Sharett (Shertok), Moshe

(1894–1965)
   Israel foreign minister and prime minister. Sharett was the father of the Israel Foreign Service and the architect of its international diplomacy. He laid the foundations for the State of Israel, as head of the Jewish Agency’s political department for fifteen years, and built on them in the eight years he served as foreign minister of the state. He was born in Kherson, Ukraine, and imbibed Zionism and Hebrew as a child. His father, Yaakov, came to Palestine as one of the young Bilu pioneers in the early 1880s, went back to Russia, and returned with his family when Moshe was twelve years old. Their first home was in an Arab village in the hills of Samaria, between Jerusalem and Nablus. Here the boy learnt to speak fluent Arabic and to know Arab village life. Two years later, they moved to Jaffa and settled in the new Jewish quarter on the sand dunes that later became Tel Aviv. Moshe was one of the first pupils at the Herzlia Gymnazia. Among his classmates were two other boys from Russia, Eliyahu GOLOMB and Dov HOS, who were later to marry Moshe’s sisters and become prominent in the yishuv.
   At the outbreak of World War I, Sharett was studying law in Constantinople. He joined the Turkish army, became an officer, and served as an interpreter for the commander of the German army in Turkey. With the war over, he continued his studies at the London School of Economics and came under the influence of the famous left-wing intellectual, Harold LASKI. He had become an active member of the Poale Zion (Zionist Socialist Party). On his return from London he was appointed deputy to Berl KATZNELSON, the editor of the Party daily, Davar. Katznelson strengthened the younger man’s willingness to temper his ideological commitment with realistic aims
   In 1931, Sharett became deputy head of the political department of the Jewish Agency under Chaim ARLOSOROFF and took part in the abortive attempts to reach an accommodation with moderate Arab leaders. In 1933 Arlosoroff was assassinated and Sharett succeeded him in this key executive post, that carried responsibility for dealings with the Mandatory administration, Arab contacts and political work abroad. He prepared the case presented to the Royal (Peel) Commission in 1936, and supported WEIZMANN and BEN-GURION in accepting the commission’s proposal against the background of the Arab revolt and the stream of refugees from Nazi Germany. Among the Zionist leaders, Sharett was almost alone in conceding that the Arab disturbances marked a genuine national movement. In this, he showed his perceptive and lifelong understanding of the Arabs, and his own honesty.
   During World War II, Sharett organized the recruiting of Palestinian Jewish volunteers for the British army, and at the same time led the struggle for a Jewish formation fighting under its own flag. It was only in 1944 that permission was given for the Jewish Brigade to be formed.
   In 1945 Sharett shared the Zionist hopes aroused by the election victory of the British Labour Party, pledged to scrap the 1939 White Paper and promote a Jewish state. These expectations were dashed by the pro-Arab policy of the new government headed by Attlee, with Ernest BE VIN as foreign secretary. The next three years witnessed an increasingly bitter conflict with Britain. The crowded refugee ships of Aliyah Bet (‘illegal immigration’) sailed from the European coast and were usually intercepted by the Royal Navy. In Palestine a Jewish resistance movement grew in strength. In the United States and elsewhere, criticism of Britain mounted. In 1946 the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry came to Palestine. The Jewish Agency’s documented submissions were drawn up in Sharett’s political department and he appeared before the committee as one of the Jewish Agency spokesmen. Its recommendations were rejected by the British government, who decided to break the Jewish resistance by military measures. Sharett and a number of other members of the Jewish Agency executive were arrested, and interned in a barbed wire camp at Latrun. At the same time thousands of Haganah men were rounded up and the naval blockade intensified. This show of strength proved futile and only made matters worse. At the beginning of 1947, Britain referred the Palestine issue to the United Nations. Sharett and his colleagues had been released, and he went to New York to take charge of the new and promising United Nations front. The UN appointed the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). In the summer it recommended a partion plan and the establishment of Jewish and Arab states, as the Peel Commission had done a decade earlier.
   The plan was worked out in detail in a United nations committee, and after months of intensive diplomatic lobbying it was adopted on 29 November by more than the required two-thirds majority. It was an historic moment for the Jewish people.
