On Tuesday, nearly 72 percent of eligible Israeli voters participated in its 20th elections, exercising a defining feature of the Middle East's only democracy. B'nai B'rith celebrated this feat throughout the election process.
Forty-six years prior to this election, on March 17, 1969, Golda Meir was selected as the nation's fourth prime minister. In April, 1969, B'nai B'rith's National Jewish Monthly noted her premiership by revisiting her heroic meetings with Emir Abdullah of Transjordan in the lead up to Israel's independence.
Read the entirety of the piece, written by Bernard Postal and Henry W. Levy, below:
Golda Meir's Secret Missions (National Jewish Monthly, April 1969)
Mrs. Golda Meir, the septuagenarian grandmother who became Israel's Prime Minister on the eve of the Jewish State's 21st anniversary, once made a bold undercover attempt to prevent the Arab invasion of Israel in 1948.
In October, 1949, before the United Nations had voted to partition Palestine but after the British had announced their impending withdrawal, the Jewish Agency tried to reach an understanding with Emir Abdullah of Transjordan. In the closing weeks of the Mandate his attitude became crucial. If he did not move against the Jews, neither would the other Arab states. If he ordered his Arab Legion to march, the other Arab armies would follow, not only because of treaty commitments, but because Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon did not trust Abdullah. The Arab states were united in opposition to Zionism but at loggerheads on how to prevent the emergence of the Jewish state. The chief reason for the disunity was Abdullah's ambition to grab the areas of Palestine the UN had set aside for an Arab state, as well as Jerusalem. Abdullah was well aware that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, as well as Syria, was scheming to set up an independent Arab state in Palestine, with the Mufti as its head. To thwart this planned encirclement by his enemies, Abdullah was willing to come to terms with the Jews.
In mid-November, 1947, Abdullah agreed to a private meeting with Mrs. Myerson, as she was known at that time, when she was the chairman of the political department of the Jewish Agency. The meeting took place in the living room of the Pinhas Rutenberg's house near the power station at Naharayim, on the Jordan River. The Bedouin monarch came incognito. In the presence of Eliahu Sassoon and Exra Dannin, the Jewish Agency's Arabic-speaking experts on Arab affairs, Abdullah assured Mrs. Myerson he would not join in any attack on the Jews. If the UN decided on partition, he would incorporate the areas ear-marked for the Arab state in his kingdom. He pledged friendship to a Jewish state, spoke of the Grand Mufti as a common enemy, and agreed to another meeting after the UN vote. Before they parted, Abdullah asked Mrs. Myerson how the Jews would feel about including the Jewish state in an enlarged Transjordan. Told that it was out of the questions, he dropped the matter, but hinted that he needed some territorial concessions from the Jews to impress his fellow Arab leaders.
No second meeting was held after Nov. 29, 1947, when the UN General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, but discreet contact was maintained between the Jewish Agency and Abdullah's agents. As the reports of combined Arab war plans grew more ominous and Abdullah himself became more bellicose in his public statements, Mrs. Myerson sent him a message inquiring if his earlier promise was still valid. Abdullah replied that a Bedouin was a man of honor and a promise to a woman was never broken. At the same time he renewed his previous suggestion that the Jews should consider ceding to him part of the territory assigned to them by the UN in order to raise his prestige in the Arab world.
Although the answer was an unequivocal no, Abdullah nevertheless made another appointment, for May 10, 1948. This time, however, he refused to come to Naharayim because news of his talks with the Jews had leaked out. He insisted that Mrs. Myerson come to Amman, and undertook to arrange the security precautions. In Tel Aviv, where Mrs. Myerson was deeply involved in plans for proclaiming Israel's independence a few days later, she was made up as an Arab woman and driven by car to Haifa. She was accompanied only by Ezra Dannin because Sassoon was pinned down in Jerusalem by the Arab siege. From Haifa they traveled in an inconspicuous car to Naharayim where a limousine sent by Abdullah was waiting. The Jordanian chauffeur was a member of Abdullah's household and knew all about the rendezvous since it was to be held in his house on the outskirts of Amman. En route to the Jordanian capital, the limousine was halted 10 times at checkpoints through the lines of the assembling Arab Legion and the forward units of the Israeli army.
Mrs. Myerson's mission was to try to keep Transjordan out of the Arab-Jewish war, thus preventing an attack on Jerusalem and keeping the Iraqis from invading Transjordan.
The one-hour audience was cordial, but Abdullah said war could still be averted only if the Jews were ready to postpone independence and halt immigration. He informed Mrs. Myerson that one the British left on May 14, he would take over all of Palestine and, after a year, merge it with his kingdom. Within this enlarged Transjordan, Abdullah was prepared to grant autonomy to the Jews in the areas they inhabited and to give them equal representation in the Transjordan parliament. Mrs. Myerson rejected his proposal as totally unacceptable, but she was empowered to consent to Abdullah's annexation of the territory of the proposed Arab state.
Abdullah did not deny his earlier agreement with Mrs. Myerson but explained that the situation had changed. "Then I was alone, but now I am one of five," he said, implying that the power of decision was no longer his alone. He was courteous and even cavalier, but adamant. When the Iraqi-born Dannin warned Abdullah he was in mortal danger from his own allies, the Emir thanked him profusely (among the assassins of Abdullah on July 20, 1951 were collaborators of the Grand Mufti). The meeting broke up after Mrs. Myerson warned Abdullah that if he turned his back on his promise of 1947 then war was inevitable because the Jews would resist invasion.
On the way back from Amman, the Arab chauffeur drove past heavy Iraqi equipment and artillery moving toward the Palestine frontier. Alarmed lest some sentry recognize his passengers, the driver let them out two miles from the border at 3 a.m. on May 11. Unarmed, they walked to Naharayim, where a Haganah scout picked them up.
The last word on war had not yet been spoken on May 12, when Yigael Yadin, Haganah chief of staff, was calling in by Ben-Gurion to an emergency session of the Minhalet Ha'Am (the national administration, or shadow government of Israel in the making) and asked to detail the chances of survival if the state was established. Ben-Gurion was determined on independence however great the risks, but it was Yadin's responsibility to weigh the military pros and cons.
The likelihood of invasions was a virtual certainty, Yadin informed the nine men and one woman (Mrs. Myerson) seated around the plain, square table in the Jewish National Fund Building on Herman Shapira Street in Tel Aviv. Two other members of the administration were trapped in Jerusalem, and a third was in the United States. The Etzion bloc of settlements south of Jerusalem was being overrun by Abdullah's Arab legion, Yadin solemnly announced, amid stony silence broken only by Golda Myerson's sobs. The chance of throwing back an invasion was far from certain, Yadin reported. He had no fighting planes and his so-called air force was no military factor. Weapons and ammunition were dangerously short. Without minimizing the handicaps resulting from Arab superiority in armor and planes, he quietly pointed out that the one factor operating in Israel's favor was the imminent British departure. This, he observed, would permit full scale mobilization for the first time and would assure the arrival of arms shipments.
After Yadin left the room, the discussion was brief. One or two members were sufficiently frightened by the grim picture he had drawn to vote no, but the majority said yes when Ben-Gurion asked if they were ready to vote for independence on May 14. Before the 13-hour session adjourned, the shadow cabinet also rejected Abdullah's offer to call off the invasion if the Jews would defer independence. Two of the ten in the room were ready to talk about a deal but the majority stood firm for independence after hearing Golda Myerson's report of her secret talk with Abdullah on May 10.
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