime that had already started the process of evacuation. She had countless meetings with the High Commissioner and the Chief Secretary asking for protection for convoys on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, allowing the Haganah to bear arms, letting Jewish immigrants into the country. But these were frustrating, and at times humiliating, experiences. It was clear to her that she was engaged in a dialogue with the deaf. The British expedited their withdrawal to save costs and lives. She was unable to convince them that as long as they were the rulers, they were responsible for law and order in Palestine. She was the first to realize the futility of these conversations. She knew well that the future of the country will be decided by a show of force. In December 1947 and in early January 1948 she remained in Jerusalem while Sharett stayed on in New York to ensure that the partition resolution be implemented. She also monitored political developments and kept Ben-Gurion and Sharett apprised of intelligence reports that indicated earlier British withdrawal than anticipated. Golda was also acted in fact as the senior military leader in Jerusalem. She had to approve every major Haganah operation in the city so that the British will not vent their frustration on the hapless 100,000 Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem, now slowly being besieged. She had another job: she was co-opted into Committee B, a body that was created to make final preparations for the establishment of a Jewish government. This Committee focused its attention on harbors, railways, postal services, public works, police and prisons, public transportation, town planning and maintaining law and order in Jerusalem. At the end of January she could claim that "at this stage the plans dealing with certain necessary departments were almost completed. We are also concerned with housing these departments and with governance."[21]

In the course of consultations in Ben-Gurion's home in Tel Aviv on 3 January 1948, she became fully aware of the serious economic plight of the Yishuv. Kaplan had just come back from America and reported that American Jews were getting tired of contributing to what they considered "overseas needs". He estimated the immediate costs of the war at 7 million dollars. Ben-Gurion thought the once American Jews learn of the gravity of the situation, they will contribute directly to the Haganah. But the question was how to insure tax exemption given to contributions for charitable needs. The Haganah was not exactly a charitable organization. On 12 January Ben-Gurion raised the idea of himself and Kaplan flying to America to raise funds. Golda was adamantly opposed: "You are vital here and no one can replace you". She had serious doubts about Kaplan's fund raising abilities. He was not the man to arouse passion and cause people to empty their pockets. She proposed that she undertake this mission and it was hard to argue over her qualifications for the task. By then she had probably reached the conclusion that her usefulness in Jerusalem was minute compared with the need to raise funds. In her orders of priorities funds for arms were far more important than stale arguments with British officials and squabbles with the leaders of the besieged Jerusalem Jewish community over food and money allocations. She also knew that the main decisions were made in Tel Aviv by Ben-Gurion and the Haganah high command, and that diplomacy was secondary in their considerations. She knew that Jerusalem had become marginal. Ben-Gurion was highly impressed with her confidence she could do the job and brought her mission to a vote in the Executive, probably to save Kaplan an embarrassment. In his war diary Ben-Gurion noted that "it was decided that Golda will travel to America."

Prior to her departure she received detailed instructions from Ben-Gurion what the needs were. They included jeeps, rockets, motor boats and corvettes. She was asked to report to him on a weekly basis.

