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Moshe SharettBiography of a Political Moderate$

Gabriel Sheffer

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198279945

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198279945.001.0001

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The Second World War

The Second World War

(p.104) 4 The Second World War
Moshe Sharett

Gabriel Sheffer

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The growing certainty that the Second World War was imminent affected all actors involved in the Palestine quagmire, and particularly the British. Their fervent desire to ensure the loyalty of Arab leaders in view of the perceived strategic, political, and economic significance of the Arab states, overrode all other considerations concerning the Middle East. Therefore, Weizmann's and Shertok's stubborn efforts, made during late April and early May 1939, to persuade senior British politicians and officials to postpone the government's decision to publish a new White Paper, failed miserably. After his distressing visit to Poland, which he undertook from the traditional belief that ‘our struggle against the principles underlying the restrictive land and settlement policies does not relieve us from our duty to fight over every Jew and every piece of land that we can include in our legalwork’, Shertok tried to obtain the approval of his colleagues in Jerusalem to work towards the amendment of the impending White Paper. To his great chagrin, the frustrated leaders in Jerusalem did not approve of such an attempt.

Keywords:   Shertok, Weizmann, Second World War, Poland, Jerusalem, Arab leaders

THE growing certainty that the Second World War was imminent affected all actors involved in the Palestine quagmire, and particularly the British. Their fervent desire to ensure the loyalty of Arab leaders in view of the perceived strategic, political, and economic significance of the Arab states, overrode all other considerations concerning the Middle East. Therefore Weizmann’s and Shertok’s stubborn efforts, made during late April and early May 1939, to persuade senior British politicians and officials to postpone the government’s decision to publish a new White Paper, failed miserably. The prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, the foreign secretary, Lord Halifax, and the colonial secretary, Malcolm MacDonald, remained unmoved in their decision to issue a White Paper reflecting Britain’s proposals to the Palestinian representatives and the representatives of the Arab governments at the London conference.1

After his distressing visit to Poland, which he undertook from the traditional belief (strongly influenced by Weizmann’s approach) that ‘our struggle against the principles underlying the restrictive land and settlement policies does not relieve us from our duty to fight over every Jew and every piece of land that we can include in our legal [!] work’,2 Shertok tried to obtain the approval of his colleagues in Jerusalem to work towards the amendment of the impending White Paper. To his great chagrin, the frustrated leaders in Jerusalem did not approve of such an attempt.

In the mean time, in order to secure Arab loyalty during the war, the British had as early as April 1939 divulged their intention gradually to transfer to the people of Palestine, that is to an Arab majority and Jewish minority, an increasing role in the government of the territory, to protect the holy places, and to establish a quota of 75,000 Jewish immigrants for the following five years, after which no additional Jewish immigration would be permitted without Arab consent, and to prohibit all sale of land to Jews.

The exact provisions of the infamous 1939 White Paper were revealed to Jewish Agency representatives in early May 1939, just a few days before its publication on 17 May 1939. Not only Ben-Gurion, as would (p.105) later be suggested by his devoted followers, but the entire Jewish Agency Executive was outraged by Britain’s blatant disregard of the plight of both the Yishuv and the Jews of Europe in favour of the nebulous support of Arab governments during the impending war. The Jews resorted to the only political tool that they had thought appropriate—protest. In Palestine, the Yishuv staged a general strike (Weizmann and Shertok pleaded on this occasion also that clashes with the British should be limited), and in London, written and oral briefings, prepared by Shertok, who remained there to serve as Weizmann’s watch-dog and supervise the political activities, for both pro-Zionist and pro-Arab Labour and Conservative Members of Parliament, journalists, and political commentators, and supplied effective ammunition for all pro-Zionists before yet another parliamentary debate on Palestine. In this debate, held in the wake of the publication of the 1939 White Paper, compassionate MPs from both parties attacked the government viciously and demanded that it should alter its restrictive policy, especially in view of the mounting plight of European Jews. Some of these sympathetic MPs, such as Winston Churchill, were motivated by imperial considerations, others by empathy with the Jews in general and the Zionists in particular, and still others by opposition to the political aspirations of the Arabs. But all these efforts were to no avail. Disregarding the massive opposition to the White Paper, and basing themselves on only a slim majority in Parliament, Chamberlain and his ministers were determined to publish the White Paper—which the government did later that month.

The first official Jewish response to the May 1939 White Paper was by Shertok during a press conference held by the Executive at London’s Savoy Hotel. Shertok told the assembled journalists that, although the White Paper constituted a disgraceful conclusion to a friendly chapter in the relations between the Yishuv and the British government, the Yishuv would nevertheless insist that the mandatory power keep all its commitments to establish a Jewish national home in Palestine as laid out in the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations Mandate, and the Peel Commission partition plan. This initial reaction to the White Paper clearly indicated the double-edged policy that of necessity the Yishuv’s leadership planned to pursue vis-à-vis the British.3

These stormy political events on the eve of the war altered not only the national fortunes but also the personal future of many participants in the Palestinian drama, including that of Shertok. During and after the London conference, Shertok gained additional political experience, in particular exposure in British and world media, in Jewish and Zionist (p.106) circles, as well as among British politicians and officials. In the Yishuv, Shertok established himself as the undisputed third, though still the weaker pole in the triangular relations between Weizmann, Ben-Gurion, and himself. In this respect, he continued to act as the semi-official go-between for his two older and more senior colleagues, as well as between the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem and its London branch. Yet, he would pay a high personal and political price in the future for his undertaking the thankless task of mediating between the two charismatic arch-enemies—particularly with regard to his relations with Ben-Gurion. On the other hand, the pivotal position that he gained in the Zionist movement would significantly boost his status in the Yishuv.

A more prominent position in a small and tense political élite makes politicians such as Shertok more willing to express openly their own views. Thus after spending almost six months in London, upon his return to Palestine in early June 1939 Shertok criticized more openly and explicitly the views that Ben-Gurion had expressed in reaction to the White Paper. In so doing, Shertok was answering Ben-Gurion’s unrealistic argument that the British would remove the new restrictions that they had imposed on the Yishuv once they realized the full extent of what the anticipated war would mean to Europe’s Jews. Shertok maintained instead that, because of their wider strategic and economic interests in the Middle East and Europe, the British would not change their policy once the war had broken out. This was the main reason why he insisted on his own strategy of making from Jerusalem unceasing attempts to obtain immediately any and all concessions possible, rather than cutting off contacts with the mandatory power.4

During the months immediately preceding the war, Shertok continued to warn his colleagues, who were still traumatized by the publication of the White Paper and harboured hatred towards Britain, to refrain from severing all connections with the British authorities in Palestine and London, and to use self-restraint in carrying out protests against the government. He feared that a non-co-operative posture towards both Whitehall and the government in Jerusalem would result in clashes with the British army in Palestine, which in turn would lead to the imposition of even more stringent restrictions on the development of the Yishuv, and that ultimately this might cause the British to desert the Jewish community if the Germans invaded the Middle East.5 Here, too, the Weizmann-Shertok moderate approach prevailed, and despite British government restrictive policies and limitation on the activities of the Haganah, co-operation between the Yishuv and the British civilian and military authorities grew rather than diminished before and during the (p.107) entire war. It was in this mind-frame that Shertok joined the majority of Mapai’s and the Agency’s leadership that rejected Ben-Gurion’s unrelenting demands to initiate a major confrontation with the British government through a vastly enhanced illegal armed Jewish immigration.6 Moreover, during a meeting held in London in late August 1939 with General Henry Pownall, in which he offered the Yishuv’s assistance during the unfolding crisis, Shertok stated that ‘regardless of the government acceptance or rejection of our proposal, it should know that we feel that this is not only Britain’s war. We pray for her success.’7

Shertok’s intimate association with Weizmann led his colleagues in the Executive and Mapai to try again to get him to remain in London to resume his task as Weizmann’s watch-dog and to assist the WZO president during the difficult period before the war. Although he intended to participate in the 1939 Zionist Congress, which would be the last before the war, nevertheless, Shertok refused to undertake either the watch-dog assignment or a prolonged sojourn in London. His main reason for insisting on returning to and staying in Jerusalem was his scepticism about the success of any attempt to put pressure on Whitehall to sway its grand strategy. He regarded it as almost a total waste of precious energy and time. In view of the approaching storm, he preferred to stay close at home to the Yishuv and family.

In the mean time, like all his colleagues, Shertok was anxiously awaiting the results of the biennial elections in the Zionist movement. He and other Mapai leaders had good reason for anxiety. Essentially because of Weizmann’s immense prestige and popularity, they did indeed eventually lose some seats to Weizmann’s General Zionist party in the election of delegates to the Twenty-First World Zionist Congress scheduled for August 1939. To Ben-Gurion’s obvious irritation, the results enhanced Weizmann’s position and his influence over Zionist and Yishuv affairs, and ensured his re-election as president of the movement. Consequently, Shertok’s own political status was, of course, strengthened both in the Agency and the movement.

When they convened, the delegates to the Twenty-First Zionist Congress, held in Geneva late in August 1939, knew that war was almost upon them. Their mood was further lowered by the news, received during the congress, of the Molotov–Ribbentrop agreement. In the melancholic speech that Weizmann delivered at the opening session of this gloomy Zionist gathering, he outlined Zionist goals, strategy, and policy in view of the menace of war: an unceasing struggle against the May 1939 White Paper coupled with the restraint necessary to ensure Britain’s protection of the Yishuv, and co-operation in regard to the (p.108) rescue of European Jews. This stance met with the approval of all partners to the coalition that controlled the movement.

