“In the establishment of the state we’ve climbed a steep mountain,” Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, wrote in his memoirs in the early 1960s. “We no longer have the choice of staying put. We will either roll down into the abyss, or we will move up the mountain to the top.”
At the invitation of Makor Rishon, the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote a personal letter to his heroic predecessor, headlined, “Ben-Gurion, We’re Moving Up the Mountain.”
“Your declaration of independence gave the Jewish people a tremendous thing: national sovereignty in the homeland after more than two thousand years,” Netanyahu began his letter. Then, from his unique point of view, he added: “I know the amount of responsibility that was on your shoulders. It demanded a deep awareness of the dangers involved in the establishment of the state because of the immediate threat of the Arab armies invading from all sides.”
And, obviously reflecting on his own political experience, Netanyahu wrote: “It required ignoring the warnings and pressures directed at you at home and abroad to avoid the bold step. At this fateful juncture, you have decided in favor of Israel’s independence, in accordance with the basic rule that always guided you: the fate of Zionism will be determined in Zion.”
The new prime minister also informed the old prime minister of the radical changes in Israel’s political map since he had gone to a better place: “Four years after you died, there was a political upheaval in the country, but you shouldn’t feel bad about it – the transfer of power from the heirs of Mapai (Ben Gurion’s old Workers of Eretz Israel party, which he left in a huff in 1963) to the followers of the Herut movement (which Ben Gurion loathed, once used a cannon to fire at, and never addressed its leader, Menachem Begin, by name) deepened the democratization of Israel and generated other positive changes that contributed to the overall balance of our strength.”
“Despite the criticism, Israeli democracy is strong,” Netanyahu continued. “It overcame the terrible tragedy of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and the government continues to be determined by the public in free and fair elections time after time.”
For the record, Ben Gurion disliked Rabin intensely because of factional politics, and in his capacity as Defense Minister held back his career advancement. Rabin was finally promoted to IDF chief of staff only after Ben Gurion’s final and permanent resignation from Government.
Netanyahu continued to describe to his predecessor the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, the enormous investments in making the IDF by far the strongest military force in the region, and the unprecedented growth of Israel’s economy under the free market conditions introduced by the Likud.
It would be interesting to hear Ben Gurion, a devout Socialist who saw no problem in resorting to Bolshevik methods, opine about Israel’s new economy. And would he be thrilled by the country’s stunning technological progress? Remember, it was Ben Gurion who blocked the attempts to introduce Television in Israel (the country inaugurated its single, state-owned channel, black & white only, in 1966, after the great founder had gone home).
The current PM ended his letter to the first PM with good news: “In 1949, you officially declared that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, and firmly rejected the proposals to turn it into an international city. The circle was recently closed: US President Donald Trump issued a historic declaration and officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He even announced that he would soon move his country’s embassy to our eternal and united capital.”
Of course, some folks would probably be willing to pay a lot to find out what David Ben Gurion would have thought of Donald Trump.