14 in May 1948 | With the establishment of the state – Begin comes out of hiding and founds Herut
On May 12, 1948, three days before the evacuation of the British government in Israel, the National Council headed by David Ben-Gurion to convened to discuss whether to declare the establishment of the state with the liberation from the British mandate. News of the preparations made by Arab countries to invade, as well as the lack of weapons and equipment, led the members of the Council to favorably consider postponing the announcement. Begin, the Irgun commander, said that if the National Council does not announce the establishment of the Hebrew state, the Irgun will do so. He proceeded to issue a statement in the underground newspaper “Herut”. This “threat” helped Ben-Gurion overcome the opposing members, and the resolution passed unanimously. In an underground radio speech broadcasted on Saturday, May 15, 1948, Ben-Gurion announced that “It took dozens of generations wandering from one land of massacres to another land of pogroms; It took the labors of generations of pioneers and builders; and it took the uprising of rebels, enemy-destroyers, Olei Gardom, and far and long wanderers – to get this far”.
On June 11, 1948, the Irgun ship “Altalena” ship left France, bearing 900 immigrants, and large cargo of weapons and ammunition. Several months prior, members of the Haganah were informed about the ship, and negotiations were held with representatives of the government regarding distribution of the weapons. However, when the ship reached Israeli territory, the government representatives refused to cooperate with the Irgun’s requests. Upon the ship’s arrival at Kfar Vitkin, it was surrounded by military forces, and Begin was given a 10 minute ultimatum to decide the ship’s fate. Begin sought to contact the temporary government’s representatives, but while trying to do so, they opened fired on him and on the people on the beach. Begin boarded the ship in order to reach Tel Aviv, but the ship ran aground was under heavy fire from all sides. Begin ordered the Irgun not to return fire, but Ben-Gurion ordered the shelling of the ship. The ship caught fire and all passengers escaped into the water; some of them were shot to death between the waves.
At the age of 35, Menachem Begin was appointed party leader; the “Herut Movement, founded by the National Military Organization” was officially registered in Ministry of Interior. The purposes of the movement: the liberation of homeland on both banks of the Jordan, establishment of the State of Israel as a Jewish country, the fortification of democratic values and their constitutional ratification, separation supreme authorities from the judiciary authority, and the abolition of emergency regulations and the military government. In the economic sphere, the movement acted to restrict government regulation, and to create a free market combined with social protection mechanisms for the needy.
In its first decades, the movement suffered from the delegitimizing of its own existence: Ben-Gurion stated that coalitions ought to adopt a “without Herut and without Maki” policy, in reference to his willingness to sit with any party other than the right wing party and the communist party. He also avoided calling Begin by name and referred as ‘the man sitting next to MK Bader’; he once called him a ‘Hitlerite type’. However, Begin was able to transform ‘Herut’ from a powerless opposition to the main opposition, and finally into a party forming a government.
In the elections for the Constituent Assembly, which later became the first Knesset, Herut Movement recieved 14 seats. A separate list of some of the Revisionist Party which didn’t accept Begin’s leadership had not passed the threshold, and after the election a new unified framework was established: the Herut-HaTzohar Alliance.