Generally, Ben-Gurion, Shertok, and the Mapai leadership shared Weizmann’s views, and therefore Shertok actively participated in drafting a declaration calling on world Jewry to unite in condemning the ‘annihilatory campaign’ being conducted against them by the Nazis and their partners and collaborators.8 He also supported a resolution opposing the White Paper, stating that the Jews would launch a carefully controlled but widespread political campaign against it. Like all delegates to the congress, Shertok was greatly moved by the concluding words of his ‘dear chief’ in this last Zionist gathering before the impending catastrophe: ‘If, as I hope, we are spared in life and our work continues, who knows—perhaps a new light will shine upon us from the thick, black gloom…’.9

The intention to oppose the May 1939 White Paper in Palestine notwithstanding, Shertok was again asked to travel to London to conduct a series of talks with senior British generals, including Henry Pownall, Archibald Wavell, and Edmund Ironside, as well as with pro-Zionist politicians and ministers, such as Walter Elliot, concerning security arrangements in Palestine and the creation of Jewish units in the British army. Since the various goals of this mission were better defined, this time he agreed to undertake it.

Accordingly, once in London, he reopened the subject of establishing Jewish units in the British army to serve in Palestine and elsewhere, as well as the intertwined triple issues of Jewish immigration, land purchase, and settlement. While the government and the military, influenced by unfavourable developments in Europe, were initially receptive to the idea of creating such Jewish units, after further consultation in Whitehall and with its Middle Eastern representatives, London again postponed the implementation of this request. Nevertheless, despite the lack of immediate success, Shertok was neither discouraged nor deterred, for his endless meetings with senior British politicians, generals, and journalists, held in London in late August 1939, laid the grounds for a protracted campaign to achieve that goal. On the other hand, Shertok was utterly frustrated by the lack of success of his talks in regard to immigration, land sale, and Jewish settlement. Consequently, a sense of impasse in their political relations with the British civilian government, and a glimmer of hope about possible co-operation with the British army, would influence not only the double-edged formula that they adopted, but also the behaviour of Shertok and other Zionist leaders, including Weizmann.

(p.109) Barely a week after Shertok had concluded his unsuccessful talks in London, Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, and two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany.

The only immediate readjustment in Palestine brought about by the long-awaited outbreak of the Second World War was economic. Thus, strangely enough, despite grave apprehensions among British and Zionists alike, the outbreak of the war that would decimate the Jews of Europe did not result in any major immediate change in the situation in Palestine. But it did of course pose new challenges to the leadership of the small and insecure Yishuv. As one of the Jewish leaders in Palestine who was aware of both the tremendous dangers and the opportunities presented by the war, Shertok, then chairman of the highly powerful Jewish Agency Political Department as well as a member of the Political Committee of Mapai, called for the creation of a ‘central command’, whose main task would be to co-ordinate comprehensive political planning at party, communal, and national levels. For, he said, if Mapai and the Agency wished to meet the challenge and danger created by the war, both must devise a coherent and comprehensive strategy that would help them prevent spreading their limited capabilities too thin and stretching their restricted resources too far. Such a central command should ‘oversee all our [the Yishuv’s] activities and be able to consider as many options as possible’.10 As to his assessment of the long-term consequences of the war, Shertok predicted that ‘the end of this war will introduce a new order also in this part of the world, and we must achieve our main political goal in this new order: a nucleus of Jewish independence in one form or another, as part of an Arab federation’.11 Thus at that stage, Shertok again shared with other Yishuv leaders, among them BenGurion, the view that the Jewish state should be part of a Middle Eastern federation.

His realistic assessment of the limited resources and power of the Yishuv and his Palestinocentric attitude notwithstanding (to his colleagues in the Mapai Central Committee he said: ‘If we chose military activism during the war, we must act as Zionists and place Palestine at the epicentre [of our plans]’),12 Shertok called for those Palestinian Jews who enlisted in the British army to be ready to serve not only in Palestine but wherever they would be needed, and in whatever unit they would be assigned. The main reason for this almost sacrilegious idea was his conviction that the ‘fate of the world, the Jewish people and our fate in Palestine, are intertwined’, and again, his unaltered wish to maintain co-operation with the British. As expected, it was opposed by the Haganah chiefs, among them his beloved brother-in-law, Eliahu (p.110) Golomb. The compromise that resulted from the clash between Shertok’s unorthodox proposal and the Haganah’s position was that the Jewish Agency should neither encourage nor object to Palestinian Jews serving outside Palestine, or in non-Jewish units.13 With some alterations, this would remain the Yishuv’s policy throughout the entire war.

When it turned out that Shertok was accurate in pessimistically assuming that the British would not alter their restrictive policies in regard to the Yishuv’s growth, at least during the first few months of the war, the disheartened Zionist leaders, including Shertok himself, began to explore short- and long-term alternatives to their cumbersome political dependence on the British. Weizmann, with Shertok as his temporary watch-dog, and only out of great curiosity and despair, began examining a fantastic plan, proposed by the British veteran mystery man Harry St John Philby, regarding co-operation between King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia and the Yishuv. But, although the Saudi leader and Winston Churchill did at first express some interest in Philby’s idea—that Saudi Arabia would promote the notion that Palestine in its entirety be given to the Jews, in exchange for twenty million pounds to resettle all Palestinian Arabs in his kingdom—both Weizmann and Shertok were highly sceptical of this plan and explored it mainly because they liked the idea of Philby proposing to Ibn Saud that Palestine should be given to the Jews and transfer the Arabs. The plan, of course, never materialized.14

Simultaneously with this diplomatic non-starter, Weizmann, Ben-Gurion, and Shertok agreed that they should begin actively promoting relations with the United States government, in the hope of gaining the support of the White House and of public opinion for the establishment of a Jewish entity as soon as the war ended.

While Weizmann and Ben-Gurion were pursuing this new direction in the USA and monitoring each other’s moves and activities very closely, the sober chairman of the Political Department was again free to engage in the ‘mundane’ day-to-day struggle for the survival and coveted growth of the Yishuv.15 Thus, during the bleak weeks that Shertok spent in London towards the end of 1939, the main issues that he dealt with were the British intention to issue a new restrictive land law; Jewish units in the British army; recruitment of Jews to serve in British units deployed in Palestine; recruitment of British Jews in the army; fund-raising for local British–Jewish and Yishuv needs; immigration; economic and financial matters, such as loans to Jewish local municipalities, customs and excise duty on Yishuv imports and products, help to the citrus industry, and political lobbying in Westminster and Whitehall. At that (p.111) time his favourite expression was: ‘we should fight for the good cause, but also prepare for the worst case.’16

While in London, Shertok was also engaged in persistent attempts to build bridges with the Soviet Union, whose general attitude towards the Yishuv was still ambiguous.17 Although he was far from being an orthodox pro-Soviet socialist, Shertok felt that even this problematic avenue should be explored if it would help the interests of the Yishuv and, increasingly, those of Central and East European Jews who were either under Soviet control or had fled to the Soviet Union. However, when he met Soviet diplomats stationed in London, including Ambassador Ivan Maisky during the latter part of 1939, these officials confirmed that the Soviet government would not support the Zionist movement and the Yishuv as long as Jewish leaders expressed blatant anti-Soviet sentiments. However, not only did the Soviets change their attitude later in the war, but, in retrospect, it appears that Shertok’s initiative and ensuing meetings with the staff of the Soviet embassy in London laid the groundwork for the USSR’s favourable policy towards the Yishuv and the Jewish state later during the war and after it. In the mean time, encouraged by the fact that the Soviet diplomats were ready to continue to meet him, he would pursue these contacts further throughout the war.

Unable to do much more than keep some lines open to American and British politicians and officials, Zionist and Yishuv leaders set about to foster the Yishuv’s military capability. They were determined to strengthen the clandestine part of the Haganah’s activities, increasing both the number of its soldiers and the size and quality of its arsenal. It was only natural that the politically moderate Weizmann and Shertok, would also be active in this sphere. Thus for example, the two, who operated as a team, were effective in securing the release of forty-three Haganah soldiers and commanders (among them the young and already adventurous Moshe Day an), who had been arrested during illegal military exercises that the Haganah had conducted in Palestine. The efforts of the two and Ben-Gurion, who arrived in London especially to deal with this issue, were tremendous, since they interpreted it as a premeditated British attempt to delegitimize the Haganah.

During Ben-Gurion’s visit to London in mid-November 1939, he clashed directly with Shertok and indirectly with Weizmann over the question of boycotting the colonial secretary, Malcolm MacDonald. During this debate between the two men, some differences in their most fundamental ideological positions surfaced: when Shertok said that they must meet the colonial secretary to obtain immigration permits for German Jews, Ben-Gurion retorted that the political future of the (p.112) Yishuv was more important than the fate of those Jews. Shertok answered: ‘I don’t accept the view that the immigration of Jews, which means their rescue, contradicts our political needs. Our political success is questionable, the rescue of Jews is real. Our ability to facilitate the immigration of Jews despite MacDonald’s opposition means a political success.’18 Shertok prevailed in his determination to meet all British politicians and officials who might be of assistance to the Yishuv.

Weizmann and Shertok were equally successful in preventing the British from launching surprise searches for illegal weapons in Jewish settlements in Palestine. No less consequential was their achievement in finally eliciting from a reluctant British government a firm pledge to establish immediately special Jewish units in the British army if the Germans invaded the Middle East.19

Throughout 1939 and in early 1940, the main problematic issues facing the Yishuv were those championed by Sir Harold MacMichael, who in 1938 had succeeded the more emphatic Sir Arthur Wauchope as High Commissioner in Palestine. MacMichael’s determination to follow a strictly even-handed policy towards each of the two communities and to implement the main stipulations of the 1939 White Paper was impeding Jewish efforts to purchase large tracts of land still being offered by Arab absentee landlords.

Ultimately, Weizmann, Ben-Gurion, and Shertok ironed out their differences and worked together to persuade the British government, through the colonial secretary, Malcolm MacDonald, to be more flexible in meeting their requests. In this connection, Shertok used one side of the Agency’s double-edged formula and told the colonial secretary, ‘We hope that during the war we could co-operate with you as if the White Paper did not exist.’20 But when fierce arguments and mild threats failed to move the British politicians and senior officials, the Yishuv and the Zionist movement launched a series of mass demonstrations in Palestine, England, and the United States against the government’s restrictive policy. This time, even Shertok was active in organizing demonstrations and other forms of protest in London, and refused to accede to the London Agency Executive’s request to postpone them. ‘We are a nation,’ he replied to moderates critical of this activist posture, ‘we have offered our help to the [British] government as a nation, and it should be interpreted only in this way. Until the government are not convinced that we are a determined nation and not only their obedient subjects, we are going to face troubles, and they are going to experience failures.’21 Ever cautious, however, Shertok did repeatedly warn his colleagues to control closely these manifestations of dissatisfaction and to prevent (p.113) undesirable friction with the government; moreover, he persistently continued to discourage violent encounters with the British in either England or Palestine.

