The aim of this special volume marking the 50th year since the passing of Moshe Sharett, Israel’s first minister of foreign affairs and second prime minister is to present new perspectives on Sharett’s career before and after the establishment of the State of Israel.
Sharett made an indelible impact on Israel’s foreign policy and in consolidating Israel’s standing in the world. These successes, however, took a back seat as the exigencies of Israel’s existential security concerns became increasingly paramount. Invariably, any assessment of Sharett is inextricably linked to his relations and disagreements with Ben-Gurion, the senior and dominant partner, on a number of key issues over four decades. Sharett’s line in giving an alternative rational voice in the Cabinet to these issues proved essential in strengthening Israel’s nascent democracy. Sharett’s stance was vindicated in US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s assessment immediately following the Yom Kippur War that “Like all other countries in history, they [the Israelis] now have to depend on the combination of security and diplomacy to achieve their security.”
We refer the reader to two articles on Sharett published in an early edition of Israel Studies 15.3 (2010) “Moshe Sharett and the Origins of Israel’s Diplomacy” by Moshe Yegar and “Moshe Sharett, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Jewish Diaspora” by Gabriel Sheffer, which complement the contents of this special issue.
In “The Sharett Legacy” Gabriel Sheffer notes, “There are leaders who despite their negligible contributions are well remembered and appreciated, and there are leaders who despite their significant contributions to their nations and states are forgotten or intentionally brushed aside.” He concludes that Sharett’s legacy “has particular promise for the solution of protracted conflicts like that which has endlessly lingered on between Jews and Palestinians and Arabs in the Middle East.” [End Page v]
In “ ‘Perhaps We’ll Meet Again’—Moshe Sharett’s Military Service”, Glenda Abramson relates Sharett’s experience as an officer in the Ottoman army and introduces a large corpus of letters to his family during his service. These provide insights into many of his Jewish contemporaries from Palestine and the situation in the Yishuv at that time.
In “Moshe Shertok and the Arab Problem: First Steps, 1931–1933”, Yaron Ran contributes to a deeper understanding on how Sharett, up to his nomination as head of the Political Department in 1933, formulated the Yishuv’s Arab strategy and laid the groundwork for the Yishuv’s intelligence system in the field of running agents and informers.
In “ ‘Between Two Mountains’: On Moshe Sharett and His Relations with David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann”, Yosef Gorni portrays how Sharett during the period 1942–1947 acted as the “go between” in the severe political confrontation between Chaim Weizmann, president of the Zionist movement, and David Ben-Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency. It elucidates Sharett’s political way of compromise, which was later manifested in his leadership.
Ohad Leslau in “Love/Hate Story: Moshe Sharett and AMAN (Military Intelligence)” examines the extent of the influence of the Israeli intelligence community’s estimates on Sharett’s views during 1954–1956. He focuses on Sharett’s relations with Harkabi and Gibli, which were profoundly different.
In “Striking When the Iron is Cold: Moshe Sharett and Sino-Israeli Relations”, Yitzhak Shichor reveals in depth Sharett’s interest in forming relations with China since the 1930s and 1940s. He maintains that unlike the conventional wisdom, Sharett played the leading role in promoting Israel’s relations with Asia. Although he never abandoned the idea of establishing relations with China, he was somewhat skeptical about China’s interest in relations with Israel, which seemed justified since by 1954 China had opted for relations with Arab and Islamic countries at Israel’s expense.
In “Why Was Moshe Sharett Deposed? A Historical Question and a Historiographical Issue”, Yechiam Weitz calls for a reassessment of historical research about Sharett’s forced resignation. Cabinet meeting protocols reveal a complex in-depth picture on the background of Sharett’s forced resignation in June 1956. After the resignation, Ben-Gurion claimed that Sharett organized Cabinet...