Before Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine, the Jewish forces were formed of three main paramilitary groups, the largest of which was the Haganah (Israel defense organization), followed by Etzel or Irgun (National Military Organization), which split from it towards the end of the 1930s, and Lehi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel), which – in turn – split from Etzel in 1940.
These three paramilitary groups spearheaded the fight against both Palestinians and British forces up until World War II, and then the paramilitary groups began fighting the Palestinians and Germans, except for Etzel (Irgun), which went on fighting the British.
In May 1948, 26 days after the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, an Etzel leader named Menachem Begin left [Israel] and returned aboard the Altalena, a ship loaded with more than 1,000 Jewish immigrants and large quantities of military equipment of which 20 percent was to be allocated to Etzel. During that time, Ben-Gurion had established the State of Israel, leading the three paramilitary groups, with the exception of some Etzel units, to disband and integrate into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). When the Altalena reached [Israel’s] territorial waters, a central government and a unified army were already in place. Orders were thus issued for the ship to dock at the Netanya port. The immigrants got off and the ship sailed towards Tel Aviv where Etzel units were stationed… Ben-Gurion warned Begin that “Israel” has but one government and one army, which holds the monopoly over weapons. Begin was also ordered to surrender all weapons to the Israeli Defense Forces, or suffer the consequences. He did not comply, and as the Altalena drew near the port the IDF opened fire and sank the weapons-loaded ship, even though the army was in desperate need of the weapons to fight the Arab forces.
In truth, I am recounting this story so we can benefit from it, even though these benefits come from an enemy we are fighting, and because we are looking for ways to build state prestige, assess the latest security incidents and the attack against the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Furthermore, this is a call to sink every Lebanese Altalena, regardless of its origins or intentions. Power that is derived from popular legitimacy and a strong central government are the only means to protect the LAF and provide it with the cover it needs, instead of the current confusion, as some take advantage of the LAF while others instigate against it. In that case too, whether the LAF decides to fight or negotiate, its decision will be the right one no matter how costly it is