Although Shertok had managed to bring Weizmann and Ben-Gurion to co-operate on several issues, the latter did not desist from his unending ‘small wars’ against Weizmann as well as against his supporters in Mapai and the Labour movement. These inner confrontations caused countless minor crises, and when they were not resolved in Ben-Gurion’s favour, he brought forth his time-worn threat to resign from the Agency Executive. It was a great pity that most of the squabbles were triggered by real problems that called for the joint effort of the entire leadership rather than engaging in personal rivalries and useless feuds. One of these useless clashes, born only out of personal vengeance and jealousy, occurred just after Malcolm MacDonald had told Shertok of his decision to enforce all of the White Paper stipulations, and Shertok had relayed it to his colleagues in Jerusalem. Ben-Gurion’s immediate demand was that the Executive should activate what was euphemistically known as ‘Politics B’, that is, expanded illegal immigration and maximal settlement. Ben-Gurion’s pugnacious demand created the need for Shertok’s hasty return to Jerusalem. But Shertok, who was apprehensive that he would no longer be able to organize, and especially control, the protests against the British government then taking place in London, and that he would not be able to pursue further his efforts to alter Whitehall’s negative position vis-à-vis Jewish units, postponed his voyage back to Palestine. Eventually, except for a short trip to Palestine that he had made in January 1940, he would not leave London until Weizmann returned from what turned out to be a politically and financially successful trip to the United States.22 Thus only in early April 1940 did Shertok leave his London post, where in Weizmann’s absence he was in charge of all the Agency’s political operations, and return to Palestine to join his colleagues in an attempt to resolve the lingering crisis in the Yishuv leadership caused by Ben-Gurion’s resignation on 29 February 1940, following his insistence on escalating activities against the British.

In the mean time, encouraged by the results of his American trip, Weizmann’s, and for that matter also Shertok’s, firm conclusion was that since the USA and the American Jewish community had already become extremely important political actors in the Palestinian arena, and since a great deal of work should, and could, have been accomplished in Washington, a stronger emphasis must be put on Zionist activities there. This view did not contradict Ben-Gurion’s own opinion; (p.114) the only ‘minor’ question was who would control and execute these planned activities in the USA. This question was added to other numerous reasons for the élite’s vicious infighting even during that terrible period for the Jewish people. Ultimately, it would be solved in a nasty way only after the war.23

Immediately upon his arrival in Palestine in April 1940, Shertok plunged into the lingering internal crisis involving Ben-Gurion’s demands and threats to stop his participation in the Agency Executive. Shertok warned Ben-Gurion and his other colleagues in the Agency that they should not further escalate their struggle against the British, since in fact the Yishuv was pursuing Ben-Gurion’s ‘Politics B’ through enhanced illegal immigration and land purchase. He pleaded with his colleague to rescind his resignation. After long deliberations, Ben-Gurion himself, as well as the other activist members of the Executive, accepted Shertok’s view, and he resumed some of his activities. Thus this matter was solved without loss of face on Ben-Gurion’s part. No less significantly, on that occasion Shertok restated his firm position against any policy of ‘permanent unrest in Palestine’. He explained: ‘I do not oppose some unrest, but I cannot accept such a general line. I am not concerned about the damage that it would inflict on the British, I am concerned about the damage that would be inflicted on the Yishuv. Before permanent unrest could cause any damage to Britain, it would cause tremendous damage to us, up to the point where we would not survive!’ On the same occasion, he reiterated that such unrest would not lead to the British rescinding the notorious 1939 White Paper.24

Shertok’s and his supporters’ refusal to concur with Ben-Gurion’s activist approach initially moved the latter to exert greater pressure on his colleagues, even threatening early retirement and complete withdrawal from politics. But, when it became clear that Shertok had openly joined the moderate opposition and that it constituted the majority in the Executive, Ben-Gurion was forced to take the new balance of power into account and, however reluctantly, to accept the moderates’ position. As expected, the net result of this crisis was yet another compromise between activists and moderates, whereby only carefully measured and strictly controlled retaliatory activities against the British would be pursued.25 As a means of further alleviating the internal crisis, Shertok encouraged Ben-Gurion to leave Palestine temporarily and to replace Shertok himself in London as Weizmann’s watch-dog. Ben-Gurion took this opportunity to save face. He was absent from Palestine for almost a whole year, spending some time in London, and then moving to the USA.26

(p.115) Once this internal crisis was first diffused and then resolved, back at his desk in the Political Department offices in Jerusalem, Shertok’s political power was enhanced in accordance with the principle that those who remained in Palestine were ultimately in charge of determining not only Yishuv but also Zionist strategy and tactics. Hence, during Ben-Gurion’s long periods of absence during the Second World War, Shertok, in consultation with his colleagues in Mapai and the Agency Executive, was almost solely responsible for shaping the Yishuv’s political actions. Under his guidance, the policies adopted by the Agency Executive during the first stages of the war became known as ‘sane activism’, that is, carefully measured reactions to British and Arab actions and provocations. Also during this period Shertok kept reminding his colleagues that from the point of view of their impact on Britain, more violent actions would be counter-productive, since they would aggravate British antagonism, and that from the Yishuv’s own point of view, they would only foster unfounded optimism regarding their ability to achieve their goals, and would ultimately lead to the deterioration, disappointment, and decline of rank-and-file morale.27

As the war intensified and the free world found itself profoundly threatened, many of its leaders, especially the Zionists, anxiously awaited the resignation of Neville Chamberlain and the sweeping changes that this would bring in Britain’s war cabinet. When this long-awaited switch finally occurred, and the veteran ‘pro-Zionist imperialist’ Winston Churchill became prime minister, his new coalitional war cabinet included yet more Tory and Labour pro-Zionists. Thus, in addition to Churchill and Clement Attlee, Shertok regarded the Secretary for India, Leo Amery, the Secretary for Information, Alfred Duff-Cooper, the Secretary for Air, Archibald Sinclair, Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, the Secretary for the Navy, Albert Alexander, and even the Secretary [of State] for Labour, Ernest Bevin, as friends of the Zionist idea and the Yishuv. Although the Whitehall reshuffle did result in a more friendly attitude towards the Yishuv, Shertok was among the more sober Jewish leaders who cautioned the Yishuv against expecting any imminent substantial changes in actual policy towards Palestine. Shertok therefore preached that the Yishuv should maintain equally its twin policies of self-restraint and self-reliance, and that in the best Weizmannite tradition, it should prudently ‘create facts’ in regard to legal, and especially illegal immigration, land purchase, and settlement, that would improve its position whether or not the pro-Zionist cabinet members were able to alter the May 1939 White Paper.28 But he was more optimistic about the possibility of establishing Jewish units in the British army.

(p.116) The war had approached the Middle East by the spring of 1940. The reports that the Arabs rejoiced with every bit of news about Axis victories only further contributed to the Yishuv’s and to Shertok’s worsening mood. Taking his cue from British officials and officers in the region and in London, Shertok was initially not unduly perturbed by the advances that had been made by the Italian and German armies in North Africa and southern Europe. However, his apprehensions grew in June of that year, when the Free French were defeated in Syria by the collaborationist Vichy regime. Pragmatic and intellectually honest as always, Shertok admitted that now the Yishuv had a more vital stake in keeping the British in Palestine than the latter had in keeping the territory. Consequently he and his department pursued what they had regarded as two complementary policies of building up the Yishuv’s autonomous paramilitary forces to the maximum strength possible, and planning the community’s defence in the event of a German invasion and occupation of Palestine on the one hand, and contributing to the British war effort, on the other. In pursuing these policies almost single-handedly, Shertok shouldered the thankless task of recruiting Jews to British units deployed in Palestine but not in the neighbouring countries, on the assumption that such service was of utmost importance ‘morally, humanely and nationally’.29 In other words, with the growth of the imminent threat to the Yishuv, Shertok changed his previous view that Jews should serve anywhere the British saw fit. Now his modified position tallied with that of his brothers-in-law, Golomb and Meirov, who were among the most senior leaders of the Haganah. Once this agreement between the three brothers-in-law was attained, they fought together to change the British government’s position. Their immediate practical goals were to persuade the British to increase the numbers of Jewish recruits to the British army, and if and when the British started to do so on a large scale, to deploy these Jews in Palestine. But first they had to win Weizmann and Ben-Gurion over to this new line. Driven by a sense of great urgency, Shertok communicated these views to his two colleagues and won their concurrence.30

Once the brothers-in-law had succeeded in convincing Ben-Gurion and Weizmann to support the establishment of Jewish units in Palestine, Shertok engaged in an endless series of talks with the British to achieve this goal that he regarded essential to the Yishuv’s short- and long-term defence against a German invasion as well as the threats posed by Palestinian Arabs and the Arab states. In addition, while Ben-Gurion was out of Palestine, Shertok also had to assume again the political responsibility for the Yishuv’s central defence committee that formulated (p.117) short- and long-term Haganah policies and supervised their implementation (as noted, in 1939 he had been replaced as chairman of the committee by Ben-Gurion).

