First Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion


This week in Israel’s history, David Ben-Gurion tells the US State Department he will declare independence for the Jewish state; France, Great Britain and the US sign the Tripartite Declaration.

March 23, 1948

Against the objections of the US State Department, David Ben-Gurion, first prime minister of the Jewish state, made it clear that the Jewish people had no intention of backing down from the establishment of the State of Israel.

During World War II, the US State Department enacted policies making it very difficult for Jewish refugees from Europe to obtain entry visas to the United States. In spite of the clear danger to the lives of millions of Jews in Europe, and specifically Germany, the State Department further limited entry visas through a severely restrictive Immigration Law that had been passed by Congress in 1924.

Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (left) and Ambassador Abba Eban (right) with US Secretary of State George Marshall.

Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (left) and Ambassador Abba Eban (right) with US Secretary of State George Marshall. (Marshall Foundation)

Fueled by a combination of anti-Semitism, isolationism and a concern of being flooded by Jewish refugees, the State Department created policies which obstructed rescue possibilities during the war.

Immediately prior to the UN vote to partition British-mandated Palestine, the State Department issued a warning that voting in favor of the partition would lead to “untold troubles in the future.” Although President Truman eventually supported the vote for partition and the creation of a Jewish State, the State Department continued to protest the decision and, according to some sources, attempted to sabotage the creation of the Jewish state.

March 25, 1950

The United States, Great Britain and France issued a joint declaration promising to “take action against any aggression designed to alter the frontiers in the Middle East.”

Referred to as the Tripartite Declaration of 1950, this joint declaration by the three powers was issued in response to a growing concern that the Arab states would attempt again to attack Israel.

Shortly before the declaration was issued, the foreign ministers of the three countries met in London to discuss what could be done to prevent yet another conflagration in the area. They hoped not only to promote peace, but also to prevent an escalating arms race.

In order to achieve their goal, the agreement provided the sale of arms to Middle Eastern countries on a basis of parity between Israel and the Arab states. It allowed countries to purchase arms only if they agreed not to use the armaments for aggressive purposes. In addition, the United States, France and Great Britain further pledged to take joint action within and outside the United Nations if a threat to peace emerged in the Middle East.

It was only a short few years before the declaration would be tested as Arab aggression against Israel once again escalated.