The Road to National Leadership
Abstract and Keywords
Just when it seemed that Shertok was ready to follow the path designed for him by his closest friends and his party's leaders and plunge into the day-to-day activities of Ahdut Haavodah, he surprised his acquaintances in the party and the Yishuv. For he decided to make a pause in his budding political career and resume the academic studies that had been interrupted by the Great War, that is, by his deplorable military service and by his activities on behalf of the Yishuv in the wake of that war. Towards the end of 1920, notwithstanding a further severe deterioration of security in the Holy Land, and despite rearguard opposition to his studies still coming from Ahdut Haavodah leaders, such as Berl Katznelson, Yitzhak Tabenkin, and Shmuel Yavnieli, Shertok left family, party, and community for London. Those he left behind had no other choice but to respect his decision and try to help him in his new endeavour.
Young men have their own perceptions about personal priorities. Thus just when it seemed that Shertok was ready to follow the path designed for him by his closest friends and his party’s leaders and plunge into the day-to-day activities of Ahdut Haavodah, he surprised his acquaintances in the party and the Yishuv. For he decided to make a pause in his budding political career and resume the academic studies that had been interrupted by the Great War, that is, by his deplorable military service and by his activities on behalf of the Yishuv in the wake of that war. This decision, which did not surprise his intimate friends, and which was intended to honour his late father’s wish and to satisfy his own intellectual curiosity and cravings, gained the blessing of only a few Zionist and Yishuv leaders, among them Chaim Weizmann, Zeev Jabotinsky, who was then still close to the Labour camp, and, somewhat unexpectedly, David Ben-Gurion.
Although Shertok’s resolute decision was no surprise, it was not popular among his intimate friends. They and the majority of his party’s leaders denounced his intention, particularly at that precarious juncture in the history of Palestine, the Yishuv, and the Labour movement. They were then under the disturbing influence of a new wave of violent clashes between Jews and Arabs, that was a continuation of the previous wave which had rocked Palestine from the beginning of 1919. These new clashes began on the Syrian border in the Upper Galilee region, where they resulted in the total destruction of several Jewish settlements and the death of their defenders, including the renowned Yosef Trumpeldor and his fellow settlers in Tel-Hai. In early 1920, in reaction to the resolution of the Supreme Council of the Peace Conference at San Remo on the future status of Palestine as a territory under British Mandate, the unrest spread to other parts of the country, including Jerusalem.
This latest outburst of violence astounded the Yishuv’s political élite, some of whom, such as Zeev Jabotinsky and David Eder, then active in the Zionist Commission, viewed it as a clear proof of the already unbridgeable gap between the Arab and Jewish communities, and consequently argued for total separation. The majority of the Jewish leaders, however, thought that the main reason for those violent eruptions (p. 35 ) was the behaviour of the basically anti-Semitic British military authorities, who, notwithstanding the stipulations of the Balfour Declaration and the government’s pledge to the Zionist leaders, not only passively favoured the Arabs but also discriminated against the Jews. Other leaders attributed the disturbances to continuous agitation by the religious and economic Palestinian Arab élites, who were opposed to the Yishuv’s growth on religious anti-Jewish grounds or from fear of the Yishuv’s economic dominance.
Fully aware of the implications of these developments in both security and politics, as well as of the opposition to his departure, Shertok was nevertheless determined to go ahead with his academic studies. Already regarded as an accomplished expert on Arab affairs, before he left he expressed his views in the controversy about the roots of Arab discontent which led to the violent outburst in 1920. Thus, after the stormy events in Palestine, he prepared a memorandum for the Zionist Executive.1 Basing his views on an elaborate analysis of the deteriorating situation in the country, he attributed the violence to the diverse national goals of the two communities. He severely criticized the Zionist and Yishuv leaders for failing to do more to improve relations between the Jewish and Arab communities. Lamenting their lack of understanding in domestic, regional, and international politics, and their consequent disregard to political planning, he also chided the Yishuv leaders’ complacency in accepting the League of Nations’ resolution to entrust the Mandate to the British and in expecting the British government to alleviate the tension, through its first Jewish High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel. Thus, already at that early stage of the Arab–Jewish conflict, Shertok’s Palestinocentric views led him to oppose total reliance on the British and other actors on the international scene on the one hand, and to advocate direct talks and to seek compromise with the Arabs, on the other. ‘Once and for all we should understand’, he wrote, ‘that by relying only on external forces, or on rights granted to us by the powers, we will not be able to secure a sound political position in Palestine.’ Such a sound position could only have been attained if the leaders had tried ‘to reach a compromise on the basis of respect for our neighbours in the country and region, and to acquire [the Arabs’] recognition of, and consent to, the basic political principles involved in the establishment of our national home’. In the latter part of this frank exposé, Shertok suggested a number of practical steps, including a comprehensive campaign aimed at explaining to the local and regional population the Yishuv’s political and economic position.
(p. 36 ) Believing even in those early days that some form of compromise with the Arabs was both necessary and possible, Shertok asserted that such agreement depended on planned and systematic efforts on the part of the leaders of the Yishuv and of the Zionist movement. He felt that since the Palestinian Arabs constituted an integral part of the entire Arab nation, the leaders of the neighbouring Arab states should be consulted and convinced that they should endorse such an agreement. Always the political realist and pragmatist, Shertok knew that a dialogue with either Palestinian Arab leaders or the governments in the neighbouring countries would not yield immediate fruits; but he also postulated that it was of paramount importance to show the Arab élites that ‘the Yishuv greatly valued a compromise with them, one aimed at closing a gap that might lead to many disasters’. Apart from his genuine persistent belief in the need for and possibility of reaching an agreement with the Arabs, a chief reason for adopting this conciliatory strategy towards them was his concern that mounting tensions in the territory would cause a British withdrawal from the Mandate.2 In coming out early in his political career with this approach, Shertok demonstrated intellectual honesty and courage, and of course a strong inclination towards moderation in the Arab–Jewish conflict over Palestine.
Shertok’s distinct ‘line’ in regard to the escalating conflict stemmed from a combination of his Palestinocentric ideas, a realist perception of the Yishuv’s capabilities and basic interests, an ingrained inclination towards compromise as a method of reducing the level of the conflict, and an understanding of the overriding need to maintain open channels of communication with local and regional Arab leaders. In this, he preceded other Zionist leaders, especially of course the activist leaders, such as Ben-Gurion, who still held naïve socialist views about the possibility of full reconciliation between the two sides, based on the purported common interests of the working classes in the two communities.
His anxieties about the future of his family and community in view of the events in Palestine did not stop Shertok from pursuing the coveted academic studies away from Palestine. His decision was not made lightly, since the pressures to stay in Tel Aviv were substantial, beginning with his own hesitations over ‘abandoning’ his family, party, and community. Then there were pressures applied by his mother, mainly from financial considerations, as well as by Golomb and Hoz, who wanted him to stay and assist them in dealing with day-to-day matters of politics and defence. Finally, there were the pressures exerted by many of his party’s leaders and by the rank and file. None the less, despite (p. 37 ) these pressures and despite the knowledge that he would severely jeopardize his political career by leaving Palestine at that critical juncture, Shertok was stubbornly firm in his decision to go his own way and to follow his father’s wishes.
