Golda Meir was born in Ukraine Russia in 1898. Anti-Semitism ran rampant during this period, and one of Golda’s first memories involve her father boarding up the windows of their house in the Jewish ghetto to protect against an angry mob (known as pogroms). Because of this danger Golda and her family moved to the United States. It was here that Golda was first introduced to Zionism as she became involved in the Zionist group Poale Zion, membership of which required Golda to commit to moving to Palestine at the age of 17 (a commitment she fulfilled in the spring of 1921).
In 1921 Golda Meir, her usband Morris Meyerson, her sister and some friends moved to a kibbutz in Israel and from that point on her involvement in the Zionist movement and Israeli politics continued to grow exponentially. The three main aspects of Golda Meir’s involvement with politics was her roles in promoting Zionism, her ‘left-wing’ attitudes, and her wish for peace in Israel. Through her roles as the Secretary for the Women’s Labour Council for the Histadrut and Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Golda had the opportunity to travel across the globe, informing Jews in Britain, America and (for a brief 6 months) the Soviet
Union about the struggles in Israel. This helped build relationships with key countries and gain more support for the Zionist cause. Golda’s passion for the Zionist movement affected her involvement and reactions in both the 67 and the 73 Arab- Israeli wars, especially in her opinion towards the Palestinians, “It was not as if there was a Palestinian people in Palestine and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist. ” Golda’s reaction World War II was a key example of her liberal attitudes.
Despite pleading for unlimited Jewish immigration, the British (fearing their access to il would become cut off) refused, issuing a white paper that created further restrictions. Golda worked with the British authorities whilst simultaneously joining a covert resistance movement against the white paper, helping immigrants to transport illegally and supplying resistance fighters in Europe with weapons. The war in Europe caused massive pressure upon Britain concerning the immigration laws, and in a way helped Israel gain its independence on May 14, 1948.
Her role as Minister for Labour, under which Golda introduced the National Insurance Act and organized large housing and infrastructure cts to accommodate for the rise in immigration levels, also represents how left-wing attitudes affected her role in government. Whilst Israel was about to gain independence, Golda Meir went to extremely dangerous measures in attempts to make peace with King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. Their military force had been trained and commanded by the British, making it one of the strongest forces of all the Arab countries.
In May 1948 Golda travelled secretly dressed as an Arab to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah in attempts to obtain peace with the Arab country. This attempt failed, however it still demonstrates he lengths at which Golda went for peace. Golda Meir’s passion for Zionism, liberal beliefs and wish for peace were all factors in her involvement with the wars concerning how she raised funds, her reactions to the wars, and eventually, how she governed Israel as prime minister during the Yom Kippur War.
Golda Meir became Israel’s Foreign Minister in 1956 and although she retired the year before the Six Day War, many of her achievements had a direct influence on the Six Day War. She also established relationships with other developing countries in Africa and Latin America through the “shared experience of ation building” during her time as Foreign Minister. Ties with America were also further cemented by Golda, as almost $1000 million a year was donated by American Jews.
Much of this money was used to create industries, irrigate desert and most significantly used to provide weapons, tanks and planes to the defence force. These were vital when the countries surrounding Israel all attacked simultaneously in 1967. Seven years before the outbreak of war Golda challenged the Arab leaders in an address at the UN General Assembly to organize a peace settlement with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, to which President Nasser replied that Egypt would never recognize the Jewish State. This stubborn attitude and refusal to negotiate was the cause of much tension in the build up to the Six Day War.
However, Golda herself was also stubborn, and when the Suez conflict broke out and Israel occupied the Sinai desert, Golda went to the US in order to negotiate, refusing to withdraw unless a peace agreement was drawn up with Egypt, “I have never believed in inflexibility except when Israel is concerned”. The pressure from the United States and Soviet Union forces Israel to eventually withdraw with the guarantee that a UNEF United Nations Expeditionary Force) would shield the southern border as well as being allowed access to the Straits of Tiran. The eventual failure of these two guarantees were the main causes of the Six-Day War.
Golda retired from Foreign Minister in 1966, and was not a part of the government during the course of the Six-Day War, however her work and achievements in the role did have an impact on the success of Israel. The Six-Day War occurred mainly because of the failure of the agreements Golda had received in 1956. The UNEF had withdrawn at Egypt’s request and the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria had Israel urrounded. Despite having to defend against three countries and their armies all at once, Israel issued a pre-emptive strike on the 6th of June 1967 that wiped out a majority of their enemy’s air forces.
Despite the Arab armies being larger and armed with Soviet missiles, the Israelis were trained, highly skilled and armed with the most recent electronic American equipment. In a period of 6 days Israel occupied the Gaza strip, the West Bank, the Golan, the Sinai and East Jerusalem. Golda Meir in her biography stated that they had won the war because “we [hoped] to achieve a victory so complete that we would ever have to fight again… perhaps our neighbours would give up their ‘holy war’ against use and realize that peace was as necessary for them as for us.
In 1969 Golda Meir was called upon after the death of Levi Eshkol to become Prime Minister, and Golda began her term during a period of security. Spirits were high, and Golda said of the tearing down of the concrete barricades in Jerusalem “those hideous barricades had signified the abnormality of our life, and when they were bulldozed away and Jerusalem overnight became one city, it was like a sign and symbol of a new era. “. The recent victory had given the nation a enewed confidence, and Golda believed Israel was in a good geopolitical position.
However, this euphoria was not shared by the Arab countries who had been humiliated in their defeat. Hostilities were now higher than ever. Egypt and the Soviet Union were it a ‘political necessity to avenge’ themselves, and Russia began sending more weapons to replace those that had been destroyed in the previous war, alongside 10 000 Russian advisors for the military. The three no’s, ‘no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiation with Israel were announced in August 1967, showing the increasing bitterness with which the Arabs regarded the Israeli’s.
The tension between the two countries was high as ever, with fights occurring regularly on the Suez Canal borderline. Resolution 232 was passed by the UN in November of that same year in attempts to create peace if the Israeli armed forces retreated from their new territories in return for respect and peace from the neighbouring states, ‘free from threat. Despite majority of the Arab countries accepting this, Golda Meir opposed whole-heartedly, going as far as to banning her ministers from saying ‘withdraw’ unless it was absolutely necessary.
In her opinion the Arab offers of peace ere insincere as all they truly wanted was the destruction of Israel. Despite this opinion she did reach out for peace with President Nasser, to which he replied “There is no voice transcending the sounds to war. ” With proclamations such as this it is understandable that she would have been suspicious of the acceptance of war, and no call holier than the call Resolution 242, especially in light of the previous agreements that had been broken when she was Foreign Minister, however the new President of Egypt-President Anwar Sadat-was willing to recognize Israel in return for the lost land.
Historian Avi Shlaim believes that it was this “policy of immobilisation [that] was largely responsible for the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. ‘ The Egyptians and Syrians disguised their mobilisation under the pretences of a military exercise; news of an attack at sunset did not reach Golda Meir until 3:45am on October the 6th, the morning of the attack. This brought with it a choice; whether Israel should launch a pre-emptive launch such as had been done in the 1967 war, or to mobilize and wait for the attack to come. Her decision to mobilize and wait has been the cause for many debates