After much prodding by Shertok in Palestine and Cairo, and by Weizmann and Ben-Gurion in London, in June 1940 the British government and military finally agreed to recruit 1,800 Palestinian Jews to various units of the British army in Palestine. Encouraged by this positive British decision, for which he had fought so hard, Shertok launched a major public drive to enlist young Jews in a large rally in Tel Aviv, followed by similar events in other parts of the country.31 The major breakthrough in this sphere, however, occurred only after Shertok’s crucial meetings with General Wavell, the British commander-in-chief in the Middle East, held in July 1940 in Cairo. During his first in this series of meetings with General Wavell, Shertok made a classic Zionist statement: ‘We, the Jews, are not many in Palestine, and we don’t own much of the country, but whatever we have in Palestine is all that the Jewish nation owns, and we are responsible to the entire Jewish nation about it.’ Using this as well as additional and less passionate strategic arguments, Shertok was able to persuade Wavell to give the go-ahead for a massive recruitment of Palestinian Jews. Shertok’s understanding with Wavell regarding the scope and conditions for enlisting Palestinian Jews, in addition to the 1,800 recruited in early September 1940, facilitated the approval by the British government of mass recruitment of Jews and Arabs into special, but separate, units in Palestine. Significantly, the British also agreed that the Jewish Agency should be the sole agent for recruiting young Jews for this purpose. In this meeting he was also able to secure Wavell’s consent to desist from attempts to disarm the Haganah.

Satisfied with these achievements, Shertok attributed them to his gradualist strategy of ‘using every small opportunity to promote the piecemeal but steady building of this thing [Jewish units], and thus of creating the nucleus of a Jewish military force. This is the case even though these [units] are still small and scattered.’32

Simultaneously with Shertok’s negotiations in Cairo and Jerusalem, Weizmann in London was engaged in incessant talks with Churchill and his lieutenants which would have no less profound ramifications than Shertok’s agreement with General Wavell. As a result of these protracted talks, in mid-October 1940 the British government approved in principle a plan to recruit larger Jewish units that would replace British units in Palestine, to train Jewish officers and to form special British–Jewish units for fighting the Germans outside Palestine. However, after consulting (p.118) with his friend Orde Wingate, who was then stationed in London but visiting Cairo, the cautious Shertok warned Weizmann to insist that the British should formally guarantee that most of the enlisted Palestinian Jews would serve in Palestine.33

Despite the slow progress of the negotiations with the British government, but encouraged by his, and especially by Weizmann’s, initial success in this sphere, adhering to the gradualist approach, Shertok did not desist in his efforts to cash in on British promises. Accordingly, his next target was autonomous Jewish units in the British army. As a token of recognition for his relentless efforts in this direction as well as his previous achievements, he was accorded the appellation ‘Mr Jewish Army’. Far from being modest in this respect, Shertok was convinced that this flattering title should have been bestowed on him long before. During this period, he used to repeat that his involvement in security issues and his role in nurturing the Yishuv’s defence forces had preceded the Second World War, and that in fact he had been involved in the growth of the Haganah since its inception. This of course was directed at the activists in the Yishuv leadership.

As the war progressed, it became clear that the Yishuv had to do more than manage its own political, economic, and security affairs, and deal with the British authorities and with the Arab community. Also the alarmingly complex issue of rescuing Jews under Nazi occupation began to loom larger in the thoughts of Shertok and other Jewish and Yishuv leaders. In November 1940 the leaders’ dilemmas in this sphere were highlighted by the capture and arrival in Haifa of three ships of illegal immigrants, the Pacific, Melos, and Atlantic. Towards the end of November 1940 the difficulties involved in carrying out rescue operations were brought to the fore by the tragic drama of the refugee ship Patria. An old and shaky ship, the Patria was loaded with the illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Balkans, who had arrived on the first two ships and were waiting for their deportation from Haifa to Mauritius for the duration of the war. As the Patria was awaiting the order to sail, despite the Yishuv’s collective, and Shertok’s own ardent efforts to prevent the deportation, a Haganah demolition squad was sent to blow a hole in the hull to thwart the sailing. But both the age of the ship and the miscalculations of the demolition squad caused it to sink before the refugees could disembark. The devastating result was that more than 240 Jews and several British policemen on duty on Patria were drowned.

Haunted by the fate of those wretched illegal immigrants and the policemen, Shertok launched a massive effort to prevent the deportation of the survivors. This time, while Shertok conducted secret negotiations (p.119) with the British, with his consent the Yishuv organized a massive protest, staging mass demonstrations and hunger strikes. More successful than in his initial efforts to prevent the deportation of the entire group, after the shock created by the accident and the ensuing protest, Shertok was able to have most of the survivors from the Patria detained in special camps in Palestine, rather than on an island in the Indian Ocean. Later, Shertok was the only senior Palestinian Jewish politician who really cared for these survivors as time passed. Unperturbed by the difficulties involved, he kept bombarding the British to release them from the detention camps in Palestine. Shertok was far less successful in preventing the deportation of most of the illegal immigrants that had arrived on the Atlantic. On 9 December 1940 they were rounded up, forcefully loaded on a deportation ship, and sent to Mauritius. Yet, contrary to what might have been expected under those tragic circumstances and in view of the frustrating efforts to release the survivors, Shertok bitterly, but typically, concluded that the Patria tragedy ‘made any suggestion about non-co-operation with the British utterly impractical’.34

In view of the Patria tragedy and the deportation of the Atlantic immigrants, which many Jewish leaders at the time erroneously attributed to the rigid and inconsiderate policies of the British High Commissioner, Sir Harold MacMichael, Shertok and his associates in the Executive sought MacMichael’s replacement by a more sympathetic and accommodating official. Yet, in accordance with his generally prudent approach, Shertok demanded that the campaign to replace the High Commissioner should be conducted in London and through political and diplomatic channels. Moreover, once again Shertok warned the activists in the Yishuv’s leadership to refrain from launching any irresponsible retaliatory actions against the British, saying that ‘we cannot expect a situation in which we will have total freedom in choosing the means for our war against the British. [Hence,] we should accept the limitations which our fate imposes on us in each situation. It is possible of course to say that if we were different—than…etc., etc., for by saying it, we are loosing our touch with reality.’35

The first year of the war ended with yet another tragedy for the entire Shertok clan. Shertok’s second sister Rivka, his beloved brother-in-law Dov Hoz, their daughter Ora, and his brother Yehudah’s wife, Zvia, were all killed in a car accident on their way to Tel Aviv. It is easy to imagine the shock that this accident created in the Shertok family and in the Yishuv. This tragic event only further strengthened the affinity, mutual care, and family bonds among the remaining members of the clan. As he had done when his sister Geula died, Shertok (p.120) characteristically buried his enormous affliction and anguish over his personal loss, which was also political in the case of Dov Hoz, and concentrated even more obstinately on carrying out his public activities and political duties.

During that dark period in the history of mankind and of the Jews, Shertok and Weizmann, who was in charge of whatever rescue operations were carried out by the Zionist movement, came to share increasingly similar views on how to ameliorate the fate of their doomed brethren in Europe. Essentially, Shertok concurred with Weizmann’s statement:

our colleagues [in the USA, and to an extent also in Palestine] are still far from realizing the terrible disaster that has befallen Jewry, which we will have to digest and cope with long after the victory over Germany. I think that European Jews are now experiencing irreversible destruction, and that when the curtain is raised, we will find only remnants, troubles, and poverty. I am terrified to think about the problems that will face those who survive this catastrophe. It is probable that only two Jewish communities will remain unharmed—those in America and in Palestine.36

At that point both moderate leaders also agreed that the Jewish anomaly would be solved only upon the establishment of a Jewish entity, but that this entity could only be created with the help of the great powers.

Hence, in the debate that raged between an activist camp led by Yitzhak Tabenkin and Berl Katznelson and Weizmann’s moderate camp, Shertok sided of course with Weizmann. In reaction to Berl’s repeated suggestion that the Yishuv should adopt more stringent measures against the British, Shertok, very much like Weizmann, asserted that ‘since the war has precluded the actual possibility of initiating a political offensive against the White Paper’, the real issue was what the Yishuv leaders should do ‘in view of the offensive initiative that the [British government] has launched against us’. And once again, he firmly prescribed that any steps taken against the British should be carefully measured and purely pragmatic.37

Even during that period the relations within the small élite actually leading the Zionist movement and the Yishuv were far from consensual. The internal rivalries and enmities surfaced at the beginning of 1941. On this occasion, it was in reaction to Weizmann’s request that Shertok should replace him in London while he spent time in the United States on behalf of the Zionist movement and the Yishuv, a visit that Shertok had urged him to make for more than one year. This time, however, (p.121) Shertok refused his ‘dear chief’, preferring to deal with what he regarded as the more urgent matters in Jerusalem until Ben-Gurion returned to Palestine from his own protracted visit to the USA. Although Weizmann bombarded his younger colleague with requests for him to depart for London, Shertok prevailed, and subsequently he was one of the small group that welcomed Ben-Gurion upon his arrival in Palestine.

During his periodic, but not too frequent, visits to Palestine, Ben-Gurion always consulted first Shertok, and only then other political colleagues on his new major proposals for revised Zionist strategies in foreign affairs. This was also the case with the ‘Guide-lines for a [new] Zionist Policy’ that Ben-Gurion revealed to Shertok upon his return to Palestine in mid-February 1941. In the draft that Ben-Gurion had shown to Shertok, he argued that the main Jewish problem after the war would be that of dealing with millions of their surviving displaced brothers. According to him, this problem could only be solved through the establishment of an independent Jewish state as soon as the war was over. Ben-Gurion’s immediate recommendation to this end was that the Jews should not delay in preparing the grounds for such a major historical leap forward, should explicitly fight the 1939 White Paper, and openly express their opposition to the establishment of an Arab state in the process of their preparations.38

Shertok agreed in principle with Ben-Gurion’s emphasis on the historical necessity to demand a radical solution of the Jewish problem, but in the Weizmannite tradition, he accepted only some elements of Ben-Gurion’s diagnosis, prognosis, and prescriptions, viewing them as providing a conceptual framework, but not a sufficiently developed political plan. Fully aware that such an openly declared radical solution for the problem of displaced Jews would exacerbate Arab opposition, he stated that ‘outwardly we cannot ask for an imposed [by outside powers] Arab–Jewish agreement, and I cannot envision any agreement that would be acceptable to us’.39 Since the Arabs’ claims would be maximal, he went on, the Jews should respond by presenting their own maximal demands; but the quintessential question according to him was that of short-terms means rather than long-term goals. Shertok’s solution for this dilemma was ‘Jewish rule’ in Palestine rather than a ‘Jewish state’. This formulation was more than a matter of style; it expressed an entirely different view from Ben-Gurion’s on international relations as well as on the Jews’ place in the world and in Palestine. Since he believed that this notion could better serve the Jews in eliciting a solution from Arabs, the British, and the international community, he suggested that they should refrain from stating their final goal explicitly and (p.122) concentrate on the means to achieve goals agreed upon by the entire nation, and at the least by the Zionist movement. In this vein, he advised Ben-Gurion, as well as other Jewish leaders, to defer any open statements, to hold back the exact number of Jewish refugees who would immigrate to Palestine after the war, and to avoid using Ben-Gurion’s term ‘conquest’ in regard to achievement of sovereignty. Finally, he repeated his maxim that under almost all circumstances the Yishuv must maintain co-operation with the British government.40

Essentially, what Shertok had adhered to was the moderate Weizman-nesque approach. This placed the erudite Labour leader squarely in the centre of Mapai’s and the Yishuv’s unofficial dovish bloc. Later, he would only further moderate these views and this centrist position.