She arrived in New York on 23 January 1948 in a blinding snow storm and was met at the airport by her son Menachem, then studying music there. From then until she returned to Palestine on 17 March, her schedule was a whirlwind of activities, most of them fund raising. She had not been to America for ten years, and discovered a new Jewish world. In the past she addressed mainly small groups of Histadrut and Poalei Zion supporters, who like herself were Eastern European Jews. She addressed them in Yiddish and was happy with 100 or 200 dollar contributions. Now she set herself as target the astronomic figure of 25 million dollars, the amount Kaplan estimated would see the Yishuv through until August 1948. She knew well the money raised will determine the Yishuv's ability to acquire weapons for the war of survival. Her major surprise were the new breed of American Jews, as described by her son in his biography of his mother: "Not Socialist, not back to the soil, live-on-the land Zionists, not immigrants, nor even in many cases the children of immigrants and not primarily of Russian but also of German Jewish descent. They were well established, in some cases fabulously wealthy, hard-working, hard-headed American Jewish industrialists, some ten to fifteen years younger than Golda…"[22] Millions of them were deeply influenced by their experience in the American army in Europe, where many saw the horrors in the death camps where they encountered the corpses and the skeletons. Some felt guilt over the passive role played by their leaders who failed to rescue European Jews. Some felt the gust of the "wings of history" and wanted to be part of the greatest event about to unfold in Palestine – Jewish sovereignty. Most of them wanted to identify with the struggle against the British and the Arabs and for them Golda symbolized the Yishuv fighting for its life. She reminded them of their mothers and grandmothers, a trait that will be her trade mark for decades to comer. Her problem was to by-pass the federation professionals and appeal directly to the donors. She was convinced that once they heard the story they will ensure that their funds will go to where they counted most – Palestine and not remain in America for local needs, which is what many of the professionals wanted. Golda harbored ill will towards the heads of the United Jewish Appeal from her fund raising days in the 1930's when they refused to have emissaries from Palestine address the donors and preferred local dignitaries, movie stars, politicians or local rabbis.

Her task was made somewhat easy by the Executive Director of the United Jewish Appeal, a 42 years old Canadian by birth, Henry Montor understood the import of the moment and believed that Golda could deliver the goods. His strategy was to expose her to the Jewish and national press, and then bring her to Chicago, where the annual General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations was held. He arranged for a press conference in 24 January 1948 at the United Nations Headquarters in Lake Success, New York, where she reviewed the situation and expressed optimism that in spite of the hardships there shall soon be an independent Jewish state in Palestine. Wisely she refrained from delving into United Nations resolutions, committees and legal language. She ended her remarks by calling on the United Nations to implement partition and said that if the Arabs so wanted, there can be peace within "five minutes". Once again she repeated her simplistic approach to the Arab attitude to the Jews, which she probably understood but thought in terms of a passing fad. The briefing was well reported. Even the New York Times ran a short story. Montor and Golda were now ready for her to appear in Chicago.

This was not an easy task. The matter of Palestine was not even placed on the agenda of the Assembly. Those who planned it preferred to stick to the routine issues of inter- faith relations and the situation within the Jewish federations. They totally missed the moment's import and how the coming Jewish independence was going to impact American Jews. Golda was furious with the professionals. At the last moment Montor was able to get her on the agenda. She was warned – make a short speech, to the point, don't be too emotional, don't make demands, don't disturb the mood of those present and above all don't annoy the professionals. She spoke for thirty five minutes without notes. Dressed in a simple black dress, no make up and wearing no jewels, she electrified the gathering. To some she looked like an American frontiers woman
from the Wild West. She spoke quietly, even melancholically, without raising her voice, from the heart. She was at her best.

She explained the essence of the struggle and in simple terms told the audience "my friends, we are at war…" She asked for 25 to 30 million dollars in cash within a very short time, a couple of weeks. She told her audience that Diaspora Jewry and mainly American Jewry must rise to the occasion: "I have faith in the Jews in the United States. I believe that they will realize the peril of our situation and will do what they have to do. She even paraphrased Churchill when she said we shall fight in the Negev, and will fight in the Galil and will fight on the outskirts of Jerusalem until the very end…The Jewish community of Palestine will raise no white flag… The decision is taken, nobody can change it. You can only decide one thing: whether we shall be victorious in this fight or whether the Mufti will be victorious. That decision American Jews can make. It has to be made quickly, within hours, within days. I beg of you – don't be too late. Don't be bitterly sorry three months from now for what you failed to do today. The time is now…"[23]

