David Ben-Gurion

David Ben-Gurion

Overview
was the first Prime Minister of Israel
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

.

Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization
World Zionist Organization
The World Zionist Organization , or WZO, was founded as the Zionist Organization , or ZO, in 1897 at the First Zionist Congress, held from August 29 to August 31 in Basel, Switzerland...

 in 1946. As head of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and later president of the Jewish Agency Executive, he became the de facto leader of the Jewish community in Palestine, and largely led the struggle for an independent Jewish state in Palestine.
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Quotations

Everybody sees a difficulty in the question of relations between Arabs and Jews. But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question. No solution! There is a gulf, and nothing can bridge it… We, as a nation, want this country to be ours; the Arabs, as a nation, want this country to be theirs.

Written statement ( June 1919), as quoted in Time magazine (24 July 2006)

Under no circumstances must we touch land belonging to fellah|fellahs or worked by them. Only if a fellah leaves his place of settlement, should we offer to buy his land, at an appropriate price.

Written statement (1920), as quoted in Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs : From Peace to War (1985) by Shabtai Teveth, p. 32.

The acceptance of partition does not commit us to renounce Transjordan: one does not demand from anybody to give up his vision. We shall accept a state in the boundaries fixed today, but the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them.

Speech in 1937, accepting a British proposal for partition of Palestine which created a potential Jewish majority state, as quoted in New Outlook (April 1977)

Terrorism benefits the Arabs, it may lay waste the Yishuv and shake Zionism. But to follow in the Arabs' footsteps and ape their deeds is to be blind to the gulf between us. Our aims and theirs run counter: methods calculated to further theirs, are ruinous to us.

"On three fronts" (3 August 1938) as quoted in Rebirth and Destiny of Israel (1954), p. 91

From Jewish terrorism against Arabs it is a short step to Jewish terrorism against Jews.

"On three fronts" (3 August 1938) as quoted in Rebirth and Destiny of Israel (1954), p. 91

We extend the hand of peace and good-neighborliness to all the States around us and to their people, and we call upon them to cooperate in mutual helpfulness with the independent Jewish nation in its Land. The State of Israel is prepared to make its contribution in a concerted effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

Israel's Proclamation of Independence, read on (14 May 1948)

Even amidst the violent attacks launched against us for months past, we call upon the sons of the Arab people dwelling in Israel to keep the peace and to play their part in building the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its institutions, provisional and permanent.

Israel's Proclamation of Independence, read on (14 May 1948)
Encyclopedia
was the first Prime Minister of Israel
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

.

Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization
World Zionist Organization
The World Zionist Organization , or WZO, was founded as the Zionist Organization , or ZO, in 1897 at the First Zionist Congress, held from August 29 to August 31 in Basel, Switzerland...

 in 1946. As head of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and later president of the Jewish Agency Executive, he became the de facto leader of the Jewish community in Palestine, and largely led the struggle for an independent Jewish state in Palestine. On 14 May 1948, he formally proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, and was the first to sign the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Ben-Gurion led the provisional government of Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

, and united the various Jewish militias into the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 (IDF).

Following the war, Ben-Gurion served as Israel's first Prime Minister. As Prime Minister, he helped build the state institutions, presiding over various national projects aimed at the development of the country. He also oversaw the absorption of vast numbers of Jews from all over the world
Aliyah
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

. A centerpiece of his foreign policy was improving relationships with the West Germans. He worked very well with Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman. He was the chancellor of the West Germany from 1949 to 1963. He is widely recognised as a person who led his country from the ruins of World War II to a powerful and prosperous nation that had forged close relations with old enemies France,...

's government in Bonn and West Germany provided large sums in compensation for Germany's mistreatment of Jews in the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany
Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany
The Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany was signed on September 10, 1952, and entered in force on March 27, 1953...

.

In 1954, he resigned and served as Defense Minister, before returning to office in 1955. Under his leadership, Israel responded aggressively to Arab guerilla attacks, and in 1956, invaded Egypt
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

 along with British and French forces after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

.

He stepped down from office in 1963, and retired from political life in 1970. He then moved to Sde Boker
Sde Boker
Sde Boker is a kibbutz in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Best known as the retirement home of Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, it falls under the jurisdiction of Ramat HaNegev Regional Council.-History:...