The ensuing controversy over the Yishuv’s and Zionist’s final goals widened the gap between Shertok and Ben-Gurion. For Shertok, but not for Ben-Gurion, participation in the war effort was an ‘imperative moral obligation’ as well as a political necessity, despite the restrictions of the 1939 White Paper, for while he too prayed for an autonomous Jewish political entity, like Weizmann, Shertok felt that this goal must be achieved through slow building from the foundations upward, which should be buttressed by the powers’ continuous support. He therefore rejected Ben-Gurion’s claim that any allocation of Zionist and Yishuv resources to help the Allies win the war meant that the Yishuv’s defence would suffer.41

This was also when the quintessential ideological controversy regarding ‘the Arab Question’ between Shertok’s group on the one hand, and the by now separate Ben-Gurion and Tabenkin camps on the other, heated up. Shertok could not accept Ben-Gurion’s and Tabenkin’s assertions that ‘there is no Arab Question in the sense that there is a Jewish Question and that the Arab Question is a Jewish invention’. Rather, he insisted that ‘there is an Arab Question, and the answer is not going to be an easy one, but we cannot escape this difficulty’. Shertok suggested that, while for both historical and current reasons the Jews must put forward major claims towards the end of the war, they should also realize that such claims would exacerbate the situation vis-à-vis the Arabs. Very gloomily he added that ‘since this would wipe out any illusion that it is possible to reach an agreement, as well as the illusion of the absence of an Arab Question, we will have to prepare for a major war to attain our claims’.42

Occasionally, even aggressive and combative leaders know when they should retreat. Thus when Ben-Gurion realized that ultimately Shertok’s moderate group would carry the day, he modified his proposal, deleting (p.123) the word ‘State’ from the title of his ‘Guide-lines’ and replacing it with ‘commonwealth’. This was more than a mere semantic and limited modification; it represented Ben-Gurion’s admission that the moderate camp had grown in strength to the point where he could not dominate Mapai and the Agency by threatening to resign if he did not get his way. Essentially, this was how the small political élite of the Yishuv reached the next compromised formula that would direct its future steps.

Although Shertok felt that it was politically expedient to hold off explicit demands for a Jewish state in Palestine, he firmly opposed the bi-national idea which was then being revived in the Yishuv by Hashomer Hatzair, a pioneering socialist movement. His firm belief was that ‘the Yishuv must operate in a political regime based on a lack of agreement with the Arabs, and should fight for the redemption of Eretz Israel—but not through suppressing [the Arabs]’.43 These strategic ideological internal debates were conducted against an ever-worsening situation, and therefore, with hindsight, they seem ludicrously unrealistic.

For, by the spring of 1941 the German army had routed the British from the Balkans and deepened its drive into North Africa. These German military successes, coupled with the pro-Nazi Rashid Ali al-Kilani rebellion in Iraq, meant that the threat to Palestine was becoming more immediate and menacing. Shertok, who played a substantial role in the planning of the Yishuv’s strategy in the event of a German invasion of the Middle East and their occupation of Palestine—an eventuality that he considered remote—including enthusiastic support for the establishment of a permanently mobilized and mobile task force in the Haganah in May 1941 (these units would become known as Palmah [Strike Companies]), adamantly opposed any plan to evacuate Jews from Palestine. He opposed the evacuation of all Jews, including those who had escaped from Germany and found refuge in the Yishuv. He believed that the main efforts the Yishuv must make would be accelerating the establishment of the defensive capabilities of the Haganah, intensifying fund-raising for that organization and, most importantly, expediting the recruitment of young Jews to the British army. In this context, he also advocated a massive international propaganda campaign aimed at ‘demonstrating to the world the fundamental difference between the possibility and the implications of a Nazi invasion into Palestine, and such an invasion to any other country in the world’, meaning, of course, that a German invasion of Palestine would bring about the annihilation of every single Jew there.44 This was yet another demonstration of his well-known, yet somewhat modified, Palestinocentric (p.124) views. These views, however, did not mean that his department was any less active in regard to the rescue of European Jews. As recent re-evaluations of the behaviour and role of various leaders has shown, Shertok was one of the Yishuv leaders who demonstrated greater sensitivity to the plight of the European Jews. Yet the main responsibility for these efforts did not lie with his department. It was the direct responsibility of Yitzhak Gruenbaum’s Immigration Department.45

The successful British invasion into Lebanon and Syria in June 1941, actively assisted by Palmah officers and soldiers, including Moshe Dayan (who lost his eye in this operation) and Yigal Allon, reassured Shertok and his worried colleagues about the Yishuv’s immediate future. Subsequently, not only had Palestine reached a degree of temporary, albeit precarious, stability and tranquillity on the external front, but also the local Arab community, which began to realize that after all the British would win the war, became more interested in exploiting the economic opportunities created by the war than in the exercise of violence against the British or for that matter the Jews. In this the Arab community resembled the Yishuv, which had been bent on capitalizing on the economic opportunities created by the war.

This relative calm was, however, marred by rumours that British and Arab politicians were reviving pre-war plans to establish a Middle Eastern federation that would include Palestine. These rumours were substantiated by Anthony Eden in his Mansion House speech of 29 May 1941. In this speech the British foreign secretary hinted at such a possibility. Although during earlier stages of the war Shertok had shown interest in a federative solution, albeit not under Amir Abdullah,46 in mid-1941 he strongly opposed the idea, on the basis that ‘even a young child can understand that an Arab federation would involve terrible dangers for us’, which would stem from permanently remaining a negligible minority within a large Arab political entity. Although Ben-Gurion was not averse to this idea, since a federation might include an independent Jewish state, the majority of the Executive accepted Shertok’s sceptical view that he had formed after series of talks about this renewed idea with various Arab politicians and intellectuals. Accordingly, after establishing congenial relations with Oliver Lyttleton, the British resident minister in Cairo, Shertok informed him of the Yishuv’s opposition to such a plan.47 Subsequently, when it seemed that the British had shelved the notion of a federation, Shertok made additional, albeit unsuccessful, attempts to renew a dialogue with Arab leaders in Palestine and in the neighbouring state, concerning post-war political (p.125) arrangements in the Middle East and Palestine. Seeing no progress emerging from this effort, he turned to attend other urgent matter.

Shertok now focused once more on the establishment of Jewish units in the British army. To facilitate the attainment of this goal, on numerous occasions during the ensuing months Shertok reiterated the axiom that the Yishuv should refrain from instigating an open struggle against the British, and from boycotting the British government in Jerusalem. Typically, he opted for a parallel policy of co-operation and altercation with the British, and effectively vetoed any suggestion of massive anti-British activities. Not accidentally, this was just a different variation of the famous double-edged formula that Ben-Gurion also used at the time, proclaiming that ‘we [both the Yishuv and the Zionists] would support the British as if there was no White Paper, and we will fight them as if there was no war with the Germans’.48

During those nerve-racking months and years, most of the Jewish leaders behaved like political schizophrenics. Thus in his talks with British senior politicians and generals in Cairo, who had demonstrated sympathy towards the Yishuv, Shertok revealed the actual prevailing mood among his colleagues, stemming from their acute sense of extreme isolation, despondency, and marginality. On the other hand, among his own colleagues, and especially among the rank and file, he felt compelled to present a more optimistic attitude, always arguing that the Yishuv should appreciate the advantages gained from its collaboration with the British. But he also cautioned his colleagues that they should always soberly examine the real world, and only then launch their political initiatives.49

As is well known, in December 1941 the Japanese attacked the American Naval base at Pearl Harbor, and consequently the USA finally joined the war. This decision, which constituted a turning-point in world history, was also a boon to the Zionist movement, to a few leaders of the American Jewish community, and the Yishuv. For once America, under the leadership of President Roosevelt, made this critical formal step and relinquished its previous non-committal position, that power became an important recipient of accelerated Zionist representations. That potentially the USA was now ready to lend a more sympathetic ear to the Zionists was communicated to Shertok by Roosevelt’s personal envoy in the Middle East, William Bullitt, who urged him and his colleagues to step up Zionist presence and activities in Washington. Shertok took Bullitt’s advice as an invitation. Then he presented it as such to the members of the Agency Executive. He was relieved to find that his colleagues, including Weizmann and Ben-Gurion, had been (p.126) thinking along similar lines. Subsequently, one of the first objectives that Shertok suggested in the deliberations on the form the Agency activities should take in the United States was that it must explicitly demand Jewish self-rule after the war, but since this was certain to arouse ‘a negative British reaction’, the Agency itself should not present the demand, but should leave it to those American Jewish leaders, who had been pressuring the White House and Capitol Hill to enter the war since 1940.50