A leader present sent the following report to the heads of the United Jewish Appeal: "Every man and woman who was present in Chicago…will remember the momentous event…for thirty five minutes she spoke. Many were tense as her remarks drove home. Others wept. Not a word did she speak of politics, of ideology, of far off things. She told calmly the story of the defense of Jews in Palestine, of their homes and families…Few personalities have ever received the ovation that greeted this woman of valor when she concluded."[24] The impact of her speech was magnetic. She made American Jews identify with the struggle of the Yishuv and said to them that their role was to fund the war. Chicago was the turning point. The doors swung open and invitations for her to address fund raising events began to flow. The results were nothing short of stunning. On 11 February Ben-Gurion noted in his War Diary that Golda reported that to date she was assured of 15 million dollars and by the end of the month was hoping to reach 20. Glowing cables describing her triumphal progress arrived from many sources. Sharett watched her in action in Montreal. Henry Morgenthau Jr., Roosevelt's Secretary of the Treasury during the war, then national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, traveled with Golda and said she did an outstanding job "bringing to us the urgency of the situation and in acting to attain 50 million dollars." A month after arriving in America, she informed Ben-Gurion that she was assured of 25 million dollars. A week later, Sharett cabled the leader saying "Golda's Iron Campaign so far 30 million in cash, hope for 40 million." Ben-Gurion was charitable enough to note that "the only ray of light so far is Golda's success. But this does not change the gravity of the situation. Will the equipment reach us and in time? That is the key question and in it hinges everything." The reference was to arms then purchased in Czechoslovakia and smuggled to Palestine.[25]

But at the moment of her greatest achievement, she suffered a major political setback dealt to her by none other than her own party. In early March 1948 the Jewish Agency and the National Council Executives decided to set up two bodies that will lead the Yishuv towards independence, a provisional State Council comprising of 37 delegates of whom 13 will form a provisional Administrative Council that will become the provisional government of the new state. Golda was included among the 37 as Mapai representative, but that party leadership refused Ben-Gurion's request to include her in the provisional government. Mapai was allotted four slots and it was obvious that the first three will go to Ben-Gurion, Sharett and Kaplan. The argument was over the fourth – Golda or Remez. Ben-Gurion argued valiantly for Golda's inclusion, saying that not only was she worthy but it is important to include a woman in the first Jewish government. That would send a message not only to the women of Israel but to the neighbouring societies as well. "It is inconceivable that there shall be no adequate woman…" he said on 3 March and reiterated his position three days later. By 6 March he realized that he lost that battle. He certainly wanted her in his first cabinet. He had come to appreciate her character, abilities and ceaseless energy, all capped by the triumphal fund raising mission in America. He knew that she was a loyal supporter of his policies and the Yishuv, he felt, owed her a debt of honor. Hr also feared the inclusion of Remez, a very strong personality who often came out in public against Ben-Gurion's activism and on occasion against what he thought his dictatorial way of dealing with people and issues.[26] Golda herself revealingly wrote in her memoirs about Remez: "I remember we sat on my balcony overlooking the sea one night early in 1948, talking about what the future might bring. Remez said to me solemnly: You and Ben-Gurion will smash the last hope of the Jewish People."[27] Strong words indeed. This was a terrible setback for Golda who bore the slight valiantly, not mentioning her disappointment to anyone. This event is neither mentioned in her autobiography or in books written about her later. She was probably annoyed that her colleagues did not have the courtesy to wait for her return before making the selection. But above all, in an interview granted towards the end of her life, she said she never dreamed of running against Remez – her mentor, teacher and intimate friend for over twenty five years.