Once his colleagues realized that Shertok was bent on fulfilling his dream for higher education, compromises were made to accommodate his desire in the best tradition of the internal politics of the Zionist movement, the Yishuv, and his party. Since Britain then ruled Palestine, it was readily understood that Shertok would study at the very centre of the British empire—London. Since by now he had pledged absolute allegiance to the socialist Ahdut Haavodah, it was also decided that he would study at the young and flourishing London School of Economics, which was founded by the Fabians Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Also, since he had loathed studying ‘dry law’, and since it was felt that, in view of the Balfour Declaration promises, Yishuv leaders needed more training in political economy in order to facilitate the development of the Yishuv under British rule, it was agreed that he should read this subject in London. Finally, since he wished to maintain his position in the party, and the party wished to retain his allegiance and make use of his dedication and talents, it was decided that he would be appointed as Ahdut Haavodah’s representative in London.
Towards the end of 1920, notwithstanding a further severe deterioration of security in the Holy Land, and despite rearguard opposition to his studies still coming from Ahdut Haavodah leaders, such as Berl Katznelson, Yitzhak Tabenkin, and Shmuel Yavnieli,3 Shertok left family, party, and community for London. Those he left behind had no other choice but to respect his decision and try to help him in his new endeavour.
Unlike his previous departure for the Turkish university in Constantinople, this time Shertok was more than a young, inexperienced, and humble student; he was now 24, more mature and self-confident, and moreover, he felt satisfied with his appointment as the chief representative of his party in the centre of the British empire, especially since he expected a modest pay for his services. Characteristically, once in London, he would do his utmost not to let down those who supported his decision to go there. As his supporters expected, he would faithfully combine academic studies on political economy, under the tutelage of such British Labour party luminaries as Sydney Webb and Harold Laski, with hard work for his own party and with giving private Hebrew lessons to earn the money he needed for paying his tuition and living expenses.4
(p. 38 ) Overburdened as he was with his studies in the prestigious London School of Economics and with his work for his party and his living, Shertok did not, however, diminish his unremitting concern for his family, friends, and the Yishuv in troubled Palestine. Thus, after a brief period of adjustment to his new surroundings, he became deeply involved in fund-raising and weapon procurement for the Haganah (Defence), the clandestine Jewish paramilitary organization which his friends Golomb and Hoz were leading and promoting. He also participated in an endless round of political activities on behalf of his party, among both Jews and Gentiles, in London and other parts of England, as well as in special missions to purchase weapons for the Haganah, especially to Austria, which then served as an important centre for the Yishuv’s clandestine activities.
While executing missions for the Yishuv and for the party, Shertok became closely acquainted with, and gained the respect of, several British and European Zionist leaders and Jewish dignitaries. These experienced and shrewd men liked Shertok and appreciated his intellectual qualities, organizational skills, dedication to the Zionist movement, and his determination to promote and protect its interests, as well as his pleasant demeanour and polished behaviour. Chief among his new mentors and supporters in London were Chaim Weizmann, Zeev Jabotinsky, and members of the Sieff and Marks ‘family’, who were then building up Marks & Spencer.
Shertok had hardly adjusted to his new life in London when he was confronted with a fresh dilemma. The budding Palestinian Arab national movement launched yet another round of riots that ran through 1921. These riots were not entirely spontaneous, since, to an extent, this outburst was initiated and orchestrated by the newly established Supreme Muslim Council, then the Palestinian Arab Community’s main central organization. This time, the violence erupted in reaction to a combination of developments: the birth of more militant political and economic organizations within both the Arab and Jewish communities; difficulties of both communities in adjusting to the British rule in the Middle East and in Palestine; and mounting apprehensions about British preparations, including a visit by then colonial secretary, Winston Churchill, for radical solutions to Britain’s new predicaments in the region and Palestine. In Yishuv and Zionist circles, a popular explanation for the protracted violent outburst in Palestine was the British government’s hesitation in dealing with its instigators. The Palestinians adopted a mirror image view of the situation.
Hearing about the turbulence and the Yishuv’s new tribulations, the guilt-stricken Shertok interrupted his studies, and immersed himself in (p. 39 ) fund-raising for the Haganah as well as in political activities intended to obtain support for the besieged Yishuv. As part of his efforts, he again travelled to Vienna where he became involved in a fervent attempt to buy weapons and smuggle them into Palestine.
These developments also called for a political response on the part of the Yishuv and Zionist leaders. Since Shertok was regarded as one of the most knowledgeable experts on Arab affairs, and since he was strategically positioned and in close touch with the British political scene, his colleagues in Palestine asked him to provide a strategic analysis of the situation. He willingly produced a detailed evaluation. His diagnosis and recommendations were based on the assumption that the riots constituted an authentic manifestation of Arab nationalist fervour. In a thoughtful and well-argued letter personally addressed to Ben-Gurion, who had attributed the riots to the machinations of corrupt and sometimes absentee Effendis (Arab landlords) and to British inaction, Shertok maintained that the Yishuv was facing the emergence of a proud national movement on the part of the Palestinian Arab masses. Sceptical of Ben-Gurion’s analysis of the situation and unrealistic proposals to remedy it by promoting co-operation between Arab and Jewish workers, Shertok passionately claimed that the riots were caused by the inherent conflict between Jewish and Arab national aspirations. Asserting that there would be no easy solution to this existential inter-communal conflict, he concluded with a stern warning to the Yishuv leaders to prepare for a protracted confrontation by encouraging Jewish immigration, increasing land purchase, establishing more settlements, and, last but not least, improving their shaky relations with the British government and Arab leaders.5 Shertok’s unconventional views collided with those of the party’s more activist leaders—Katznelson, Ben-Gurion, Tabenkin, as well as his best friend, Golomb—and came closer to the moderate views of Weizmann and Chaim Arlosoroff, a brilliant and aspiring young leader of the still independent Hapoel Hatzair.
The protracted violent clashes in Palestine also affected Shertok emotionally. Since the riots were not abating, he was planning to return to Palestine out of great concern for the fate of his family and community. But just as he was ready to leave London, Shertok was instructed by the Ahdut Haavodah leadership to stay there and continue his activities in Britain and Europe. Reluctantly, Shertok complied, and out of his feeling of guilt for being so far from Palestine, he augmented his efforts to raise funds and buy weapons.