These more optimistic plans were silenced by the incredible news about the Nazis’ exterminatation of European Jews. For by the beginning of 1942, Yishuv leaders, including Shertok (and, despite his perhaps not so strange denial of this knowledge, Ben-Gurion as well) received from various reliable sources definite information about the horrible ‘final solution’. Reeling under the impact of the shocking and debilitating information as to what Hitler and his death squads were planning and what they had already accomplished in this respect, in April 1942 Shertok told General Claude John Eyre Auchinleck in Cairo:

the extermination of the Jewish race is a basic component of Nazi doctrine. The accurate reports that we have recently received and circulated show that this policy is being executed with undescribable cruelty. Hundreds of thousands of Jews have already died as a result of mass executions, enforced evacuations, as well as hunger and the diseases spreading throughout the ghettos and concentration camps of Poland, the Balkans, Romania and the occupied provinces of Russia.51

Astounded by Auchinleck’s cool reception of this horrific disclosure, Shertok repeated his statement in a public speech delivered in Tel Aviv, entitled ‘On the Eve of a Dangerous Era’, in which he affirmed that Hitler and his Nazi gangs would not be satisfied until they had ‘annihilated the Jewish race [sic!] from the face of the earth’. These statements demonstrated that although too late, nevertheless, at an early stage of the Holocaust, Shertok and other leaders of the Yishuv were fully aware of the situation of European Jews, but that, utterly frustrated, they were capable of doing only little in this respect. In the face of the Yishuv’s and Zionists’ inability to impress the British and American leaders, who could alleviate the situation of the European Jews, and with the knowledge that the German army was still close to Palestine, a powerless and bewildered Shertok again concentrated his efforts on enhancing the Yishuv’s measures for self-defence via the Haganah and Jewish units in the British army.52 With the full cooperation of his brother-in-law and friend, Eliahu Golomb, then the (p.127) Haganah’s most prominent and admired leader, he was determined to provide all that this clandestine paramilitary organization needed to protect the Yishuv, which he deemed as the most pressing need at that stage.

Once again, however, Shertok was forced to interrupt his varied political activities to intervene in the ongoing injurious struggle between Ben-Gurion and Weizmann, who both were in the USA to promote political interest in and raise money for the rescue of Jews, for the activities of the Zionist movement, and for the defence of the Yishuv. The irony, in fact tragedy, was that both his older colleagues were in quite close agreement as to what had to be done to garner support for achieving their ultimate goal. Both wished to meet President Roosevelt and other leading American politicians and officials to bolster the American Zionist movement’s general position and particularly its ability to exert political pressure on the White House and Capitol Hill; both were determined to bring the European inferno to the attention of the Americans; both were anxious to lay the groundwork for improving the political situation of the Yishuv after the war ended, and both felt the same urgent need to convene a Zionist and non-Zionist conference that would call for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine after the war. Hence in early 1942 the clash between them was as a result of not so much either ideology or strategy, but had evident personal undertones. Primarily, it was over the supreme leadership of the Zionist movement and the Yishuv. But this clash would not become open and merciless until after the Biltmore Conference of May 1942.

The Biltmore Conference was convened in New York by the American Zionist leaders under the influence of both Weizmann and Ben-Gurion. At this gathering, six hundred prominent American Jewish leaders gave birth to a new Zionist platform. The two most significant clauses of this important and famous political programme called for: international recognition of the right of the Jews to take an active part in the war and thereby to protect their national home in Palestine and their brethren in Europe and elsewhere, mainly through service in the British army; and the establishment of a semi-sovereign ‘Jewish commonwealth’ in Palestine, that would be endowed with the authority freely to determine the scope and pace of Jewish immigration to Palestine.53 Although neither of these ideas were new, the fact that they were adopted by so many renowned American Jewish leaders tremendously amplified the Zionist movement and the Yishuv’s desperate call for a radical change in the Jews’ status after the war. From then on, the Biltmore Program would serve as the main Zionist battle-cry. The plan gained special resonance (p.128) against the backdrop of the excesses of the Holocaust and Germany’s victories in North Africa, as well as that of the Struma Affair, in which over seven hundred Jewish refugees perished in Istanbul harbour. In various passionate speeches made in Palestine, Shertok supported the idea of a Jewish commonwealth:

At present we don’t have a state, but in every aspect of our life, in every stage of our activity the vision of a state is inherent. There can be a major debate over terms—in the event of a different term better expressing consensus [both within the Yishuv and in the Diaspora], I myself am ready to give up the term ‘state’. But, the state is continuously being established, in this sense the state is approaching.54

While the Biltmore Program constituted a turning-point in twentieth-century Jewish history, it also triggered yet another serious clash between Weizmann and Ben-Gurion, one which turned into a titanic struggle for the leadership of the Zionist movement. This renewed escalation of antagonism in the relations between these two leaders was fuelled when Weizmann published a widely read article in the prestigious Foreign Affairs that focused on the need to establish an independent Jewish entity in Palestine; it gained in strength when Weizmann was symbolically crowned as Herzl’s successor at a reception accorded him during the Biltmore Conference, and it culminated with the latter’s practical preparations to establish an Agency office in Washington intended to function as an additional centre for the formulation and execution of policy to those in Jerusalem and London. Since it was Ben-Gurion who had actually organized the Biltmore Conference, and who had promoted the Biltmore Program, he felt that Weizmann was stealing his thunder.55 But what the envious and conniving Ben-Gurion was really fighting for was Weizmann’s predominant position in the Zionist movement and the no less vain and vindictive Weizmann was defending his position.

When Ben-Gurion unleashed his vicious campaign against the older, ageing, and sick Zionist leader, Shertok was not surprisingly dragged into the imbroglio by both leaders, even though he was then totally absorbed in solving urgent problems in Palestine. Thus, Ben-Gurion informed Shertok that he was immediately leaving his ‘post’ as Weizmann’s watch-dog in America and returning to Palestine. On the other hand, in his correspondence with Shertok, Weizmann claimed that he alone should be in charge of political activities in the United States and could no longer tolerate Ben-Gurion’s negative and denigratory attitude and behaviour towards him.56

Shertok initially tried to conceal the personal aspect of this rift, but when stories of the true dimensions of the clash between the two (p.129) egotistical men percolated down to the rank and file of the Zionist movement, Shertok was moved to react. He did so by recommending his usual compromise aimed at reinstating the old balance between the two leaders and their respective camps. But this time, neither Shertok’s attempt at mediation, nor those of American Jewish leaders, such as Ben-Gurion’s ally Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, had much impact in quelling the storm.57 Since his genuine efforts to solve the new internal crisis through remote control from Jerusalem did not affect the two outraged antagonists and left the centre of the storm unabated, Shertok proceeded to examine the deeper psychological and ideological roots of the new clash. Having done so, his intellectual and emotional inclinations were to side with Weizmann.58 None the less, despite the real threat to the unity of the Zionist movement created by the Weizmann-Ben-Gurion feud, Shertok had more important and immediately pressing concerns.

In May and June 1942 Rommel’s German and Italian units had reached the borders of Egypt at al-Alamein and were preparing to attack the Suez Canal and to keep marching towards the Holy Land. The tireless workaholic Shertok helped to step up Jewish volunteering to the British army and oversaw preparations for the total mobilization of the Yishuv, both ‘in spirit and in body’.59 Shertok’s extended efforts culminated in the establishment of the Centre for the Recruitment in the Yishuv for registering all adult men and women, calling up high-school students for training, and conducting a giant public campaign for enlisting in the army and against draft evaders. Simultaneously, to supplement and reinforce these moves, Shertok initiated an elaborate system of voluntary taxation to finance the activities of the Centre and of the Haganah.

Moreover, new and more comprehensive information about the systematic extermination, especially of Polish Jews, which reached Palestine in July 1942, prompted Shertok to insist that ‘the Jews of Palestine would fight even if they had to do so with their backs to the wall’ should the British be forced to withdraw from that territory and the Middle East. The situation was so fraught with harrowing possibilities that all hostile political camps in both the Zionist movement and the Yishuv called a temporary halt to their ongoing internal battle. Shertok, who had been in favour of an immediate agreement with the Revisionists in the mid- and late 1930s, was now able to extract a decision from the Agency Executive to co-operate with Jabotinsky’s Revisionist disciples in Palestine for the advantage of the whole community. Despite the impending existential menace and Mapai’s readiness to strike an (p.130) agreement, negotiations with the Revisionists lasted for several months and did not result in an agreement.60

When the Allies’ situation in the North African theatre deteriorated even further, Churchill planned a visit to Cairo late in August 1942 to inspect his troops, try to boost their morale, closely examine the situation, and review the options for repulsing the Germans. Expecting accurately that the prime minister would announce changes in both British strategy and command while he was there, Shertok arranged one of his numerous visits to Egypt for the same time in the hope of meeting Churchill to discuss with him the burning issues of the defence of the Yishuv. Despite warm recommendations by his British friends in Cairo and London, his request to meet Churchill was denied. Nevertheless, he brought home from Cairo some good news—about Britain’s decision to create four Jewish battalions in Palestine in the event of a German invasion of the territory, a step that Shertok felt paved the way for the establishment of an autonomous Jewish fighting force within the British army.

Back in Palestine, he could only pray that on the one hand, the Yishuv would remain immune from a massive German attack and that on the other, his colleagues would establish a modicum of internal political tranquillity that would allow him to resume both his urgent political tasks as well as longer-range planning. But his prayer was not answered. For exactly at this critical point at the beginning of October 1942, Ben-Gurion returned to Jerusalem, bringing with him all his and Weizmann’s internecine squabbles. As expected, Ben-Gurion’s report to the Executive on recent developments in the American Zionist movement naturally centred around the Biltmore Conference and the plan approved by its participants. Upon concluding his comprehensive report on the conference, he asked for the Executive’s approval of the Biltmore plan and at the same time, demanded that Weizmann’s authority should be curbed.61

A new Shertok emerged during the ensuing acerbic debate. Aware that his political and diplomatic achievements already placed him at the very peak of the Executive and the Mapai leadership, he evinced a new aura of self-confidence and assertiveness. Indicating that he would support the Biltmore plan, he nevertheless stipulated that the Arabs’ fears of the proposed ‘Jewish commonwealth’ must be addressed and allayed since, once the war ended, Arab–Jewish relations would constitute a paramount factor in Palestine. From this point of view, Shertok baldly stated that ‘there is no Arab Question, only a Jewish Problem’. In other words, Shertok did not shrink from reminding the Executive members that the Arabs constituted the majority in Palestine, that their national movement (p.131) was an inseparable part of the ‘Jewish problem’, and that the Yishuv was therefore facing a strategic problem of enormous magnitude. This was why he believed that ‘Jewish rule’ in Palestine had to be attained through a combination of support from the great powers and reliance on the Yishuv’s own resources.