Ben-Gurion instructed her to remain in America, but she thought her usefulness there was over and decided to return, which she did on 18 March, in time to participate in high level discussions of the disastrous diplomatic and military situation. The next day Zionist diplomacy was dealt a terrible blow by the United States. That power had come to the conclusion that partition was unworkable and now called for a special session of the General Assembly to consider the idea of a temporary trusteeship for Palestine. The Yishuv was stunned. The Arabs jubilant, for them partition was dead. The British announced they will complete their plans and will terminate the mandate by 15 May. In a statement to the press Ben-Gurion said simply: "We shall determine the future of the country. We have laid the fo9undaitons for a Jewish state and we shall establish it. ..We shall not agree to any trusteeship, temporary or permanent, not even for the briefest time. We no longer accept foreign rule…The Jewish State exists and will exist – if we shall now how to defend it." On 20 Golda participated in a discussion of the Mapai Secretariat. Her words carried much weight as she had just come back from America. She did not hide the fact that "we have to tell ourselves the bitter truth, that yesterday we were dealt a huge blow." She cautioned that American Jews did not have much political clout and feared that Soviet support for the Jews could harm American Jews in the political climate then prevailing in America. In those days Czechoslovakia had fallen under Communist rule evoking much fear and anger in America. Her conclusion was quite simple: "I think there are certain things we have to do now at a quicker pace, to create facts…I would like that tomorrow there will be a proclamation of a government, even provisional, but government..." She wanted this proclamation to take place at once, even before the UN could have a chance to kill partition. She added that she had no interest what the make-up of that government would be, who will hold which portfolios. She felt the Yishuv could not let down American Jews. She promised them independence soon and asked them to contribute money fir that purpose, now there can be no delays that could drive American Jews to despair. [28]

Formally Golda was still the Co-Head of the Jewish Agency Political Department and she did return briefly to Jerusalem, but found little of substance to do. The staff of that department was now totally demoralized fearing that decisions were being made in Tel Aviv based wholly on security considerations and that their role was minimal and they had almost no way to influence these decisions. Their leader was Sharett, and he was in New York. Golda was too close to Ben-Gurion to afford them much comfort. On 28 March she and Kaplan met with Chief Secretary Gurney who wanted to discuss trusteeship. Ben-Gurion instructed them to refrain from any talks on this idea. The main concern was to break the siege on Jerusalem and with this in mind a military operation code named "Nachshon" was planned. With newly arrived weapons from Czechoslovakia (paid for by dollars raised by Golda) the Haganah launched this operation in early April that opened the road to Jerusalem, bringing enough supplies to last the city for few weeks. In early April Golda was back in Tel Aviv attending sessions of the Zionist General Council, the body that decided to go ahead and proclaim independence when the mandate shall lapse. Golda's own future was discussed by her and Ben-Gurion who noted on 13 April that although he thought she should be in the provisional government, for the time being "she must run the Jerusalem department on behalf of the Agency." This meant that she was once again shunted to a marginal arena. No wonder that on this day she was hospitalized in Beilinson Hospital near Tel Aviv with suspected heart attack and ordered to rest. The pressures of the recent weeks took their toll.

While she was in hospital, Ben-Gurion discussed the future of the Political Department with the staff in Jerusalem. He decided that they should remain in Jerusalem. "Moshe (Sharett) is not yet here, Golda must move here, there is nothing for a foreign ministry to do in Tel Aviv, but Jerusalem is Jerusalem, from a Jewish and an international point of view and may become the capital of the state." The Department staff pleaded with Golda to come to Jerusalem to be "the mother of this city and run the Department…Request that you take over the administration of political and security matters …Yours words to 100,000 residents will be a source of blessing and encouragement to all of us in this difficult time." She was convinced that her usefulness in Jerusalem was over.[29]

Once out of hospital, Ben-Gurion asked her to go to Haifa and sort out matters over the administration of the city occupied by the Haganah on 23 April 1948. He wanted her also to regulate ties between the British army and the Haganah and with the civilian administration of Haifa (and ensure Mapai's continued dominance of Haifa municipality). For the first time she came face to face with the Arab flight. She visited a former Arab neigbourhood in Haifa and saw Arabs bearing their few belongings making their way to the port to sail away from the country.[30] In late April she was also involved in discussions on the future make up of the Haganah General Command and supported Ben-Gurion's idea that there should be one headquarters and most of its senior officers should be Haganah officers who had served in the British army during the World War. He feared the close relations between the Palmach commanders and the left-wing pro-Soviet Mapam party. This discussion was inconclusive. In the remaining two weeks before the end of the Mandate she was involved in preparations for another meeting with King Abdullah.