   But the elation was short-lived. Britain refused to take part in implementing a solution that was not acceptable to both sides and declared that the mandate would be terminated on 15 May 1948. Arab violence broke out in Palestine and the surrounding Arab states prepared to send in their armed forces as soon as the mandate ended. The United Nations had second thoughts about partition and had the UN General assembly convened again to discuss a possible trusteeship as an alternative. Shortly before the end of the mandate, General Marshall, the US secretary of state, invited Sharett from New York to Washington and warned him that if a Jewish state was proclaimed, American troops could not be sent to save it from Arab attack. He offered to send Sharett to Palestine in President TRUMAN’S own plane in order to convey this urgent warning to Ben-Gurion and the Jewish Agency executive. Sharett declined the offer, and made his own way back, arriving in time to help draft the Proclamation of Independence, which he signed with the others on 14 May. A provisional government was immediately appointed, with Ben Gurion as prime minister and Sharett as foreign minister. (He now changed his name from Shertok to Sharett, which in Hebrew means service.)
   Jerusalem was under siege, and the new government found temporary quarters in the old German Templer colony of Sarona, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. The Foreign Ministry started its existence in one of the Templar houses and its adjoining barn. Sharett had practically no staff or communications at the beginning, and everything had to be improvised in the middle of a war. But the fledgling ministry had one priceless asset: the group of able younger men Sharett had recruited and trained in the pre-state political department. Already seasoned by the diplomatic struggle for independence, they immediately took over as directors of departments and as ambassadors and embassy officials abroad. Sharett was exceptionally well-qualified for a post that was a natural projection from his pre-state office. He had wide experience, an orderly and analytical mind, a prodigious memory, a capacity for hard work, complete integrity and a warmth and human interest that gained him the loyalty of all who worked with him. He was also a remarkable linguist, at home in Hebrew, Arabic (both colloquial and literary), English, French, German, Yiddish, Russian and Turkish. One of the country’s leading Hebraists, he introduced into the language a great number of modern terms, including a working vocabulary for the Foreign Service. His collegues grew used to being interrupted in the middle of a political discussion so that Sharett could correct an error of grammar or syntax. The same perfectionism applied to his use of foreign languages, and he was known to wake a friend in the middle of the night, seeking the right English or French expression for a document or speech. Though teased as a pedant, he did inculcate in the ministry a respect for precision in language.
   Sharett’s conduct of foreign affairs focused on four main themes: the great powers, the Arabs, the developing world, and the Jewish Diaspora. Israel’s statehood had been supported by both the United States and the Soviet Union and they had been the first countries to extend it official recognition and establish diplomatic relations with it. Israel’s policy at first was termed by Sharett ‘non-identification’ - that is, remaining on good terms with both sides in the Cold War. This posture also avoided domestic difficulties with the left-wing of the Labour movement in Israel. But it became untenable when STALIN broke off releations with Israel at the time of the notorious ‘doctors’ plot’, and when the Soviet Union started to move into the Middle East by supporting Arab nationalism. The most menacing aspect was the Soviet arming of NASSER’S Egypt. Israel became explicitly aligned with the free democratic world of the West, and was to remain so.
   With little encouragement, Sharett never gave up his belief in an Israel-Arab rapprochement. In 1949 there was optimism in the air. The armistice agreements with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria had ended the fighting, and indirect peace talks had started under the auspices of a United Nations Conciliation Commission composed of the United States, France and Turkey. At the same time another UN agency, UNRWA, was set up and voted funds for the resettlement of the Arab refugees. By 1952 the peace effort had fizzled out, and the refugee problem had become chronic. The Arab states promoted murderous fedayeen (terrorist) raids across the borders, and the Israel army hit back at their bases - actions that were condemned by the Security Council. It was a difficult time for Sharett, as the chances of a political settlement faded, and the area drifted towards another crisis.