Only when these riots, which constituted a further major crisis in Palestine under British rule, subsided in early 1922, was Shertok able to (p. 40 ) resume his studies seriously and invest more time in attending to his personal affairs. During this lull in his activities on behalf of his party and the Haganah, Zipora Meirov, his sweetheart ever since the more carefree days at the Herzliya high school, joined him in London. Initially the couple lived together ‘in sin’ as the secular Shertok used to say mockingly, in a small apartment in London, sharing it with his close friend David Hacohen and with visitors from Palestine. Soon afterwards, the couple decided to marry, undergoing both civil and religious ceremonies in November of that year, and the newly-weds established their home in a yet smaller apartment in London. Following a Shertok family tradition, Zipora Meirov-Shertok decided to study agronomy at the University of Reading and reside there. Because of a chronic lack of financial resources the young couple could meet only occasionally at weekends and during vacations. Their shaky financial situation, especially bad because they tried to reduce their dependence on help from their impoverished families in Palestine, also meant that they had to borrow from wealthier members of the Shertok clan, such as Moshe’s uncle Zeev Shertok, as well as from his rich friends in London—and then had to work hard to repay these debts. All the scrambling around to keep body and soul together had an adverse affect on Shertok’s merciless self-assessment of his studies and academic accomplishments—unjustly, he was convinced that he was failing in this sphere.
At about the same time in Vienna, where they were studying music, his sisters, Rivka and Ada, married Hoz and Golomb. This created even closer relationships between the three friends, as well as with Zipora Shertok’s brother, Shaul Meirov-Avigur, who squared the former triangle of friendship. Eventually, the foursome became known throughout the Yishuv and the Zionist movement as the ‘brothers-in-law’. These three marriages made the expanded ‘Shertok clan’ the single most eminent family in the Yishuv’s political élite. Moreover, their middle-class background, higher education, a certain newly acquired aloofness, and refined manners led many in the Labour movement to regard them as the ‘princes’, or as members of the Yishuv’s ‘aristocracy’. Their self-perception was different—they preferred to regard themselves as a ‘service aristocracy’ totally dedicated to the redemption of the Yishuv. The new relationship was of particular significance for Moshe Shertok, who always needed emotionally warm surroundings. This was, however, hardly a three-to-one-way relationship. Shertok was capable of and willing to extend to his brothers-in-law valuable support, advice, and assistance when they needed it.
The Shertoks remained in England until 1925. During the rest of their stay there, Moshe was engaged mainly in pursuing his studies at the (p. 41 ) London School of Economics and in his political activities as representative of Ahdut Haavodah. In this capacity, he became involved in rebuilding British Poalei Zion, the Ahdut Haavodah sister party in England. It was also during this period that he successfully established solid connections with the British Labour party that helped lay the foundation for the long-term, albeit problematic, co-operation between the British and Yishuv Labour movements.6 While he continued to expand his circle of influential and rich acquaintances and admirers during these years, Shertok’s most enduring contacts would be those with the president of the Zionist movement, Chaim Weizmann, and with Weizmann’s associates, such as the Sieff family, Lord Balfour’s niece, Lady Blanche Dugdale, Professor Selig Brodetsky, and the noted historian, Louis Namier, all of whom were working in the London branch of the Zionist movement with the particular aim of formulating and implementing the movement’s foreign policy.
Despite his earlier apprehensions about his academic achievements, Shertok completed his studies and obtained his degree with flying colours. He was highly praised by his tutors at the London School of Economics, and maintained lifelong contacts with some of them, especially with Harold Laski. For many years, Laski, as well as Shertok’s other professors at the London School of Economics, would fondly remember their bright student from Palestine. These connections would be maintained and utilized for promoting the Yishuv’s interests at later stages in Shertok’s political and diplomatic career. After obtaining his degree, the Shertoks stayed in London for a few additional months. The delay in the couple’s return to Palestine was caused by Shertok’s determination to earn enough to pay his debts, by his wife’s desire to complete her own studies of agronomy at Reading, and by some urgent activities connected with his future undertaking in Palestine.
When Shertok returned to Palestine in 1925, it was to participate in the editorial board of Davar, the new daily newspaper of the Labour movement. The newspaper was sponsored by the Histadrut, the Jewish trade-union movement in Palestine. The chief editor was Shertok’s political mentor, Berl Katznelson. The latter, together with a small group of Labour and Histadrut leaders, had begun planning as far back as 1923 the establishment of a newspaper that would cater for the better-educated Jewish workers and Labour-Zionist intellectuals. When, during his visits to London, Berl had broached the idea to his younger admirer there and suggested that he should join its board of editors, it was with the knowledge that, among other things, Shertok had been writing successfully for various Labour publications in Palestine, such as (p. 42 ) Kuntress and Hapoel Hatzair, as well as for British newspapers and journals. Berl had elaborated his plans for the newspaper to Shertok in long and detailed letters. In these communications, he had explained the political rationale and various purposes of that endeavour, and Shertok responded enthusiastically. Shertok had grasped the political opportunities that might be open to their party, and not less personally to himself, as a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. Thus, while he was preparing for his final examinations at the London School of Economics late in 1924, Shertok helped his mentor in establishing connections with European and British news agencies, editors, and journalists, as well as in solving technical matters related to the newspaper’s establishment, such as the purchase of equipment and paper.
For a short while, Shertok had even contemplated interrupting his studies and returning to Palestine to work with Berl and the evolving editorial board. Sensing, however, that he would never have another chance to satisfy his middle-class dream of academic education, and from his usual determination to execute fully whatever mission he undertook, Shertok remained in London until he successfully completed all the requirements for his academic degree and repaid all his debts.
As the ambitious plan for establishing Davar materialized, early in 1925 Shertok finally returned to Palestine, where he joined Berl and three other distinguished colleagues on the editorial board of the new paper. Zipora Shertok returned to Palestine later, after completing her own studies on agronomy. On Zipora’s return, the couple settled down in a tiny apartment in Tel Aviv not far from the Shertok family house in which the Golombs had settled after returning from Vienna. Then Zipora Shertok began working in a small training farm in Tel Aviv. This idealistic couple consciously adopted a modest style of living during the first few years after their return from London.
The fact that Davar was sponsored and financed by the Histadrut was a significant aspect of the latter’s pivotal political and economic role in the Labour movement in Palestine as well as in the entire Yishuv. This also affected the status of all the members of the newspaper’s editorial board, including, of course, Shertok’s. Berl’s invitation to Shertok to join Davar’s editorial board had been more than just a simple journalistic affair; it was a political appointment par excellence. Like all other political bodies in the highly politicized Yishuv, and especially in the Labour movement, this editorial board was carefully balanced to represent the Histadrut’s two main partners: Ahdut Haavodah and Hapoel Hatzair. Although Shertok formally represented Ahdut Haavodah, he maintained his old ideological affinity and personal friendly relations (p. 43 ) with the more moderate leaders of Hapoel Hatzair. Typically, this dual loyalty led him to try to build bridges between the leaders of both parties.7
Back in Tel Aviv, eager to re-establish his own power base in the party, Shertok resumed some of his old political activities, such as co-ordinating the party and the young youth movements, and renewed contacts with his many old and new colleagues in an attempt to establish a constituency. In addition to his several political tasks in the party and Histadrut, he would continue working for Davar until 1931, eventually becoming deputy editor. On his part, Berl had some vague plans that his gifted disciple would replace him as chief editor of the newspaper. In the meantime, Shertok immersed himself in the work in Davar, where he was in charge of editing the front page and of reports on international and regional politics. In addition to his editorial responsibilities he was contributing analytical articles on a variety of international and domestic affairs. Subsequently, whenever Shertok was asked about his profession, he would always proudly respond that he was ‘a journalist’. His was of course mobilized journalism.