Shertok’s middle-of-the-road approach was aimed at creating a consensus among the many and conflicting Zionist views—which ranged from ‘leftists’ who supported a bi-national solution, to ‘rightists’ and ‘nationalists’, who supported the creation of a Jewish state in the entire territory. Since Ben-Gurion presented a similar compromise formula, the continuing disagreement with Shertok was somewhat alleviated. This emerging consensus at the top facilitated the Agency Executive’s and Mapai’s approval of the Biltmore Plan. It also helped Shertok to conceal his support for Weizmann to a certain extent and thus to lessen the acerbity of the strife between Ben-Gurion and Weizmann. Consequently both Mapai and the Executive left the questions of Weizmann’s position and his relations with Ben-Gurion unresolved.62

Towards the end of 1942, Shertok was greatly troubled by the theoretical and practical implications of what he regarded as the ‘shattered ideological assumptions’ of Zionists and of the Yishuv. He had serious doubts whether the Yishuv would really be able to provide a refuge for the ‘millions of Jews remaining in Central Europe, those who would survive the sword, annihilation, property confiscation, and humiliation’.63 This traditional Zionist principal assumption had been shattered and might be further thwarted by continued British restrictions on Jewish immigration and settlement. In this connection, nevertheless, he refused to compromise with the Arabs, on immigration, as some minimalist Yishuv leaders had suggested when they proposed accepting quotas not much higher than stipulated in the 1939 White Paper.

A second ‘shattered assumption’ was that after the war Mapai would remain a single united party. He came to realize this sad possibility in view of steps taken by activist leaders of Mapai, who organized a faction within the party, eventually adopting the evocative name Ahdut Haavodah, who seemed preparing to split Mapai and establish their own party. Since Shertok zealously believed that Mapai was more than ‘a temporary grouping of people; for this is an organic and continuous unity’, he could not hide his despair over this turn of events.

Finally, now he was profoundly sceptical about the viability of his old assumptions of unity in the Yishuv. In particular, he was perturbed by the lack of progress in attracting the Revisionists to rejoin the main Zionist stream on the one hand, and with the interminable personal strife (p.132) between Ben-Gurion and Weizmann that implicated large groups within the movement on the other.64

Somewhat improving his bad mood was a growing sense that the British were softening their position on forming Jewish units in their army—Weizmann’s and Shertok’s brainchild. Against this baffling backdrop, in late November 1942 he decided that he must go to London to check personally developments on this and other fronts. When the Agency Executive approved his trip to London, nobody, including Shertok himself, imagined that the trip would lead him to become involved in the most acerbic confrontation yet between Weizmann and Ben-Gurion, this time with himself in the middle rather than as the mediator.

‘The Middle East is on the verge of a new era,’ Shertok told a correspondent of the Tribune upon his arrival in London early in December 1942, and therefore the Yishuv should both watch current developments and step up its preparations for the post-war period. This part in the interview led the journalist to describe him as ‘a highly talented politician motivated by a cause and mission’. Noting, however, that not all Yishuv leaders were in agreement with Shertok’s moderate approach, the Tribune commented that Shertok was none the less more than capable of conducting negotiations on behalf of the entire community with his usual vigour even in that dark period in world and Jewish history. The Tribune interview concluded with Shertok’s statement that if he were confronted with a choice between maintaining the status quo and adopting a more radical solution, intended to change the status of the Jewish people after the war ended, he would opt for the radical solution.65 Coming from a moderate politician like Shertok, these were bold words mainly intended to prepare the ground in his negotiations in Whitehall.

In London Shertok not only started a diplomatic campaign for the establishment of the special Jewish units promised by Churchill and his government, but also officially broached, for the first time publicly, the idea of establishing Palestinian Jewish commando units to serve in the British army. He suggested that these special units would engage in espionage, sabotage, and other covert operations behind German lines in Europe, and also bolster Jewish resistance to the Nazis, which would put additional strain on the German war machine. Maintaining a murderous pace, Shertok conducted more than a hundred meetings with British politicians, generals, and officials on this short trip, most of these aimed at establishing Jewish units in the British army.

Shertok also emphasized the need for finding ways and means to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. In this respect, his most immediate (p.133) concern was the need to rescue Russian Jews who had been evacuated to the Central Asian areas of the Soviet Union, Polish Jews who had succeeded in escaping to various parts in the Soviet Union, and the Jews of Bulgaria, where deportation and extermination were imminent. Knowing full well that both the British and American governments showed nothing but utter apathy and passivity in the face of the threat to these Jews, Shertok called upon the British Jewish community to arouse public opinion in Britain and demand that the Allies rescue Jews then facing annihilation.66 To this end, he organized a delegation of British Jewish leaders, including Lord James Rothschild, Lord Herbert Samuel, and Rabbi Jacob Hertz, to meet the foreign secretary, Anthony Eden. The meeting was aimed at altering Eden’s position on this issue and allowing immigration to Palestine prior to a parliamentary debate on the Jewish plight, which was scheduled for mid-December 1942. However, the much-awaited meeting between the British foreign secretary and the Yishuv’s ‘foreign minister’ and the other Jewish dignitaries, ended in disappointment: although Eden admitted that there was ample space in Palestine to absorb all Jewish refugees, he refused to promise their free entry to the territory. Instead, he vaguely indicated that Britain would try to convince neutral states to provide refuge to Jews in distress, and that it would also approach the Vatican with a request for it to help Jews.67

Similarly, Shertok’s meetings with other British politicians and officials, including Oliver Stanley, then colonial secretary, James Greig, then secretary of war, as well as Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, and Herbert Morrison, who were members of the war cabinet, also ended inconclusively. Shertok was distressed that even then, these prominent British politicians, who before the war had sympathized with the Yishuv, were reluctant to make clear political commitments. However, he did not allow his frustration to overcome his determination. Instead, he pursued the issue in additional meetings, with the Soviet ambassador in London, Ivan Maisky, with Polish leaders, such as General Sikorsky and Count Edward Raczynski, as well as with the famous and sympathetic Czech leaders, Edward Beneš and Jan Masaryk, who greatly impressed him. Finally, he met Free French leader General Charles de Gaulle, whom he described as a vain and abrasive leader, who demonstrated aloofness towards his interlocutors. According to Shertok’s report, the general was highly cryptic about possible future relations between the Yishuv and France after the war. De Gaulle was ready to say only that France ‘would be friendly towards all those who were friendly towards us during our hours of distress’ and that France would co-ordinate all its policies (p.134) with Britain. Shertok of course was immensely disappointed with this statement.68

Despite his considerable disappointment and frustration at the reaction, or rather lack of favourable reaction of these and the many other leaders of the free world whom he met in London, Shertok, on behalf of the Agency Executive in Jerusalem, never flagged in fighting the British restrictions on land purchase and settlement in Palestine, although he was almost alone in this self-appointed task. Despite his failure to get the British to take a new look at the stipulations of the 1939 White Paper, and in view of the combative spirit that he had helped to arouse in British Jewish leaders, Shertok clung to his and Weizmann’s line, stating that ‘under no circumstances should we despair of Britain and rely totally on the USA…Instead, we should dig the tunnel from both ends’.69 This attitude continued to prompt the disagreement of leaders of the activist segment of Mapai, such as Ben-Gurion and Berl Katznelson, who had then placed their entire hope on the United States.

The old-new internal political storm that had involved Shertok in the past was now rapidly gathering momentum. For, contrary to Ben-Gurion’s explicit opposition, Shertok finally accepted Weizmann’s often-repeated invitation to join him in the USA. Ben-Gurion, who was in Jerusalem at the time, interpreted Shertok’s planned trip from London to America as the clearest indication of Shertok’s personal allegiance to Weizmann and the Weizmannite line and camp. Ben-Gurion’s feeling that Shertok was betraying him personally and Mapai collectively by joining his ‘dear chief’ in Washington created a permanent rift in the relations between the two leaders.70 Moreover, Ben-Gurion openly displayed his displeasure by once again announcing his decision to resign from the Agency Executive on the same day that Shertok left on a dangerous trip to America via Lisbon and the war-torn Atlantic Ocean. Ben-Gurion insisted that he would only continue his work in the Executive until Shertok’s return home.


(1) . Sharett, Making of Policy, 10 May 1939, 11 May 1939, 12 May 1939, iv. 277, 280, 282–3.

(2) . 258–9.

(3) . , 17 May 1939, 18 May 1939, 19 May 1939, 290, 291, 292; Palestine Post, 18 May 1939, 19 May 1939, 20 May 1939.

(4) . Shertok in Mapai Central Committee, 14 June 1939, Mapai Archive, 23/35. (p.135)

(5) . Shertok in Agency Executive, 25 June 1939, CZA; and see Ben-Gurion and Shertok, in Zionist Smaller Actions Committee, 26 June 1939, CZA, S25/1835.

(6) . Teveth, David’s Jealousy, iii. 326–31.

(7) . Sharett, Making of Policy, iv. 331–2.

(8) . See the protocols of Twenty-First Zionist Congress, held in Geneva in August 1939, CZA.

(9) . See the protocols of congress.

(10) . Shertok in Mapai Central Committee, 21 Sept. 1939, Mapai Archive, 23/39; and see in the same context, Weizmann to Shertok, 24 Sept. 1939, CZA, S25/1716.

(11) . Mapai Central Committee, 12 Sept. 1939, Mapai Archive 23/39.

(12) . Sharett, Making of Policy, 21 Sept. 1939, iv. 346–7.

