Golda Meir

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Many accuse me of conducting public affairs with my heart instead of my head. Well, what if I do? . . . Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.

גּוֹלְדָּה מֵאִיר Golda Meir (born Golda Mabovitz, 1898-05-03; died 1978-12-08) was an Israeli politician and one of the founders of the State of Israel. She served as Minister of Labor, Foreign Minister, and as the fourth Prime Minister of Israel.


  • My delegation cannot refrain from speaking on this question — we who have such an intimate knowledge of boxcars and of deportations to unknown destinations that we cannot be silent.
    • On Soviet actions in Hungary to the UN General Assembly (1956-11-21)
  • Any one who speaks in favor of bringing the Arab refugees back must also say how he expects to take the responsibility for it, if he is interested in the state of Israel. It is better that things are stated clearly and plainly: We shall not let this happen.
    • Speech to the Knesset, reported in Ner (October 1961)
  • How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.
  • I have faced difficult problems in the past but nothing like the one I'm faced with now in leading the country.
    • Speech when elected as the first female prime minister of Israel (1969)
  • There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.
  • We don’t thrive on military acts. We do them because we have to, and thank God we are efficient.
    • Vogue (July 1969)
  • We have always said that in our war with the Arabs we had a secret weapon — no alternative.
  • The Egyptians could run to Egypt, the Syrians into Syria. The only place we could run was into the sea, and before we did that we might as well fight.
    • LIFE magazine (3 October 1969)
  • It is true we have won all our wars, but we have paid for them. We don’t want victories anymore.
    • LIFE magazine (3 October 1969)
  • [The Soviet government] is the most realistic regime in the world — no ideals.
  • This country exists as the fulfillment of a promise made by God Himself. It would be ridiculous to ask it to account for its legitimacy.
  • Women’s Liberation is just a lot of foolishness. It’s the men who are discriminated against. They can’t bear children. And no one’s likely to do anything about that.
  • The man of the Cross, who heads the church whose symbol is the Cross, under which Jews were killed for generations. I could not escape the feeling. It stuck with me. And he felt it — that a Jewess was sitting opposite him.
    • On an audience with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican (1973-01-20)
  • Arab sovereignty in Jerusalem just cannot be. This city will not be divided—not half and half, not 60-40, not 75-25, nothing.
  • Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!
    • At a dinner honoring West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, as reported in The New York Times (1973-06-10)
    • Unsourced variants: Moses dragged us for 40 years through the desert to bring us to the one place in the Middle East where there was no oil.
      Moses dragged us through the desert for 40 years to bring us to the one place in the Middle East where there was no oil.
  • To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don’t be.
    • When questioned on Israel's future, in The New York Times (1974-12-12)
  • Pessimism is a luxury that a Jew can never allow himself.
  • It is not only a matter, I believe, of religious observance and practice. To me, being Jewish means and has always meant being proud to be part of a people that has maintained its distinct identity for more than 2,000 years, with all the pain and torment that has been inflicted upon it.
    • My Life (1975)
  • I don’t know why you use a fancy French word like détente when there’s a good English phrase for it — cold war.
  • What do you gain, Soviet Union, from this miserable policy? Where is your decency? Would it be a disgrace for you to give up this battle?
    • On the suppression of freedom of Jews in the USSR to the World Conference on Soviet Jewry, Brussels, in The New York Times (1976-02-20)
  • I never did anything alone. Whatever was accomplished in this country was accomplished collectively.
  • Above all, this country is our own. Nobody has to get up in the morning and worry what his neighbors think of him. Being a Jew is no problem here.
    • On 30th anniversary of the founding of Israel, in International Herald Tribune (1978-05-11)
  • We do not rejoice in victories. We rejoice when a new kind of cotton is grown and when strawberries bloom in Israel.