In 1929, about four years after his return to Palestine from London, Shertok’s dedication to the Yishuv’s and to his party’s renewal and efforts on their behalf, together with his talent for languages and his command of English, led him to accept the editorship of Davar’s English supplement. Initiated after the 1928 riots and actually established during the 1929 riots that rocked Palestine and especially the surprised British, this supplement was intended to serve as a means of communication between the Yishuv’s Labour movement, Jews in English-speaking countries, and especially British officials, officers, and foreign journalists. This too was mobilized journalism bordering on propaganda, and in any case, it was a significant political appointment.8 Rather than being his sole function, Shertok’s task in the English supplement of Davar was in addition to his regular duties on the Hebrew paper. In this new capacity, he used to write on world affairs in general, and in particular on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs. During this period he also continued to write for the main Hebrew edition of Davar on such concerns of the Jewish working class in Palestine as the protracted miners’ strike in Britain, the appalling situation of workers in the USA and European countries during the great depression, the British Labour Party, as well as on Arab–Jewish relations, developments within the Palestinian Arab community and the Arab countries. He was then writing under his own name or using one of his two purposely symbolic pen names: M. Ben-Kedem (literally, Son of the East), or M. Karov-Rahok (literally, (p. 44 ) close-distant).9 His work on the editorial board of the then popular, innovative, and authoritative Davar, coupled with his frequent visits to Ahdut Haavodah branches and the many speeches and lectures that he delivered in all quarters of the Yishuv, made Shertok well known in the Labour movement throughout the Jewish community. His work as editor of Davar’s English supplement added to his growing reputation in British and Zionist circles inside and outside Palestine.
Like all aspiring politicians, Shertok was trying to expand further the scope of his activities in order to increase his visibility, constituency, and thus his power base. During his six years on the editorial board of Davar, and as a consequence of continuous and hard political work, he utilized his unobtrusive personality, growing prominence, and popularity in Ahdut Haavodah and the Yishuv, as well as his intimate relations with his influential brothers-in-law and friends, to improve his position in the party’s élite. Thus, he was either elected or appointed to serve on most of the party’s powerful and prestigious committees in which policy was formulated, and to be a part of those organs of the party which were responsible for drafting its platforms and for some far-reaching reforms and restructuring of both the party and the Histadrut organization.
Through participation in these efforts, Shertok became known as a political reformer. Like his attitude to other aspects of life and politics, he approached the complex issues of organizational reforms with his customary seriousness, prudence, and liberalism, that is, truly as a social democrat. Out of this conviction, in these attempts, he always stressed the importance of the individual over class, society, and nation, and was for allowing substantial freedom to individuals and opposition within all organizations and institutions.10 In pursuing these social democratic principles, he was in a minority among the still social-revolutionary class-oriented Ahdut Haavodah élite. Unlike most of his colleagues in the party’s leadership, his main concern was to reduce organizational controls over individual members and thereby minimize their dependence on central decision-making and planning. Needless to say, he opposed all impersonal bureaucracies.
Always opting for the liberal over the authoritarian, the humane over the impersonal, and in a moderate, gradualist, and pragmatic way, Shertok was able to contribute to some reforms in Ahdut Haavodah and the Histadrut, and also to the slow movement towards unifying his party and the moderate socialist and nationalist Hapoel Hatzair. His long-standing contacts with younger members of the Labour movement led him also to assume responsibility for building up the Labour camp-oriented youth movements and for encouraging young people to join the (p. 45 ) camp and party. These activities not only enhanced Shertok’s reputation and increased his informal standing within his party, but reduced his dependence on the party machinery and bureaucrats, and brought him closer to the actual power centres in the Labour movement. The status that Shertok obtained and his power bases in the party were particularly significant in view of signs of profound change that appeared towards the end of the 1920s in Arab–Jewish relations in Palestine and in the internal politics of the expanding and more prosperous Yishuv.
One of the overriding issues then facing the Labour movement in view of the tense atmosphere in the country was the urgent necessity to consolidate its forces by means of a merger between Ahdut Haavodah (which, as it has been noted, was itself the coalitional result of the merger between Poalei Zion and the Berl’s Non-Partisan party) and Hapoel Hatzair. Well aware that unity within the Labour movement was essential if it was ever to be the hegemonic political force in the Yishuv and the Zionist movement, Ahdut Haavodah leaders were engaged in endless talks and negotiations with their counterparts in Hapoel Hatzair, and necessarily moderated some of their ideological positions to prepare the ground for an eventual union. Because of his centrist ideological and organizational position as well as his continued contacts with aspiring leaders of Hapoel Hatzair, such as Chaim Arlosoroff, Shertok was instrumental in the slow and convoluted march towards the establishment of a unified party. His service on most of Ahdut Haavodah’s committees set up to pave the way for such a merger was welcomed by Hapoel Hatzair’s leaders who knew that his ideological positions were not far from theirs, and trusted his sincerity and genuine desire for unity.
At the Fifth Convention of Ahdut Haavodah, held after a new wave of Arab–Jewish clashes, which added to the sense of urgency concerning the merger of the two parties, towards the end of 1929 Shertok avidly supported a bold move in the direction of the final merger of the parties in order ‘to protect the very essence of Zionism’. Advocating the need ‘to create a broad and comprehensive Social-Zionist front whose centre is the Palestinian workers’ camp’, because the growth of the Zionist movement depended on the Jewish workers’ capability to catapult it to a pivotal position in the Jewish nation, Shertok went on to state that ‘in this case, action [that is, an actual merger] means realizing as far as possible our grand vision’. When the convention voted to continue moving towards a full merger with Hapoel Hatzair, Shertok was influential in ensuring that the proposed platform of the united party was only moderately nationalistic with regard to claims over Palestine and relations with the Arabs, and that it called for a gradualist approach (p. 46 ) to social change instead of revolutionary methods.11 When the final steps towards unification were made, he kept reminding his colleagues that, like other social democratic parties, they too should emphasize ‘unity of work over unity of view’, namely, that ideological diversity and pluralism would facilitate and cater best to the needs of the Jewish workers in Palestine.12 It was no surprise, therefore, that Shertok participated in drafting the new party’s platform and formulating its future strategies, especially in the spheres of defence and foreign affairs, the two fields in which he would come to excel and co-operate with Hapoel Hatzair’s leader, Chaim Arlosoroff.