   Sharett travelled extensively in Latin America, where sympathy for Israel was strong, and in Asia, an unknown continent to the Israelis. He grasped that the great colonial empires had disappeared or were breaking up, and that the bulk of mankind was gaining independence. But in Asia and Africa these new nations were poor and backward.; and in Latin America, development had lagged behind sovereignty. He felt that part of Israel’s human and social vocation lay in seeking ties of mutual help with other emergent states. The programmes he initiated were later developed by Sharett’s successor, Golda MEIR, especially in Africa. Sharett imbued the Foreign Service with the concept of Israel as the centre and focus of inspiration for the whole Jewish world, which for its part had to pour strength into the State. He feared that a new Sabra generation might turn inwards, and that the Diaspora would lose interest and go its own way. The envoys he sent abroad were told that they had a dual assignment, to the governments and to the Jewish communities.
   In January 1954, Ben-Gurion retired, pleading fatigue. Sharett took over as prime minister, while retaining the portfolio of foreign affairs; and Pinchas LAVON replaced Ben-Gurion as defence minister. Nearly two years later Ben- Gurion returned as head of the government. Sharett carried on for a while as foreign minister, but policy and personal differences with Ben-Gurion were becoming acute. Sharett was out of sympathy with the tougher Ben-Gurion- DAYAN line on the borders, and the military actions that were taken. Sharett was also critical of the prime minister on other issues, such as the ‘LAVON Affair’, a security blunder during the period Ben-Gurion had been out of office. In the middle of 1956, with another Middle East crisis coming to a head, Sharett offered his resignation. It was accepted by Ben-Gurion, who appointed Golda Meir as foreign minister.
   For the next few years, Sharett kept out of public life. He occupied himself with writing and the management of the party’s publishing house, Am Oved. In 1960 he accepted the post of chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive. The position had retained little prestige in the years since statehood, but Sharett gave it new stature and importance. He devoted himself with his accustomed zeal to the field of Israel-Diaspora relations, which to him was fundamental for the future. Although his health was declining, he visited many Jewish communities abroad that felt heartened by the importance one of Israel’s foremost statesmen attached to them. He died at the age of seventy-one in Jerusalem and was given a state funeral. He was survived by his wife Zippora, two sons and a daughter. No Israel leader worked more self-lessly than Sharett nor was remembered with greater affection.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • SHARETT (Shertok), MOSHE — (1894–1965). Zionist leader, and prime minister of Israel 1954–55. Member of the First to Fifth Knessets. Sharett was born in Kherson in Ukraine. His parents, who were members of the bilu movement, settled in Ereẓ Israel in the early 1880s but… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Sharett (Shertok), Moshe — (1894 1965)    Israeli statesman and Zionist leader, brother of Yehudah Sharett. He was born in Kherson, in the Ukraine, and settled in Palestine in 1906. Active in socialist circles, he became head of the Jewish Agency s political department in… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

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  • Sharett (Shertok), Yehudah — (1901 79)    Israeli composer, brother of Moshe Sharett. He was born in Kherson, in the Ukraine, and went to Palestine as a child. He composed music, including children s songs, for his kibbutz, and published the Yagur Passover Seder Service …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Moshe Sharett — Moshe Sharet משה שרת 2nd Prime Minister of Israel In office 26 January 1954 – 3 November 1955 Preceded by David Ben Gurion Succeeded by …   Wikipedia

  • Moshé Sharet — Moshé Sharett 2.º primer ministro de Israel 7 de diciembre de 1953 – 22 de julio de …   Wikipedia Español

  • Moshe Shertok — Mosche Scharet Mosche Scharet (hebräisch ‏משה שרת‎; * 15. Oktober 1894 in Cherson, Ukraine; † 7. Juli 1965 in Jerusalem; geboren als Mosche Schertok) war ein israelischer Politiker. Zwischen zwei Amtszeiten von David Ben Gurion war …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Moshe Sharett — Mosche Scharet Mosche Scharet (hebräisch ‏משה שרת‎; * 15. Oktober 1894 in Cherson, Ukraine; † 7. Juli 1965 in Jerusalem; geboren als Mosche Schertok) war ein israelischer Politiker. Zwischen zwei Amtszeiten von David Ben Gurion war …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Moshe Scharett — Mosche Scharet Mosche Scharet (hebräisch ‏משה שרת‎; * 15. Oktober 1894 in Cherson, Ukraine; † 7. Juli 1965 in Jerusalem; geboren als Mosche Schertok) war ein israelischer Politiker. Zwischen zwei Amtszeiten von David Ben Gurion war …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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