From various sources the Haganah intelligence learned that Abdullah, now with British approval for him taking over the Arab part of Palestine, a deal made with Bevin in February 1948, reconsidered the arrangement he made with Golda in November. The time had come to meet with him directly and hear his position. This will determine if the Haganah will have to face the Syrian, Egyptian and Lebanese armies or also the crack Jordanian Legion as well, stationed some 15 kilometers from Tel Aviv, at the international airport. On 1 May Ben-Gurion approved the meeting and noted: "Golda wants to meet the King. She imagines she can influence him. I agree to the attempt, although I have no great hopes, but it is worth trying to prevent serious developments before or after 15 May." On 6 May she and Kaplan met for the last time the High Commissioner. She wanted free passage on the road to Jerusalem. He said the Arabs were not prepared to permit Jewish convoys from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He also asked that the Jews do not attack in Jerusalem until the British leave. The next time she heard from Cunningham was in 1969, when the old retired General advised Israel's Prime Minister Golda Meir not to withdraw from territories
captured by Israel in the Six Days War without proper guarantees.

On 10 May arrangements were concluded for her to see the King, this time in the home of his retainer Zubeiti in Amman. She was flown out of besieged Jerusalem by a small plane, drove to Haifa and dressed as an Arab woman, accompanied by Danin, drove to Naharayim, where they were picked up by Zubeiti and driven to Amman. She found a different man than she met in November, "very troubled, nervous and bothered." Even before they arrived in Amman Zubeiti advised them of the King's final proposals: Palestine will be a unified country, with autonomy for Jews in those areas mostly populated by them. After a year the country will be annexed to Jordan and the Jews will have representation in the Jordanian parliament. The King then asked Golda to postpone the declaration of independence due to take place in four days time. He spoke at length about the horror of a war which he wanted to spare, and said that while he did not renounce the arrangement made in November, then he was one and now he is one of five and had no choice. Abdullah realized that the Jews were determined to go ahead and proclaim their independence, Golda said so in no uncertain terms. He even pleaded that he wants to speak to Sharett to get his message clear. Golda in fact rejected his ideas and said ?f he reneges on the agreement we made with him and if he wants war – then we shall meet after the war…" The King later claimed that Golda misunderstood his intentions, but she clearly heard enough.

Once again there were no negotiations and she realized that the Haganah will have to change its plans. She was now in a hurry to get back to Tel Aviv and report to Ben-Gurion. On the way back to Naharayim she saw masses of Jordanian and Iraqi troops ready to cross into Palestine. In the early hours of 11 May she reached Tel Aviv and made her way directly to the hall where Mapai Central Committee met to decide whether to support independence or to wait and seek a truce instead. She sent Ben-Gurion a note: "We met in friendship. He is awfully worried and looks terrible. Did not deny that we had a word and understanding on a desirable arrangement, meaning he will take the Arab part. Burt now he is one of five and this is the plan he proposed – a unified country with autonomy in the Jewish parts, a year later this unified country will be under his rule." Ben-Gurion instructed the Haganah to revise its plans.[31]

Wednesday, 12 May was the day of decisions. Mapai's Central Committee recommended proclamation of independence. In a meeting of the Administrative Council with ten voting participants (three were stranded in Jerusalem) Golda reported on her meeting with Abdullah, Yadin reported on the military situation. Although Golda was not a member of this body, she stayed on for the rest of the discussion and had something crucial to say: "I think …we must go all the way. We cannot zigzag...if we (proclaim) it must be done with all the details. A state among the nations has a government, and our state must have a government…a provisional government." She came out for proclamation of the state. To make one step and then hesitate will not be useful.

