A one page letter handwritten by David Ben-Gurion, dated July 27, 1954 from Tel Hashomer. The letter is written in Hebrew to Knesset Member Yochanan Bader in Jerusalem.
Ben-Gurion cynically responds to Herut Party leader Menache Begin’s criticisms of MAPAI governing elite.
Ben-Gurion wrote (in full):
As I read in one of the newspapers the acerbic criticism and harsh accusations of your leader against the so-called pursuit for power and the purported irreverence of MAPAI’s leaders, I shut my eyes for a moment and asked myself: who is this accuser? A monk? A man who shuns the aspiration for power? A guileless tent dweller? And how did this innocent “righteous person” get into the Knesset? I opened my eyes and saw that this speaker s a member of the Knesset whose engraved slogan is: ‘We were chosen to rule [by god'” and I was astonished why he needs “to beat his own sins on someone else’s chest.’
with great respect,
copy: Moshe Sharett”
Although Ben-Gurion made many enemies from all corners of the political spectrum throughout his tumultuous political career, Menachem Begin, leader of the right-wing Herut party (and head commander of the pre-state underground Irgun organization) stood as his most dreaded political opponent.
Indeed, Ben-Gurion’s fear of Begin’s ascension too power became an obsession, and he never hesitated to launch vituperative attacks on Begin and the Herut party for their “fascist-like tendencies, flawed ideological vision, and extremism”.
His often quoted charge that “if Begin gained control of the state, he will replace the army and police command with his ruffians and rule the way Hitler ruled Germany, using brute force to suppress the labor movement” illustrates his deep distrust and outright antipathy of Begin. The two opposing politician’s confrontations became especially poignant over eht heated debate on WWII reparations from West Germany during the first half of the 1950’s, but their bitter feuds had already manifested themselves over such earlier issues as the nature of relations with the British Mandate authorities, the ideological direction of Zionism, the explosive Altalena Affair”, and the question of the territorial extent of the Israeli entity.
Ben-Gurion’s antagonism towards Gegin was so deeply rooted that in the Knesset he wouldn’t even call him by name, contemptuously referring to him as “the member sitting to the right of Mr. Bader”. In fact, in this letter, which is addressed to Mr. Bader himself, he refers to Begin as “your leader”.
David Ben-Gurion was an Israeli political leader who was responsible, more than any other leader, for molding modern Israel. He headed the provisional government during Israel’s war of independence in 1948. He served as Israel’s first Prime Minister (1948-53, and 1955-63). He sanctioned the attack on Egypt in 1956. By the time he retired from political life in 1970, he had come to symbolize the tenacity and determination of the young Jewish state.