Shertok’s experience and increasing involvement in both defence and foreign affairs had been enhanced by his participation in the discussions with the British commissions of inquiry sent to probe into the sources of the disturbances that had been launched by Palestinian Arabs in 1928 and 1929. This new round of hostilities was related to a new phase with long-term consequences in the political radicalization of the Palestinian Arab community on the one hand, and on the other to the perception by the Arabs of the menacing expansion and greater prosperity of the Yishuv which was not affected by the approaching world economic crisis. More immediately, these clashes were provoked by Jewish activists trying to change the status quo that had been imposed by the mandatory power regarding such sensitive political and religious arrangements as those concerning the status of the Western Wall. Chief among these Jewish activist groups were the supporters of the increasingly ultra-nationalistic views of Zeev Jabotinsky, who himself had supported Shertok’s pleas to study in London and with whom Shertok had co-operated in Palestine and London about a decade earlier. His previous friendly relations and political collaboration with Jabotinsky notwithstanding, Shertok strongly opposed such provocations and one-sided attempts to change the status quo. Shertok was gradually becoming an avid opponent not just of these attempts to ‘establish facts’, but of most of the Revisionists’ social, political, and economic ideas propounded by Jabotinsky and his disciples.
As soon as the 1929 inter-communal riots had subsided, as became the custom in the wake of all crises in Palestine, the leaders of the various parties and political groups in the Yishuv reassessed their attitudes vis-à-vis the two major forces in Palestine: the British government, under its essentially pro-Arab, third High Commissioner, Sir John Chancellor, and towards the Palestinian Arab community, under the leadership of the increasingly powerful Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini. The main issue under reconsideration was whether, and to what extent, (p. 47 ) the riots had been carried out by a genuine organized national movement, or whether they were instigated by Arab leaders motivated by their own selfish interests and encouraged by the British government’s passive stance, and the High Commissioner’s well-known sympathy for the Arab and his hostility towards the Jews. Based on a comprehensive re-evaluation of the balance of forces in Palestine in general and in the Arab community in particular, Shertok adhered to his view, formulated in the early 1920s, that ‘like other groups, the Palestinian Arabs have demonstrated evident sentiments of a nation, of a collective entity, of a race [in the ethnic sense]’, and were reacting to the perceived threat of a large-scale Jewish immigration that might radically change the demographic balance in the territory. Unlike most of his colleagues in Ahdut Haavodah, Shertok was politically honest enough to see that, although individual Arabs might benefit from the Yishuv’s economic growth as a result of renewed immigration, in the long run and on the whole, the Arab community was bound to lose by such developments. He equally rejected the notion that the riots were taking place only as a result of British anti-Jewish machinations and tolerance toward extremist Arab elements. Instead, Shertok firmly argued that the Arabs’ nationalist and religious fervour was genuine.13 Consequently, he did not hesitate to draw the appropriate conclusions: while of course supporting the Zionist goal of establishing a national home in Palestine, he thought that the Yishuv must find ways to assuage the Arabs and reach a compromise agreement with them.
In view of the new political challenge facing the Yishuv, created by the continuous radicalization of the Palestinian community and the economic uncertainty, which had been caused by the depression, Shertok was among those who advocated an immediate merger of the workers’ parties. Thus, at the last separate council meeting of Ahdut Haavodah in 1929, he argued that only such a move would guarantee ‘the creation of the ultimately responsible body that will ensure the future of our national enterprise in Palestine’.14 As always, his emphasis was on the national aspect of the Jewish revival in Palestine.
The much coveted merger between Ahdut Haavodah and Hapoel Hatzair was finally accomplished in January 1930. This was the birth of Mapai, the Palestine Workers’ party. By combining Ahdut Haavodah’s zeal and organizational strength and Hapoel Hatzair’s creativity and pragmatism, the new unified party would soon become the most vital, dynamic, and powerful political force in the Yishuv. As expected, once the merger was accomplished, Shertok served on most of Mapai’s governing bodies: on its central and political committees, as well as on (p. 48 ) several ad hoc committees formed to deal with the ideological and organizational questions created by the merger. It was also almost natural that his leanings would be towards the less orthodox socialist and more moderate nationalist segments in the united party.
As a further sign of his ascendence in the Mapai hierarchy, Shertok became a regular senior delegate to World Zionist Congresses and reported on them in Davar. Characteristically, in his reports from both the 1929 and 1931 congresses, he expressed opposition to Weizmann’s authoritarian style of leadership as president of the World Zionist Organization, although certainly not to the latter’s moderate orientation and policies vis-à-vis the gradual development of the Yishuv, compromise with the Arabs and co-operation with the British. Thus, unlike some of his colleagues in Mapai’s leadership, Shertok whole-heartedly supported Weizmann’s drive to establish the Enlarged Jewish Agency, some of whose aims, as specified by the Mandate, were to facilitate cooperation and co-ordination with the British government. Like Weizmann, Shertok strongly supported the inclusion of non-Zionists in the proposed organization. Showing his independent approach, he could not resist writing that ‘the most important achievement [of the 1929 congress] is the organization that has been established before our own eyes [i.e. the Jewish Agency], and the new horizons that it has opened to the Zionist movement. The capacity that it has shown demonstrates the benefit to be gained by focusing all our energies in one direction.’ Nevertheless, Shertok also could not resist reminding Davar readers that the General Zionist president of the movement, Weizmann, then at the height of his power in the movement, controlled it almost single-handedly. Torn between his agreement with Weizmann’s political views and his inherent opposition to any non-democratic leadership, Shertok maintained that, while Weizmann’s leadership style should be challenged, Mapai must maintain its coalition with him and step up its involvement in the affairs of the Diaspora.15 To his great satisfaction, in the early 1930s Mapai began to assume a pivotal role in Zionist politics and continued to support Weizmann’s ‘line’. Shertok was pleased not just because of Mapai’s augmented power in the nation, but also because this political development enhanced his own position in the emerging Jewish polity in Palestine.
Once Mapai was formed and established, Shertok did not desist from assisting the Labour affiliated youth movements, such as Hamahanot Haolim (the Ascending Camps), the pioneering groups in the Jewish Scouts’ movement in Palestine, and Baharut Socialistit (Adolescent Socialists), which was the organizational framework for the younger (p. 49 ) members of Mapai. Together with Berl Katznelson, Shertok was regarded as being in charge of the informal ‘youth portfolio’ in Mapai’s councils. As always, his efforts in this sphere were intended to foster both his own standing in the party, and that of his party in the Yishuv.
Shertok and his brothers-in-law were now ready to take the major plunge into the deep waters of Zionist and Yishuv high politics. Golomb and Hoz had been building their own bases of political power in the party: the activist Golomb was first among equals in the Haganah’s leadership, and the more moderate Hoz was active both in the party’s external relations and in the Histadrut. Their ascendance in the party corresponded to the meteoric rise of Chaim Arlosoroff, whose ideological origins were in Hapoel Hatzair. At that critical juncture, in-obtrusively, so as not to offend Berl, Shertok himself, who felt that he had exhausted the potential inherent in his involvement in Davar, was seeking a major change in his political career, which would also mean a promotion.
Because of the new political realities in the Yishuv and Mapai, the ambitious Shertok knew that such a change was within his reach. This occurred when Weizmann was defeated as president of the Zionist movement at the stormy 1931 Seventeenth World Zionist Congress, and when consequently Mapai had formally joined the movement’s ruling coalition (previously Mapai only supported Weizmann’s coalition) and was about to get significant portfolios in the Zionist and Agency executives.