She then concluded by saying: "I think the world awaits it, and if there is a proclamation it has to be done fully."[32] This was the final decision approved by six in favor and four against, among them Kaplan and Remez. It was also decided that Golda will travel to Jerusalem the next day and take charge of negotiations for a truce in the city with the foreign consuls. This meant she would miss the ceremony of the proclamation of Israel's independence. Coming from America she knew well what a signature on the Declaration of Independence meant. But being a loyal person she was ready to go back to Jerusalem.

The next day, 13 May, was her lucky day. The plane in which she was flying to Jerusalem developed engine trouble and the pilot barely made his way back to Tel Aviv. On Friday, 14 May, she was driven to the Tel Aviv Museum building, sat next to the dais, and heard Ben-Gurion read out the proclamation in his metallic voice. Like many others present she burst into tears. The tension of recent days evaporated. The die was cast. When she calmed down, wiped her tears, she proudly affixed her signature to the declaration. That evening she and three other Mapai leaders went to Ben-Gurion's home to present him with a bouquet of flowers. They found him huddled in discussions with his military advisers and he told them that the Arab invasion has started. That night she was alone in her hotel room in Tel Aviv. Her daughter was in kibbutz Revivim in the Negev awaiting the Egyptian army invasion, her son in New York. She declined an invitation to a small party at the hotel and sat pondering the future of Israel and her own life. That night Truman recognized Israel, the invasion began and cables arrived from New York demanding that she return at once for additional fund raising. She would now be a star – a signer of Israel's Declaration of Independence. The harsh truth was that for the first time since 1928 she had no administrative responsibility. She was merely a member of the new State Council. Her job in Jerusalem lapsed. And while she was pondering her future Moshe Sharett offered her the position of Israel's first diplomatic envoy to the Soviet Union, an idea she deeply resented. It meant shifting her again out of Israel to a country she disliked, a language she did not know and an environment very chilly in the midst of the Cold War.

What role did Golda play during this critical juncture? The truth is that since the beginning of the war, her role in Palestine was marginal. Her activities in Jerusalem and December 1947 and early January 1948 and later in March, April and early May 1948 were not central. She realized and resented this situation. She felt that she was being pushed aside to a secondary arena. She did, however fulfill a dominant role in securing the funds that were so vital for acquiring the weapons that ensured Israel's survival. But until the American episode, she had to content herself with stale arguments with the departing Mandatory officials and participating in various committees that made preparations for Jewish takeover, knowing well that there will no formal and orderly handover from the British to the Jews. She watched helplessly as the British left the country in a state of progressive chaos. Even her two meetings with Abdullah were not major events that changed the course of history. They were honest attempts by the Jews to seek accommodation with the Jordanian Monarch based on previous ties with him, but they cannot be seen as "collusion". In the second meeting she did not bring up the British permission to Abdullah to take over Arab Palestine. If there was "collusion", it was with Britain and not with the Jews.

She will be remembered however for the money she raised and the mobilization of American Jewry to provide the necessary funds that enabled Israel to fight the longest war in its history.

Golda raised some 90 million dollars during her two missions to America. This amount represented a third of the cost of that war estimated at some 275 million dollars. On the basis of this achievement alone, it is hard to argue with Ben-Gurion, who years later said: "When history will be written, it will be said that it was a Jewish woman who obtained the funds that made the state possible." Because of this alone, she deserves the title of Israel's midwife.

