Zionist Dialogue

Golda Goes to Russia

By Herbert Belkin

At the end of 1948 the young nation of Israel was winning a war of survival over the national armies of five Arab nations. Many reasons have been given for Israel’s victory, but the overwhelming one was the Arab threat to “push the Jews into the sea”; that threat left no alternative but victory. With victory close at hand, Ben Gurion knew he had to win the peace. The future of the new-born Jewish state rested largely with Russia and whether the Russians would continue to support the Arabs or move to a more neutral position in the Israeli-Arab conflict. To move the Communist state into a more Israeli-favored position, Ben Gurion chose Golda Meir as his ambassador to Russia.

Golda was not good ambassadorial material. She was headstrong, outspoken and highly opinionated, not the qualities you look for in a diplomat. In 1948 Golda began what was to be a short-lived diplomatic career in Russia. In a reversal of fate, Golda was returning to a country she had left 40 years ago as a hungry, frightened child with memories of pogroms and Cossacks rampaging through her shtetl. Now she returned as the Ambassador, minister plenipotentiary, of the new state of Israel. Golda had come far from her shtetl childhood.

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