“To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don’t be.” The rules of leadership of Golda Meir, the first female prime minister in the Middle East
Photo: Harry Dempster / jewishboston.com
“We intend to remain alive. Our neighbors want to see us dead. This is not a question that leaves much room for compromise.” This phrase has recently been very often quoted in Ukraine. It was delivered by Kyiv-born Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
On March 17, 1969, she became prime minister in the Holy Land. At the age go 70 Golda Meir led the government between two armed conflicts – the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War.
She stood at the origins of the birth of the state, signed the Declaration of Independence of Israel, became the first minister of labor and social insurance, the first woman minister of foreign affairs, and also the first Israeli ambassador to the USSR. In total, she served in the Israeli government for more than 30 years.
SKILL OF DIPLOMACY
It is about her that the English aristocrat and military officer, Secretary of the British War Council Albert Spencer said: “Golda Meir was the most gifted woman I have ever met. Like Mr. Churchill, she found a simple solution to any problem.” Princess Diana’s grandfather was unusually struck by the diplomatic gift of a member of the David Ben-Gurion group, which fought for the establishment of an independent Jewish state.
A political leader who does not hesitate before he sends his nation into battle is not fit to be a leader
Golda Meir was appointed nominal head of government when her associates were serving time in prison after their arrest. It was then that the ship Exodus made its legendary voyage to Palestine. It was carrying about 4,700 Jews from Northern Europe on board. These Holocaust survivors did not have legal documents to immigrate to Palestine.
The ship was blocked by British destroyers in neutral waters. Golda Meir stepped aboard this ship, addressing the British, “You can all join us.” And the diplomats of the kingdom did not find what to answer her.
Her dialogue with the American statesman, diplomat and expert in the field of international relations Henry Kissinger is also known. Golda Meir tried to persuade him to put Israel’s interests first.
Kissinger replied in a rather dry letter, “Golda, you must remember that first I am an American, second I am Secretary of State and third I am a Jew.” To which Golda Meir categorically replied, “Henry, you forget that in Israel we read from right to left!”
Yes, John F. Kennedy and current US President Joe Biden applauded her diplomatic talent. And Golda Meir just invited the powers that be for a cup of coffee with her signature apple pie. Today, a narrow circle of people who decide the fate of the country, in Israeli politics, is still called mitbahon – cuisine.
I realized that in a conflict between my duty and my innermost desires, it was my duty that had the prior claim
“We didn’t have the luxury of pessimism, so we made completely different calculations based on the fact that we all had such a strong will to live that it couldn’t even be understood outside of Israel. If we did not want to be pushed into the sea, we had only to win. And so we won,” you can read in the biography of Golda Meir, issued in the book My Life.
In the book, she spoke in detail about the important stages in the formation of the state of Israel and the complexities of the political life of those years. This quote is her response to a statement by US Secretary of Defense James Forrestal.
After the UN General Assembly finally voted for the partition of Palestine and the independence of Israel in 1947, he warned: “45 million Arabs are going to dump 250,000 Jews straight into the ocean.”
The young state had no funds, but there were millions of enemies. There was not much choice, but there was a desire to survive. And there was Golda Meir with her motivating phrase: “We had a secret weapon – no alternative.”
Soon King Abdullah of Jordan announced that the Arabs were ready to sacrifice a tenth of their sons in order to deprive the Jews of this piece of land. To prevent the impending war, Golda Meir decided to meet with the king at any cost.
“It was the greatest impudence on my part, but I knew that we must win,” she wrote in her autobiography. And to her comrades-in-arms she would say the following, “I am ready to go to hell if it gives a chance to save the life of at least one Jewish soldier.”
I can honestly say that I have never been interested in success. If I felt it was the right thing to do, I was for it regardless of the possible outcome
Further events unfolded, as in a detective story. A Jewish woman, Golda Meir, dressed in an abaya and arbitrarily crossed the border. The Arab driver who agreed to deliver her, afraid of the consequences, dropped her off somewhere in the desert.
The meeting nevertheless took place, and His Excellency Abdullah was forced to talk to her, asking why Golda Meir was in such a hurry and why did she need an independent state. “I don’t think two thousand years is a big rush,” she replied with a confident smile.
“To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don’t be.” The phrases of Golda Meir, one of the most notorious political figures of the mid-twentieth century, the first female prime minister in the Middle East and the third woman in the world to achieve such a high post, have long gone to the people.
Having returned to the Jews their historical homeland, she remained for us a citizen of Kyiv, from whom our state has much to learn.