As was their practice, at that critical turning-point, Mapai leaders re-evaluated their positions, goals, and strategies. Aware that the other two main political camps in the Yishuv—the religious and the civic (right of centre) blocs—had elaborated their organizations and increased their constituencies, that the Revisionists had become ‘a large camp which is full of national pathos’, as well as being aware of the General Zionists’ growing strength, especially in the Diaspora, Mapai leaders realized that this was the right moment formally to assume the decisive role in shaping the political features of the Yishuv and the Zionist movement and in actually leading it.
Mapai leaders had also realized that, despite the Yishuv’s purported ethno-national and cultural cohesiveness, it was ideologically deeply segmented and split. They were aware that by the early 1930s the Jewish polity was already distinctly divided into three ideological blocs—Labour, Religious, and Civic—and that each of these blocs were led by small but highly organized and mobilized political élites that were in firm control over their respective blocs, and that despite their divergent (p. 50 ) ideologies, these élites co-operated on important political and economic issues behind the scenes. Moreover, notwithstanding their deep divisions, most of the leaders of the three blocs were reluctant to do anything that would rupture the image of unity vis-à-vis the British and the Arabs. This led them to agree upon some general communal goals, such as the need to foster immigration, settlement, and absorption of immigrants. In addition to their resultant ability to reach consensus about such sweeping national goals, the three camps also maintained sophisticated formal (i.e. the pure proportional electoral system) and informal (i.e. behind-the-scenes negotiations) mechanisms for an equally strict proportional allocation of all resources at the community’s disposal, as well as representation in both the World Zionist Organization and the Yishuv’s governing bodies.
The awareness of Mapai’s leaders that the Yishuv was acquiring such segmented social and political features, together with their ability to draw the necessary practical conclusions, were indispensable to the party’s success in navigating its own and the Yishuv’s political ships. Hence, once Chaim Weizmann was for all intents and purposes unseated as president of the Zionist movement (as a result of accusations that his authoritarian control over the Zionist movement on the one hand, and his conciliatory policies towards the British on the other, had led to the restrictive 1930 White Paper, known as the Passfield White Paper), Mapai leaders, especially the impatient and ardent Ben-Gurion, who only then was becoming a national figure, decided that it was imperative to assume the leading role in the movement’s ruling coalition.
Generally supporting this drive and strategy, Shertok was convinced that while the new coalition would not allow full control by a Zionist socialist party, nevertheless, its establishment would assure the consensus necessary to eject the Revisionists out of the movement, or at least keep them in a status of permanent minority, and conduct a realistic policy towards Britain and the Arabs. He also supported the instrumentalist approach which advocated that Mapai should acquire control over the Zionist movement’s and the Jewish Agency’s political departments, rather than over its economic or service departments. As his views in this respect tallied with those of the party’s mainstream, Shertok would eventually be rewarded for ardently promoting them. Thus, as soon as Mapai succeeded in gaining control over both the political and financial departments in the 1931 Zionist Congress, and Chaim Arlosoroff was appointed to head the Agency’s Political Department in Jerusalem, Shertok was immediately appointed as member of the small advisory committee that Mapai formed to assist Arlosoroff, along with such (p. 51 ) senior Mapai leaders as Berl Katznelson, David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, and Shertok’s brother-in-law, Dov Hoz. Shertok’s membership of this small and powerful committee brought him yet another step closer to the centre of political action.
When Arlosoroff took over the pivotal Political Department of the Jewish Agency, which either supervised or directly handled all of the Yishuv’s political and diplomatic affairs, including relations with the British and other powers as well as with the Arabs, he unequivocally insisted that Shertok, who by then had acquired a reputation, as Labour’s most knowledgeable expert on international, British, and Arab affairs, should be appointed as the department’s political secretary, which was equivalent in rank and function to that of a director general of a ministry. Arlosoroff, who did not speak Arabic and was not intimately versed in Arab affairs, pressed for Shertok’s appointment, since he had planned to conduct comprehensive talks with Arab leaders and felt that Shertok’s experience in this field, his command of Arabic, as well as his organizational talents, were indispensable to the successful outcome of a significant new orientation, which would lead to some concrete actions in this sphere.16 This demand by the new dynamic chairman of the Political Department, made with Shertok’s consent and encouragement, would mark a coveted major turning-point in his political career and serve as the launching pad for further ascent to autonomous political power.
Not everyone on the Mapai Central Committee was, however, ready to accede to Arlosoroff’s demand. Thus, not for the first time, the Central Committee meeting of 2 October 1931 was the scene of yet another heated debate over Shertok’s future career (the first occasion was the debate in the central committee of Ahdut Haavodah over his request to study in London in 1920, and the second over his appointment as a member of Davar’s editorial committee in 1924 and 1925).17 One of the leaders adamantly opposed to Arlosoroff’s ultimatum was Berl Katznelson. He argued that Shertok’s removal from the Histadrut newspaper would deprive Davar’s editorial board of one of its most efficient members, destroy the successful English edition of the newspaper, leave the party without one of its best minds and most dedicated spokesmen, and tarnish Shertok’s impeccable image as an intellectual in the Yishuv. At the same meeting, once again Berl divulged a widely known secret: that he had hoped Shertok would eventually succeed him as chief editor of Davar.
Among those who supported Shertok’s appointment as political secretary of the Department were his brother-in-law Golomb, Ben-Zvi, and (p. 52 ) Ben-Gurion, who revealed that he himself had contemplated recommending Shertok for a powerful position in the Histadrut. What made Ben-Gurion approve the Jewish Agency post was that ‘while we have many candidates for other tasks, I cannot see any alternative except Shertok for the task in the Political Department’.18 Ben-Gurion added that only someone like Shertok, who could work harmoniously with Arlosoroff, but whose political origin was Ahdut Haavodah, should be entrusted with this position. Arlosoroff himself repeatedly told the party leaders that the job he offered Shertok was not bureaucratic, but political, and asserted that the Mapai Central Committee had no better candidate for serious and high-level political work with both Arab leaders and the British politicians and officials. Thus, despite Berl’s vehement opposition, accompanied by an explicit threat to resign from both Davar and the Mapai Central Committee, Shertok was nominated for this post. The Central Committee was careful to stipulate that Shertok’s was a political, rather than an administrative, or bureaucratic, appointment. Armed with this firm assurance, Shertok himself was ready to assume his new senior position.
In those days a change-over from one political position to another was swift. Thus, only a few weeks after the debate in the Mapai Central Committee, Shertok left his desk at Davar in Tel Aviv and began to work in the offices of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency as Arlosoroff’s right hand, and also as former Ahdut Haavodah’s watchdog over Arlosoroff. This new assignment compelled Shertok to move his wife and his 4-year-old first son, Yaacov, to Jerusalem, thereby also fulfilling his father’s dream that his offspring should be rooted in the eternal city. The modest Shertoks rented a rather small apartment in Beit Hakerem, a new Jewish suburb in West Jerusalem, mostly inhabited by members of the Labour bloc intelligentsia. Soon afterwards the workaholic Moshe found himself immersed in Zionist and Yishuv high politics.
