Uri Avnery on Golda Meir’s Destructive Reign

Ben-Gurion said about her: “The only thing Golda knows how to do is to hate!”

Golda Meir did not hate me. That would be an understatement. She detested me.

The way I speak, the way I dress, the way I look. Everything.

Once, in the middle of a speech in the Knesset (I believe it was about allowing the Beatles to appear in Israel) I interrupted myself and said: “Now I want to answer MK Golda Meir…”

“But MK Meir has not said anything!” the chairman objected.

“I am not answering an interjection,” I explained. “I am answering her grimaces!”

And indeed, Golda was grimacing, every muscle of her face proclaiming her detestation.

The third chapter of Raviv Drucker’s interesting series about Israel’s first Prime Ministers was devoted to her.

Levi Eshkol died in February 1969 of a sudden heart attack. Jokers insisted that it was the result of the 74 year old leader marrying a woman 40 years his junior.

There were plenty of popular candidates to succeed him, but – what a pity! – none was a member of the ruling Labor Party (Mapai). So, out of nowhere, Golda Meir was chosen. She was not even a minister at the time.

Then a miracle occurred. On the eve of her coming to power her popularity rate in the polls was near zero. Overnight, it rose to over 80%.

During the following years, her authority was unlimited. There was no explanation for it. She had no personal power base, no personal political organization. She dominated the state with the sheer power of her personality.

I vividly recall one scene. In 1973, a new president of the state had to be elected. Golda was intent on having her candidate, a worthy university professor called Ephraim Katzir, elected. The opposing candidate was a worthy person, too.

At the same time, the Knesset was about to enact a new law concerning the method election results were translated into the actual size of the factions. Called by us “the Bader-Ofer conspiracy”, it was designed to benefit the largest factions and hurt the smallest, one of which was mine.

I succeeded in forming a coalition of all the small parties – left, right, religious and secular – and together we had the power to decide who would be president. So we presented an ultimatum to the Minister of the Treasury, Pinhas Sapir, who was the strongman of the Labor Party. Annul the proposed law and we shall vote for Katzir, otherwise we shall vote for the opposing candidate.

Sapir took out his legendary little notebook, added up the numbers and decided that we did indeed have the power. “Wait here,” he told us. “I am going to Golda.”

What followed was astounding. We saw him enter Golda’s room. After 10 minutes he came out, a changed man. The almighty Sapir, nicknamed “the director of the state”, came out like a dwarf, avoided our eyes and went straight to the telephone. He called an ultra-orthodox religious faction, promised them a bank and got their votes. Golda had told him: “I will not let Uri Avnery decide who will be the President of…

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