(13) . Mapai Central Committee, 21 Sept. 1939, Mapai Archive, 23/39; Shertok in Agency Executive, 24 Sept. 1939, CZA; and see Shertok’s meeting with General Barker on 25 Sept. 1939 as reported to Mapai Secretariat on 25 Sept. 1939, Mapai Archive, 23/39.

(14) . Shertok’s London Diary, 6 Oct. 1939, CZA, S25/198; and see Y. Porath, In Search of Arab Unity, 1930–1945 (Heb.) (Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, 1985), 94–7.

(15) . Shertok’s London Diary, 7 Oct. 1939, CZA, S25/198.

(16) . Sharett, Making of Policy, iv. 456.

(17) . 406; and see a report on his contacts with Soviet diplomats in London, Shertok’s London Diary, 14. Oct. 1939 and 27 Oct. 1939, CZA.

(18) . Sharett, Making of Policy, 13 Nov. 1939, iv. 487–8.

(19) . Shertok’s London Diary, 15 Nov. 1939, 16 Nov. 1939, 20 Nov. 1939, CZA.

(20) . See the discussion in Agency Executive, 26 Nov. 1939, CZA; Political Committee of Mapai, 27 Nov. 1939, Mapai Archive, 23/39.

(21) . Shertok’s London Diary, 11 Oct. 1939, 13 Oct. 1939, 16 Oct. 1939, 17 Oct. 1939, CZA; and see report on his talk with MacDonald, 11 Oct. 1939, CZA, S25/7563.

(22) . Agency Executive, 29 Feb. 1940, CZA.

(23) . Agency Executive, 7 Mar. 1940, 12 Mar. 1940, CZA; Shertok’s report to Executive, 1 Apr. 1940, CZA; Shertok’s report to Mapai Central Committee, 9 Apr. 1940, Mapai Archive 23/40.

(24) . Agency Executive, 8 Apr. 1940, 9 Apr. 1940, CZA; and Teveth, David’s Jealousy, iii. 340–1.

(25) . Sharett, Making of Policy, 14 Apr. 1940, v. 46–8.

(26) . Agency Executive, 21 Apr. 1940, 17 May 1940, CZA; Shertok to Ben-Gurion, 13 May 1940, CZA, S25/10582; Teveth, David’s Jealousy, iii. 341, 343–5.

(27) . Shertok to Ben-Gurion, 14 May 1940, CZA, S25/10582; Agency Executive, 21 Apr. 1940, 22 Apr. 1940, 30 Apr. 1940, CZA.

(28) . Mapai Central Committee, 14 May 1940, Mapai Archive 23/40; and see Ben-Gurion’s evaluation as it is summarized in Teveth, David’s Jealousy, iii. 346.

(29) . Shertok to Ben-Gurion, 26 May 1940, CZA, S25/10582; Agency Executive, 2 May 1940, 3 June 1940, 9 June 1940, 14 June 1940, CZA; and see Shertok on his talk with General Giffard, 1 June 1940, CZA, S25/10582.

(30) . Agency Executive, 3 June 1940, 9 June 1940, 14 June 1940, 16 June 1940, 19 June 1940, CZA; Shertok in fifteenth session of Mapai Council, 14–16 June (p.136) 1940, Mapai Archive, 22/15; Shertok to Ben-Gurion, 10 June 1940, CZA, S25/10582; Mapai Central Committee, 26 June 1940, Mapai Archive, 23/40.

(31) . Shertok to Ben-Gurion, 27 June 1940, CZA, S25/10582; and see reports about Shertok’s speeches in various rallies, Palestine Post, 7 July 1940, 9 July 1940, 10 July 1940.

(32) . Shertok in an internal political seminar held on 12 June 1940, CZA, S25/6911; Shertok’s report on his talk with General Neam, 6 Sept. 1940, CZA, S25/6911; Agency Executive, 12 Sept. 1940, CZA; Mapai Political Committee, 18 Sept. 1940, Mapai Archive; Shertok’s concluding speech, Mapai Political Committee, 29 Oct. 1940, Mapai Archive, 23/40.

(33) . Sharett, Making of Policy, 29 Oct. 1940, v. 117–22.

(34) . On the Patria disaster, see Shertok in Political Committee of Mapai, 21 Nov. 1940, 9 Dec. 1940, 12 Dec. 1940, Mapai Archive, 23/40; Shertok in Agency Executive, 28 Nov. 1940, 9 Dec. 1940, CZA; B. Wasserstein, Britain and the Jews of Europe, 1939–1945 (Heb.) (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1982), 64–6; 67–9; 69–71; Mapai Central Committee, 15 Feb. 1941, Mapai Archive 23/40.

(35) . Sharett, Making of Policy, 12 Dec. 1940, v. 140–3; Shertok in Mapai Central Committee, 15 Feb. 1941, Mapai Archive, 23/40.

(36) . Weizmann to Shertok, 3 Jan. 1941, CZA, S25/7682.

(37) . Shertok in Mapai Central Committee, 9 Jan. 1941, Mapai Archive, 23/41; and see also Executive, 2 Feb. 1941 and 16 Feb. 1941, CZA.

(38) . Teveth, David’s Jealousy, iii. 375–7.

(39) . Shertok in Agency Executive, 16 Feb. 1941, 23 Feb. 1941, CZA; cf. Teveth, David’s Jealousy, iii. 375–7; and A. Gal, David Ben-Gurion: Towards the Establishment of a Jewish State (Heb.) (Beersheba: Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, 1985), 101–31.

(40) . Shertok in Agency Executive, 9 Mar. 1941, CZA.

(41) . See e.g. Shertok in forty-third session of Histadrut Council, 8 Mar. 1941, CZA, S25/858.

(42) . For Ben-Gurion’s position, see his ‘Guide-lines’; for Shertok’s response, see Shertok in Mapai Central Committee, 19 Mar. 1941, Mapai Archive, 23/41.

(43) . Shertok in forty-third session of Histadrut Council, 8 Mar. 1941, CZA S25/858.

(44) . Shertok in Agency Executive, 27 Apr. 1941, 4 May 1941, 11 May 1941, CZA; and Shertok during seventeenth session of Mapai Council, 24 Apr. 1941, Mapai Archive 27/17; Shertok in Zionist Smaller Actions Committee, 7 May 1941, CZA, S25/1856.

(45) . e.g. H. Eshkoli, Silence, Mapai and the Holocaust, 1939–1942 (Heb.) (Jerusalem: Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, 1994), passim.

(46) . Sharett, Making of Policy, 3 May 1940, v. 55–6, 27 June 1940, v. 90–2; Shlaim, Collusion, 70–1.

(47) . Sharett, Making of Policy, 2 June 1940, v. 203–5, 8 June 1940, v. 207–9.

(48) . .

(49) . Shertok in Mapai Central Committee, 7 Jan. 1942, Mapai Archive 23/42; nineteenth session of Mapai Council, 14 Jan. 1942, Mapai Archive, 22/19.

(50) . Shertok in Agency Executive, 5 Jan. 1942, CZA; Palestine Post, 28 Dec. 1941. (p.137)

(51) . Shertok to General Auchinleck, 17 Apr. 1942, CZA, S25/5089; D. Porath, An Entangled Leadership: The Yishuv and the Holocaust, 1942–1945 (Heb.) (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1986), 44–50.

(52) . Shertok in Agency Executive, 19 Apr. 1942, CZA; and see Shertok’s speech ‘On the Eve of a Dangerous Era’, 2 May 1942, CZA, A245/102.

(53) . S. Dothan, The Struggle for Eretz Israel (Heb.) (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defence 1981), 220–4; Teveth, David’s Jealousy, iii. 410–11.

(54) . Sharett, Making of Policy, 22 Apr. 1942, v. 304.

(55) . Teveth, David’s Jealousy, iii. 409–11.

(56) . 411–14.

(57) . 416–19; Weizmann to Shertok, 12 Aug. 1942, CZA; 25/1217; Agency Executive, 16 Aug. 1942, CZA.

(58) . Agency Executive, 10 May 1942, CZA; Shertok’s speech in concluding session of the Fifth Convention of Histadrut, 22 Apr. 1942, CZA, S25/858. Shertok in Agency Executive, 14 June 1942, CZA.

(59) . See Shertok’s summary of these efforts in Smaller Actions Committee, 6 May 1942, CZA, S25/312; Shertok in Mapai Secretariat 30 Apr. 1942, Mapai Archive, 23/42.

(60) . Agency Executive, 30 Aug. 1942, 6 Sept. 1942, CZA; Smaller Actions Committee, 9 Sept. 1942, CZA, S25/314.

(61) . Teveth, David’s Jealousy, iii. 431.

(62) . Agency Executive, 4 Oct. 1942, 6 Oct. 1942, 10 Oct. 1942, 11 Oct. 1942, CZA; Shertok in third session of Fifth Mapai Convention, 29 Oct. 1942, Mapai Archive, 21/5/3.

(63) . Shertok in a gathering of Mapai members, Degania, 9 Oct. 1942, Mapai Archive, 15/2/42.

(65) . Tribune, 4 Dec. 1942.

(66) . Report on Executive’s meeting in London, 14 Dec. 1942, CZA, Z4/302/26; Shertok’s report on his visit to London, Jewish Agency Executive, 25 Apr. 1943, CZA; see his report to Mapai Secretariat, 27 Apr. 1943, Mapai Archive 24/43; cf. D. Porath, An Entangled Leadership, 78–9; Wasserstein, Britain and the Jews of Europe, 144–7.

(67) . Shertok’s report to Agency Executive in Jerusalem, 25 Apr. 1943, CZA; Wasserstein, Britain and the Jews of Europe, 149.

(68) . Shertok’s report on this meeting, Executive in London, 4 Jan. 1943, CZA, Z4/302/26.

(69) . Shertok’s report on his visits to England and the USA in Mapai Secretariat, 27 Apr. 1943, Mapai Archive, 24/43.

(70) . Agency Executive, 10 Jan. 1943, 7 Feb. 1943, CZA; Shertok to Golomb, 26 Jan. 1943, CZA, Z4/10397.