It did not take long for Shertok to discover how well the new political and diplomatic role suited him. Nor was it long before his party and the Zionist movement realized how well Shertok and Arlosoroff, these two bright, relatively young, and energetic members of the party élite, worked together to bring about a major change of direction and style in the crucially important Political Department. Thus, the highly motivated couple were able to increase the staff by recruiting young workers, such as Eliahu Epstein-Elath, Eliahu Sasson, and Reuven Zaslani-Shiloah, to create an efficient intelligence unit, establish friendly relations with many of the foreign consuls stationed in Jerusalem, as well as with the new British High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Arthur Wauchope, who (p. 53 ) generally speaking was pursuing an even-handed policy towards Jews and Arabs, but was personally favourably inclined towards the Yishuv. Above all, Arlosoroff and Shertok were introducing a significant change in the Yishuv’s foreign orientation.
As Arlosoroff and Shertok had shrewdly planned, they first established cordial relations with the British officials, thus ensuring an easy constant access to Wauchope. Arlosoroff eventually established an intimate and warm personal friendship with Sir Arthur, based on mutual cultural and intellectual interests. After creating such goodwill among British officials and officers, their next step was to launch a series of wide-ranging talks with Arab leaders, beginning with members of the powerful Husseini family, who controlled some of the main power centres in the Palestinian Arab community, with the leading opposition to the Husseinis, the large and rich Nashashibi family, with the leaders of the radical pan-Arab Palestinian Istiqlal party, and with Arab leaders in neighbouring countries, including Amir Abdullah of Transjordan.
Since this pair of aspiring politicians and consummate diplomats shared the view that because of its unusual depth and complexity, a comprehensive and permanent resolution of the emerging conflict was already almost unattainable, their talks with Arab leaders were aimed at buying time to allow the promotion of the Yishuv’s political and economic interests, but also gradually and substantially to reduce tensions between Jews and Arabs in order to reach a tolerable modus vivendi. Shertok would adhere to these ideas during his entire political career.
The most important contribution of the Arlosoroff-Shertok team to the Yishuv’s development was their utterly realistic policies and pragmatic moves vis-à-vis both friends and foes. They applied this approach to the most delicate political issues then confronting the Yishuv, namely, Jewish immigration, land purchase, settlement, and the development of the Haganah. Moreover, in their extended secret talks with Sir Arthur Wauchope, they focused not only on day-to-day practical issues, but also on wider philosophical and historical issues pertaining to the Yishuv’s growth, British rule in the Holy Land, and the intricate triangular relations between British, Arabs, and Jews. The gradual and increasingly moderate approach that the two pursued was encouraged on the one hand by the majority of the Jewish Agency Executive, and on the other by the High Commissioner. This approach paved the way for a major political success when, after much hesitation and consultation, Wauchope significantly increased the quota of Jewish immigrants to Palestine in April 1932; in fact it was doubled in comparison with the previous (p. 54 ) one. Essentially, Wauchope’s was a political decision, but it was justified by an impressive improvement in the economic conditions in the territory.19 Later, Sir Arthur would reveal that his aim in permitting that much larger Jewish immigration was eventually to create equal Arab and Jewish populations in Palestine as a means for the permanent solution of the conflict between these two ethnic national groups. Undoubtedly, Arlosoroff’s, and later Shertok’s, ideas, persuasion, and prodding influenced the High Commissioner and the British government to consider such a solution.
The coveted breakthrough in this sphere marked the beginning of the relatively large and mostly urban Fifth Aliyah, which would be of unequal importance for the development of the Yishuv (in 1932 the total number of Jewish immigrants was 12,500; in 1933 37,000; in 1934 45,000; in 1935 66,000), as well as for the next stages in its escalating conflict with the Arabs.
The intimate and harmonious relations between Shertok and Arlosoroff were unprecedented in the usually petty, bellicose, and competitive leadership of the Jewish community, its national bodies, and its various parties. The trust between the two was so profound that whenever Arlosoroff made one of his frequent trips abroad, Shertok performed most of his formal and informal political and administrative responsibilities. Hence, during the relatively calm two years after his appointment in 1931, Shertok gained much insight and experience in this complex sphere of the Yishuv development. Together, the two not only made the proper decisions about practical matters, but they were able also to effect long-term changes in the structure and procedures through which the Agency shaped and executed its relations with international, regional, and Palestinian actors. By introducing sophisticated intelligence collection and processing practices, by broadening the consultation with outside experts, by mending fences with Weizmann to prepare the ground for his eventual return to the presidency of the Zionist movement, and by creating new channels of communication with the British and the Arabs, they profoundly influenced ipso facto the Agency’s grand strategy, tactics, and policy implementation. For a while, it looked as if this successful partnership was destined for spectacular political and diplomatic achievements.
The partnership between Arlosoroff and Shertok was abruptly and tragically broken by the still-unsolved assassination of its senior partner. On 16 June 1933, immediately after returning from a trip to Poland and Nazi Germany, Arlosoroff was shot and killed by two unidentified persons on a dark Friday night, while walking with his beautiful wife, (p. 55 ) Sima, along the beach in Tel Aviv. The main purpose of his last trip to Central Europe had been to participate in the major electoral campaign launched by Mapai prior to the critical Eighteenth Zionist Congress of 1933, and in complex secret negotiations with Nazi authorities on the ‘transfer’ of Jewish immigrants’ property and money to Palestine in the form of German products. Ever since the mysterious assassination, unfounded rumours have persisted that the Labour leader was assassinated either by Nazi agents, or by Palestinian Arabs, or by members of the Revisionist movement, who bitterly opposed the Arlosoroff-Shertok orientation, or by British agents, or even by Mapai members who were disenchanted with Arlosoroff’s meteoric political ascendance and success. The truth is that despite a prolonged and convoluted trial, many commissions of inquiry, and numerous learned articles and books written at the time and later, which produced fantastic speculations and thus exacerbated internal conflicts, the identity of the perpetrators has remained a mystery.
The fact that Shertok had worked so closely and harmoniously with Arlosoroff and that he had served as acting chairman of the Political Department during Arlosoroff’s absence just prior to the traumatic murder would prove to be highly significant in enhancing his political career.20
Assassinations, even in democratic societies, often profoundly alter general political patterns as well as the fate of individual politicians. This was to be the case with the murder of Arlosoroff. At the level of the emerging Jewish polity in Palestine, the most immediate consequence was a severe blow to the morale of Mapai and the entire Yishuv. Yet of greater importance was the immense intensification of the acerbic struggle between the Revisionists and the Labour movement for control not so much of the Yishuv but of the Zionist movement. Partly out of genuine conviction that the Revisionists were behind the murder, especially after the arrest and identification by Sima Arlosoroff of Avraham Stavsky, a member of the Revisionist movement, as one of the two perpetrators, at the house of one of the more extremist leaders of this movement, Abba Ahimeir, and partly because of cynical calculations regarding how this would affect the forthcoming elections of the delegates to the Eighteenth Zionist Congress, Labour leaders, and first and foremost among them Ben-Gurion, singled out the Revisionists and openly accused them with planning and executing Arlosoroff’s assassination. Leaders of the Labour bloc and the intelligence service of the Haganah were instrumental in the arrest and trial of Stavsky and Ahimeir. The ensuing vehement struggle between the two political (p. 56 ) movements, which sullied the 1933 Zionist Congress, induced the Revisionists, led by Jabotinsky, to leave the 1933 Congress, and eventually to split off from the coalitional Zionist movement in 1935, and to establish their independent New Zionist movement.
