Happy Israeli Independence Day!
The Irgun is now leaving the underground. We Jews now rule ourselves over a part of our Homeland, and in that part the law of a Jewish government prevails. This law is the law of the land; it is the only law. Hence, there is no longer a need for an armed underground. From now on we are all soldiers and builders of the State of Israel. And we shall all respect the government of the day, for it is our government.
The determination of Menachem Begin to forge Jewish unity in Israel was put to an extreme test one month later, when Ben Gurion ordered Haganah troops, led by a young Yitzchak Rabin, to open fire on an Irgun-chartered ship, the Altalena, which was attempting to land a shipment of arms that was badly needed by the hard-pressed and under-armed Jewish forces fighting the Arab invaders. Ben Gurion insisted that Begin and the Irgun intended to use the arms to overthrow the legitimate government of Israel--a charge that clearly had no basis in fact, since the Irgun had informed the government of the time and place of the ship's arrival, and had requested trucks and assistance in landing and distributing the arms. Instead of the requested aid, the Altalena was met with artillery and automatic weapons fire that killed and wounded many of its crew and eventually sank the ship and destroyed the arms shipment. Sixteen Irgun men died; Menachem Begin himself, who was on the ship when the Haganah opened fire, narrowly escaped injury. Despite this most extreme of provocations, Begin again took to the airways, imploring his supporters not to seek revenge or raise their arms against their fellow Jews. Begin later said, "My greatest accomplishment was not retaliating and causing civil war".
The Avner article relates the reaction of ordinary Israelis, including supporters of both the Haganah and the Irgun, to Begin's first radio address, on May 15, 1948.