The 1956 secret annex to the Ratner Committee Report is now published for the first time, after being unlawfully concealed by Ministry Of Defense’s DSDE.
In December 1955, the government, with David Ben-Gurion as prime minister, appointed a civilian committee to draft a position and provide it with recommendations regarding the future of the Military Government. The committee was asked to address the question of whether the Military Government should be abolished or reduced in scope. It was specifically asked to take a position on the future of Nazareth as an area under the control of the Military Government. This was the second committee to address the issue of the Military Government. The first one worked briefly in 1949.
This second committee was chaired by Major General (reserves) Yohanan Ratner. Its other two members were former Jerusalem Mayor Daniel Oster (who served as mayor from the end of the British Mandate until 1950) and Haifa lawyer Ya’akov Salomon. They worked in the final days of 1955 and the first two months of 1956. In the 26-page report it delivered to the prime minister, the committee unequivocally decreed: “In the final analysis, we return to the statements we made in the sections related to this issue [in the report] that the Military Government can be improved, though not with a view to reducing its scope or powers, but with the intention of making it more efficient, despite the [in]convenience associated with this for the Arab residents. The Military Government cannot be dismantled or reduced so long as there is a state of emergency in the country”.
The committee heard dozens of testimonies from Arabs and Jews and received submissions from different agencies protesting the state’s treatment of the Arab public. The report indicates that members of the committee acknowledged that the very existence of the Military Government was injurious to Arab citizens, but did not see fit to recommend ways to end it or reduce its injustices. In April 1956, about two months after the committee delivered its recommendations, committee member Daniel Oster pronounced in Haaretz daily newspaper that “Of the 200,000 Arabs and other minorities living in Israel, we have found no one loyal to the state”.
Ben Gurion kept the recommendations from reaching the government, and in October 1956, when war broke out in the south, the issue disappeared from the public agenda. The report was never publicized in full, and its recommendations were never adopted by the government, but it did reach ministers. Since some ministers did not agree with the recommendations, on March 16, 1958, a decision was made to form a new committee to look into the future of the Military Government with Minister Pinhas Rosen as chair.
The secret annex to the Ratner committee Report, entitled Security Settlements and the Question of Land, clearly shows that one of the covert missions of the Military Government was to prevent Arabs from settling on state land. The Ratner Committee secret annex, published here for the first time, was located in a file belonging to Mordechai Bentov, who, as a minister, was a member of the Rosen committee. The Yad Ya’ari Archive file containing this document has been closed for public access on the orders of the DSDE (for information about this practice see our report Silencing).
An article by Akevot Institute researcher Adam Raz about this document was published in Haaretz daily newspaper.
We thank the Hashomer Hatzair (Yad Yaari) Archive in Givat Haviva for making the documents available.