State nixes $1 million auction of Declaration of Independence drafts
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Still for sale: Ben-Gurion's love letters to one of his mistresses and an Israeli flag used on the Exodous

State nixes $1 million auction of Declaration of Independence drafts

Court rules documents are public property, says ‘Israel’s inalienable assets’ must be protected

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

One of the 12 draft pages of Israel's Declaration of Independence banned by the Jerusalem District Court on November 29, 2015, from being sold at a public auction. (Courtesy of Kedem Auction House)
One of the 12 draft pages of Israel's Declaration of Independence banned by the Jerusalem District Court on November 29, 2015, from being sold at a public auction. (Courtesy of Kedem Auction House)

The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday banned the proposed sale of drafts of Israel’s Declaration of Independence which were slated to be auctioned later this week.

The court determined that the 12 handwritten pages — estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — were public property and said its verdict would “ensure Israel’s inalienable assets remained in the public’s hands and are not removed from the country without the government’s consent.”

The drafts were slated to be auctioned this week at Jerusalem’s Kedem Auction House along with other historical artifacts, including David Ben-Gurion’s love letters to one of his mistresses and an early Israeli flag used on the Exodus, a ship used to illegally bring Jewish immigrants to Palestine in 1947.

The court order came in response to a state petition demanding the documents be pulled from Kedem’s catalog.

Drafted by attorney Mordechai Beham in April 1948, the papers outlined the establishment of independent rule in Palestine and determined that the provisional government would assume the authority and responsibility for the administration of the nascent Jewish state.

The auction house set the starting bid at $250,000, and said bidding for Beham’s 12 handwritten pages could reach $1 million.

Kedem’s auction catalog said the documents were particularly significant, because they outlined the Zionist narrative at the time and described the chain of events that led to the establishment of Israel.

The verdict handed down on Sunday comes after the court on Thursday issued an interim order banning the documents from going on sale during Wednesday’s public auction.

In response, the Kedem Auction House said it merely served as a “mediating agent” and was impartial in the legal debate over the ownership of the drafts.

“We find it strange that the state abandoned this inalienable asset for 67 years, didn’t bother to demand it, although the media and studies reported its existence several times,” the auction house said in a statement.

“The state only remembered the drafts when they were put on public auction.”

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