Dr. Netanel Lorch, a noted Israeli political and military historian who served for 12 years as Secretary General of the Knesset, selected and supervised the translation of the major Knesset debates dealing with the critical issues in Israel’s history from 1948 to 1981 in this classic six-volume work.
“The debates of the Knesset have never been made available to the non-Hebrew reader. Dr. Lorch’s work fills that vacuum. Endowed with personal experience and scholarly attributes he has prepared a representative selection of debates, culled from over 100,000 pages…maintaining throughout a high level of both readability and scholarship. His book should be regarded as indispensable to anyone who wishes to understand the currents of thought and action which have agitated the political life of Israel and the surrounding world.”
— Abba Eban
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs is proud to offer this unparalleled reference work, which makes a vital contribution to the understanding of Israel’s democracy and the continuing history of the Jewish people in its land.
- Volume 1 – People’s Council and Provisional Council of State, 1948-1949
- Volume 2 – The Constituent Assembly-First Knesset, 1949-1951
- Volume 3 – Second Knesset, 1951-1955; Third Knesset, 1955-1959
- Volume 4 – Fourth Knesset, 1959-1961; Fifth Knesset, 1961-1965; Sixth Knesset, 1965-1969
- Volume 5 – Seventh Knesset, 1969-1973; Eighth Knesset, 1974-1977
- Volume 6 – Ninth Knesset, 1977-1981
Each volume is available in full in PDF format, as are 18 key debates on major issues as listed below.
The Altalena Incident – June 23, 1948
On May 26, 1948, an agreement had been reached between representatives of the Haganah and the Irgun Zvai Leumi (IZL), according to which the IZL would voluntarily disband “within the frontiers of Israel” and its members join the Israel Defense Forces. Since Jerusalem had not been formally incorporated into the state, the IZL insisted on its right to maintain its independent existence there, and during the first truce brought a ship – the Altalena – to Israel, loaded with volunteers and arms.
Jerusalem and the Holy Places – December 5, 1949
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s statement concerning Jerusalem and holy sites as the UN debated making Jerusalem an international city.
Law of Return – July 3, 1950
Two years after the establishment of the state, the government presented the Law of Return to the Knesset, granting every Jew the right to immigrate to Israel.
Post-World War II Reparations from Germany – January 7, 1952
The State of Israel came into existence only a few years after the end of World War II. In September 1951, German Chancellor Adenauer declared that he considered an “obligation of the German people to make compensation to the Jews.”
The issue gave rise to one of the most dramatic, soul-searching and heated debates in the Knesset, which took place against the background of a violent demonstration in which stones were thrown into the building.
The Eichmann Trial– June 8, 1960
While the trial of one of the most notorious Nazi criminals, Adolf Eichmann, was being conducted, a significant constitutional issue was raised in the Knesset.
The Dimona Reactor– July 5, 1966
A debate over revealing the nature of the Dimona reactor.
The Six-Day War – June 5, 1967
Speech by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol describing the course of the Six-Day War. During his statement, Jordanian artillery was shelling Jerusalem, including the Knesset building, and the session took place in the basement shelter.
Treatment of the Arab Population in the Administered Areas – June 21, 1967
Following the Israeli conquest of territory in the Six-Day War, the government was prompted to decide how services should be provided to Arabs living in the territories.
Reunification of Jerusalem – June 27, 1967
Following the Six-Day War, the Israeli government decided to effect the incorporation of east Jerusalem into the territory of the state.
Municipal Services in East Jerusalem – March 4, 1968
The reunification of Jerusalem gave rise not only to legal questions but also to the multitude of daily problems facing its residents.
Proposed Basic Law: Human and Civil Rights
September 17, 1973
The Yom Kippur War – October 16, 1973
The Knesset was called in from recess to meet for the first time since the outbreak of the war on October 6, 1973.
UN “Zionism is Racism” Resolution
November 11, 1975
The Allon Plan – September 21, 1976
Following the publication of an article in Foreign Affairs detailing the principles underlying Israel’s defenition of secure and defensible borders, the Knesset convened to debate Foreign Minister Yigal Allon’s plan.
Egyptian President Sadat Visits the Knesset in Jerusalem
November 20, 1977
Israel’s Peace Plan with Egypt
December 28, 1977
Prime Minister Menachem Begin discusses peace efforts with Egypt.
The Camp David Accords
September 25, 1978
On September 5, 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat arrived at Camp David, Maryland, a White House retreat. After twelve days in isolation, they signed the Camp David Accords.
Basic Law: Jerusalem the Capital of Israel
July 23, 1980
From the Debates of the First Knesset
- President Chaim Weizmann Opens the First Knesset – 14 February 1949
On 25 January 1949, nationwide elections took place for the Constituent Assembly, which converted itself into the First Knesset. The first sittings took place in Jerusalem.
- Armistice Agreements with Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan – 4 April 1949
“This agreement…is purely military. It does not determine anything political or territorial” – Ben-Gurion.
- Armistice Agreement with Syria – 20 July, 1 August 1949
Some of the formulations of the agreement, kept deliberately vague, gave rise to serious controversies and incidents in the years to come.
- Prime Minister Ben-Gurion on Jerusalem and the Holy Places – 5 December 1949
“We hope that the religions which honor Jerusalem’s sanctity…will honor Israel’s rights in Jerusalem” – Ben-Gurion.
- Transferring the Knesset and Cabinet to Jerusalem – 13 December 1949
“The enforced division of Jerusalem…unjustifiably discriminates against the natural, historical right of the Jewish nation” – Ben-Gurion.
- Annexation of West Bank by Jordan – 3 May 1950
Only Great Britain and Pakistan recognized Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank.
- Foreign Minister Sharett on the Situation with Syria – 14 May 1951
Syria regarded itself as the only invading Arab country which had not been defeated by Israel, and massively violated the 1949 armistice agreement.
- Glossary of Israel’s Founding Parties and Personalities
Over 600 terms — a short course in the landmarks of modern Israeli history (large file – 154k)
The above excerpts are from Major Knesset Debates, 1948-1981, edited by JCPA Fellow Netanel Lorch.
- About Major Knesset Debates, 1948-1981
6 volumes, 2,516 pages
“Indispensable to anyone who wishes to understand the currents of thought and action which have agitated the political life of Israel and the surrounding world.” — Abba Eban
- Major Knesset Debates — Contents
Covering 180 major topics of debate during 1948-1981