While the Labour–Revisionist feud bedevilled the Yishuv and Zionism for more than three decades, at the time it contributed to Labour’s spectacular victory in the elections and elevation to its long-held position as hegemonial party in the Yishuv and the World Zionist Organization. In turn, Mapai’s overwhelming victory in the elections resulted in a major shift in the coalition governing the Jewish Agency, and in a spectacular promotion of younger Mapai leaders, including Moshe Shertok. Thus, among other upheavals, Mapai’s substantial electoral victory marked also the next stage in Shertok’s impressive ascendance to the role of national leader.
The possibility that he would be summoned to serve as the chairman of the Agency’s Political Department prompted Shertok to prepare for the task by re-evaluating the contemporary political scene. Beginning with Arab–Jewish relations, he was among the first Labour leaders to note and openly argue that, rather than shrinking, the cultural, political, and national cleavages between the Arab and Jewish communities were continuing to grow. This led him to conclude that the widening gap was occurring mainly because of similar tendencies toward separation that each community had harboured and exhibited. Shertok’s disillusionment in 1933 about the chances of rapprochement with the Palestinian Arabs was consistent with his earlier assessments of the depth of the conflict that produced the political impasse in Palestine. Nevertheless, determined as always, he was still for seeking pragmatic solutions to the Yishuv’s predicament, through strengthening it by large-scale immigration, gradual land purchase, settlement, and a further build-up of the Haganah—and all while continuing to conduct talks with Palestinian and other Arab leaders to minimize tensions and to prevent new outbursts of violence. Undeterred, he firmly believed that, for moral and political reasons and also to facilitate the Yishuv’s continued growth, calm was needed in Palestine.
Shertok’s conclusions regarding the Palestinian Arab community and its relations with the Yishuv were almost free of socialist dogma, which he considered largely irrelevant for the immediate foreign and security policies of the Yishuv. This was due to the fact that he had grown up in Palestine, that he held firm Palestinocentric views, and that he was fully aware of the severity of the conflict between Arabs and Jews.
Very soon after Arlosoroff’s assassination, even before Shertok’s formal nomination as the chairman of the Political Department, he (p. 57 ) made it clear that, if elected as the department’s chairman, he intended to continue to pursue political and diplomatic ideas, similar to those that had been developed and pursued by his dead colleague, but different from those of many of his activist colleagues in the Jewish Agency and Mapai.
(1) . See Sharett’s draft memorandum, not dated, CZA, A245/131/I.
(3) . See the protocols of the meetings of the Ahdut Haavodah Executive, Labour Archive, 404/IV/Ahdut Haavodah/B-A-1.
(4) . On his first days in London, see e.g. Shertok to ‘My Dear Friends’, 30 Oct. 1920, CZA, A245/130; Shertok to ‘My Darlings’, 6 Feb. 1921, and Shertok to his family, 10 Mar. 1921, Sharett family archive; Shertok to Berl, 7 Mar. 1921, Mapai Archive, series 201.
(5) . Shertok to Ben-Gurion, 24 Sept. 1921, Labour Archive, 104/IV/Ben-Gurion/6/C.
(6) . Y. Gorny, The Ambiquous Tie, The British Labour Movement and its Attitudes to Zionism. 1917–1947 (Heb.) (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 1982).
(7) . For a detailed account of the establishment of Davar see e.g. A. Shapira, Berl: A Biography (Heb.), 2 vols. (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1980), i. 241–69.
(8) . On his various functions in Davar see e.g. Zipora Shertok to Rivka Hoz, 26 Mar. 1925, in the Sharett family archive; Shertok to Berl, Apr. 1925, CZA, A/245/132/11; Berl to Shertok, 8 Apr. 1925, 23 Apr. 1925, and Shertok to Berl Monday (1925), also in the Sharett family archive.
(9) . For an early summary of his functions in Davar see, M. Shertok, ‘The Pages of Davar’, Davar, 1 June 1926.
(10) . On Shertok’s role in these reforms see e.g. the protocols of Ahdut Haavodah Council of 1925, the Labour Archive, 404/Ahdut Haavodah/B; and the protocols of the Ahdut Haavodah Council of Apr. 1927, Labour Archive, 4/the Central Committee of Ahdut Haavodah/404; and the protocols of Ahdut Haavodah Council, Nov. 1927, .
(11) . During that period, Shertok had extensively written about the process of unification, see e.g., M. Shertok, ‘Final Words’, Kuntress, 19/182 (1929).
(12) . Shertok in Kuntress, 19/371 (1929).
(13) . On Shertok’s positions as presented at the meeting of the Joint Secretariat of Hapoel Hatzair and Ahdut Haavodah, 10/11 Oct. 1929, Haganah Archive, Dov Hoz/10/111.
(14) . M. Shertok, ‘Final Words’.
(15) . See Shertok’s ‘Letters from Zurich’, Davar, 11–12 Aug. 1929, 16 Aug. 1929; ‘Letters from the Agency’s Council’, Davar, 22–3 Aug. 1929; ‘Letters from Basle’, Davar, 8–9 June 1931; and Shertok’s ‘Before the Seventeenth Zionist Congress’, Davar, 2 July 1931; ‘Letters from the Congress’, Davar, 10 July 1931; ‘Letters from Basle’, Davar, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 23, 24, 31 July 1931, 2 Aug. 1931. (p. 58 )
(16) . See Arlosoroff, in Mapai Executive Committee, 6 Aug. 1931, Mapai Archive 23/31.
(17) . Mapai Central Committee, 2 Oct. 1931, Protocols Book, Mapai Archive, 23/30; A. Shapira, Berl, i. 377–9; M. Getter, Chaim Arlosoroff: A Political Biography, (Heb.) (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuhad, 1977), 143; S. Avineri, Chaim Arlosoroff (Heb.) (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1991).
(18) . Mapai Central Committee, 2 Oct. 1931, Protocols Book, Mapai Archive, 23/30.
(19) . C. Arlosoroff, Jerusalem Diary (Heb.) (Tel Aviv: Mapai, 1945), 255–61, 263, 295; G. Sheffer, ‘Political Consideration in British Policymaking on Immigration to Palestine’, Studies in Zionism, 4 (Oct. 1981).
(20) . See protocols of the Jewish Agency’s Executive, 9 Apr. 1933, 23 Apr. 1944, CZA.