I imagine we’ve all heard that great line attributed to David Ben Gurion upon the surprising conclusion of the Six Day War, something to the effect that, “We have to give all of the territories back, save for Jerusalem. Retaining them will be disastrous for Israel.” Something like that.
The sentiment lying behind the quote has historically provided ammunition to those believing the territories have had a negative effect upon the Jewish state: If our greatest Israeli leader believed that holding on to the territories is a bad thing, that’s one more for our side.
But what if that quote is one of our great urban myths, that Ben Gurion never said anything of the sort?
According to Martin Kramer of the Shalem Center, that’s exactly the case. Tracing the origin of the story to Arthur Hertzberg and a talk given by Ben Gurion to a group of Conservative rabbis not long after the conclusion of the war, the speech, exists in a transcript and on audio tape. And nowhere in that speech does B-G utter that famous line.
Beyond the assertion that nowhere in that speech does Bv-G make such an assertion, Kramer shows that nowhere in subsequent policy statements does he make any claim remotely resembling what Hertzberg alleges.
What this says about Hertzberg, who was a pretty fair historian, I am not certain, but it sure don’t sound good.
This link will get you to Kramer’s piece. To my mind, by the way, although the research required to learn what Kramer discovered was not terribly complicated, nonetheless I’m impressed by the work Kramer did to learn what he learned about the famous (nonexistent) quote.
Rabbi Phil Cohen