Fallaci interview (1973)

Interview with Oriana Fallaci published in Ms. magazine (April 1973)
  • It’s no accident many accuse me of conducting public affairs with my heart instead of my head. Well, what if I do? . . . Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.
  • I thought that a Jewish state would be free of the evils afflicting other societies: theft, murder, prostitution... But now we have them all. And that’s a thing that cuts to the heart ...
  • How can I explain the difference to me between America and Russia?... the America I’ve known is a place where men on horseback escort union marchers, the Russia I’ve known is a place where men on horseback slaughter young Socialists and Jews.
  • From Russia I didn’t bring out a single happy memory, only sad, tragic ones. The nightmare of pogroms, the brutality of Cossacks charging young Socialists, fear, shrieks of terror ...
  • America is a great country. It has many shortcomings, many social inequalities, and it’s tragic that the problem of the blacks wasn’t solved fifty or even a hundred years ago, but it’s still a great country, a country full of opportunities, of freedom! Does it seem nothing to you to be able to say what you like, even against the government, the Establishment?
  • Those nuts that burn their bras and walk around all disheveled and hate men? They’re crazy. Crazy.
  • I’m a slave to this leaf in a diary that lists what I must do, what I must say, every half hour.
  • I want to see a film, they send the Israeli army reserves to escort me! What kind of life is this?
  • Fashion is an imposition, a rein on freedom.
  • I prefer to stay alive and be criticized than be sympathized.


  • Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.
    • Sometimes cited as a statement to the National Press Club in Washington, D. C. in 1957.
    • Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.
      • As quoted in Media Bias and the Middle East (2003) by Paul Carlson, p. 10
    • Peace will come when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us.
      • As quoted in The Agony of the Promised Land (2004) by Joshua Levy, Ch. 23 "The Hope for Peace", p. 187


  • A leader who doesn't hesitate before he sends his nation into battle is not fit to be a leader.
  • Ability hits the mark where presumption overshoots and diffidence falls short.
  • As President Nixon says, presidents can do almost anything, and President Nixon has done many things that nobody would have thought of doing.
  • At work, you think of the children you have left at home. At home, you think of the work you've left unfinished. Such a struggle is unleashed within yourself. Your heart is rent.
  • Authority poisons everybody who takes authority on himself.
  • Being a grandmother, I'm certain we're going to have peace in the Middle East, for I know there are other grandmothers in Egypt, in Jordan and in Syria who also want their children to live.
  • Being seventy is not a sin.
  • Don't be humble. You aren't that great.
    • Variant: Don't be humble... you're not that great.
  • Glorious bouquets and storms of applause are the trimmings which every artist naturally enjoys.
  • I can honestly say that I was never affected by the question of the success of an undertaking. If I felt it was the right thing to do, I was for it regardless of the possible outcome.
  • I have given instructions that I be informed every time one of our soldiers is killed, even if it is in the middle of the night. When President Nasser leaves instructions that he is to be awakened in the middle of the night if an Egyptian soldier is killed, there will be peace.
  • I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.
  • Men who have reached and passed forty-five, have a look as if waiting for the secret of the other world, and as if they were perfectly sure of having found out the secret of this.
  • Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you're aboard, there's nothing you can do.
  • One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.
  • The dog that trots about finds a bone.
  • The public history of modern art is the story of conventional people not knowing what they are dealing with.
  • There can be no doubt that the average man blames much more than he praises. His instinct is to blame. If he is satisfied he says nothing; if he is not, he most illogically kicks up a row.
  • There's no difference between one's killing and making decisions that will send others to kill. It's exactly the same thing, or even worse.
  • To be successful, a woman has to be much better at her job than a man.
  • We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours.
    • To Anwar Sadat just before peace talks.
  • We only want that which is given naturally to all be masters of our own fate.
  • Whether women are better than men I cannot say — but I can say they are certainly no worse.
    • Variant: Whether women are better than men I cannot say, but they are certainly no worse.
  • You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.
  • You'll never find a better sparring partner than adversity.
  • Your holiness, do you know what my earliest memory is? It is waiting for a pogrom in Kiev. Let me assure you that my people know all about real "harshness" and also that we learned all about the real mercy when we were being led to the gas chambers of the Nazis.
    • To Pope Paul VI after he commented that the Jews were behaving very harshly in their country.
  • In Israel, we read from right to left.
    • To Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State, who had written her that he considers himself 'an American first, Secretary of State second, and a Jew third'

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