1. This paper is abstracted from Meron Medzini, The Proud Jewess – Golda Meir and the Vision of Israel, A Political Biography, Tel Aviv, 1990, pp. 109-166. 
2. See Meir Avizohar and others, (eds). Golda- Growth of a Leader, Tel Aviv, 1994, pp. 169-234. See also Marie Syrkin, Golda Meir – Woman with a Cause, New York, 1961, Peggy Mann, Golda-The Life of Israel's Prime Minister, London, 1972, Ralph Martin, Golda-The Romantic Years, New York, 1988. 
3. Yossi Goldstein, Eshkol – Biography, Tel Aviv, 2003, pp. 260-263. 
4. Palestine Post, 26 March 1946. For the full text of her testimony, see Azriel Karlibach, (ed). The Anglos-American Commission of Inquiry, Tel Aviv, 1946, Vol. II, pp.473-485. 
5. For details of Black Saturday, see Louise Fisher, ed. Moshe Sharett – The Second Prime Minister, Jerusalem, 2007, pp. 285-298. 
6. Rina and Yaacov Sharett, (eds). Imprisoned With Paper and Pencil, The Letters of Moshe and Zipporah Sharett during the period of his detention by the British in Latrun, Tel Aviv, 2000. 
7. Hatsofe, 4 July 1946. 
8. See Ilana Kaufman, "Political Activity on behalf of the National Institutions," in Golda-Growth of a Leader, pp.200-205. 
9. On the "King David" attack see Menachem Begin, The Revolt, Tel Aviv, 1974, pp.295-316. 
10. For the Morrison-Grady Plan see Gavriel Sheffer, Moshe Sharett- A Biography of a Moderate Leader, Oxford, 1996, pp. 192-218. 
11. Kaufman, "Political Activities", pp. 200-204, for the Paris meeting see Yossef Heller, "From Black Saturday to Partition", Zion, Vol.43, nos.3-4, 1979, pp. 114-161. 
12. For the discussions in Mapai see protocols of Mapai Secretariat, September 1946, Labor Party Archives, 26/46. 
13. On the 11 settlements see Goldstein, Eshkol, pp. 264-268. 
14. Protocols of the 22end Zionist Congress, Jerusalem, 1947, pp. 90-96. 
15. Golda Meir, My Life, New York, 1975, p. 112. 
16. Medzini, The Proud Jewess, p. 130. 
17. Michael Bar-Zohar, Ben-Gurion, Tel Aviv, 1978, vol. II, p. 661. 
18. Yehuda Slutsky, (ed). History of the Haganah, Tel Aviv, 1972, vol. III, p. 1195. 
19. Kaufman, "Political Activities", pp. 217-219, Medzini, The Proud Jewess, pp. 131-132. 
20. For the first Golda-Abdullah meeting see her report, Central Zionist Archives, S25/4004, 20 November 1947. 
21. For her activities in Jerusalem in December 1947 and January 1948 see Gedalya Yogev, (ed) Political and Diplomatic Documents, Jerusalem, 1980 and David Ben-Gurion, War Diary, Tel Aviv, 1982. 
22. Menachem Meir, My Mother-Golda Meir, New York, 1983, p. 114. 
23. For the full text of her speech see Marie Syrkin, (ed). Golda Meir Speaks Out, London, 1973, pp. 73-79. 
24. Kaufman, pp. 221-222. 
25. Details of her fund raising achievements are noted in Ben-Gurion, War Diary, pp. 107-371 passim. 
26. For Ben-Gurion's remarks see Meir Avizohar and Avi Bareli, (eds). Now Or Never-Mapai Discussions in the Last Year of The British Mandate, Beit Berl, 1989, pp.377-381. 
27. Golda Meir, My Life, p.113. 
28. Avizohar and Bareli, Now Or Never, pp.357-358. 
29. For the feelings of the Political Department staffers see Political and Diplomatic Documents and Ben-Gurion War Diary. 
30. Yossef Almogi, Under the Burden of the Crossbar, Jerusalem, 1980, p. 79. 
31. For the second Meir-Abdullah meeting see her report to the People's Administration, 12 May 1948, Zeev Sherf, Three Days, Tel Aviv, 1981, p. 63 and for the collusion theory see Avi Shlaim, Collusion Across the Jordan, New York, 1988. 
32. Protocols of the People's Administration, 12 May 1948, pp. 80-110.