, a kibbutz
Kibbutz
A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high-tech enterprises. Kibbutzim began as utopian communities, a combination of socialism and Zionism...

 in the Negev
Negev
The Negev is a desert and semidesert region of southern Israel. The Arabs, including the native Bedouin population of the region, refer to the desert as al-Naqab. The origin of the word Neghebh is from the Hebrew root denoting 'dry'...

 desert, where he lived until his death. Posthumously, Ben-Gurion was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century
Time 100
Time 100 is an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, as assembled by Time. First published in 1999 as a result of a debate among several academics, the list has become an annual event.-History and format:...

.

Early life


David Ben Gurion was born in Płońsk, Congress Poland
Congress Poland
The Kingdom of Poland , informally known as Congress Poland , created in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna, was a personal union of the Russian parcel of Poland with the Russian Empire...

 which was then part of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

. His father, Avigdor Grüen, was a lawyer and a leader in the Hovevei Zion
Hovevei Zion
Hovevei Zion , also known as Hibbat Zion , refers to organizations that are now considered the forerunners and foundation-builders of modern Zionism....

 movement. His mother, Scheindel, died when he was 11 years old. Aged 14 he and two friends formed a youth club, Ezra, promoting Hebrew studies and emigration to the holy land.

In 1905, as a student at the University of Warsaw
University of Warsaw
The University of Warsaw is the largest university in Poland and one of the most prestigious, ranked as best Polish university in 2010 and 2011...

, he joined the Social-Democratic Jewish Workers' Party - Poalei Zion. He was arrested twice during the Russian Revolution of 1905. In 1906 emigrated
Aliyah
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

 to Ottoman Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

. A month after his arrival he was elected to the central committee of the newly formed branch of Poali Zion in Jaffa
Jaffa
Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...

, becoming chairman of the party's platform committee. He advocated a more nationalist program than other more leftist/Marxist members of the committee. The following year he complained about the Russian domination of the group. At the time the Jewish population in Palestine was around 55,000 - of whom 40,000 held Russian citizenship.
In 1907, having been working picking oranges at Petah Tikvah
Petah Tikva
Petah Tikva known as Em HaMoshavot , is a city in the Center District of Israel, east of Tel Aviv.According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2009, the city's population stood at 209,600. The population density is approximately...

, Ben Gurion moved to the settlements in Galilee
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

 were he worked as an agricultural labourer and withdrew from politics. In 1908 he joined an armed group acting as watchmen at Sejera.
On 12 April 1909, following an attempted robbery in which an Arab from Kfar Kanna was killed, Ben Gurion was involved in fighting in which one of the watchmen and a farmer from Sejera were killed.

In 1909 he volunteered with HaShomer
Hashomer
Hashomer was a Jewish defense organization in Palestine founded out of Bar-Giora in April 1909. It ceased to operate after the founding of the Haganah in 1920. The purpose of Hashomer was to provide guard services for Jewish settlements in the Yishuv, freeing Jewish communities from dependence...

, a force of volunteers who helped guard isolated Jewish agricultural communities. On 7 November 1911, Ben Gurion arrived in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki , historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace...

 in order to learn Turkish for his law studies. The city, which had a large Jewish community, impressed Ben Gurion who called it "a Jewish city that has no equal in the world." He also realized there that "the Jews were capable of all types of work," from rich businessmen and professors, to merchants, craftsmen and porters.

In 1912, he moved to Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

, the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 capital, to study law at Istanbul University
Istanbul University
Istanbul University is a Turkish university located in Istanbul. The main campus is adjacent to Beyazıt Square.- Synopsis :A madrasa, a religious school, was established sometime in the 15th century after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. An institution of higher education named the...

 together with Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi was a historian, Labor Zionist leader, the second and longest-serving President of Israel.-Biography:...

, and adopted
Hebraization of surnames
The Hebraization of surnames is the process of adopting Hebrew family names ....

 the Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 name Ben-Gurion, after the medieval historian Yosef ben Gurion. He also worked as a journalist. Ben Gurion saw the future as dependent on the Ottoman regime. With the outbreak of the First World War he and Ben Zvi managed to recruit forty Jews into a Jewish militia to assist the Ottoman Army. Despite this he was deported to Egypt in March 1915. From there he made his way to the United States where he remained for three years. On his arrival he and Ben Zvi went on a tour of 35 cities in an attempt to raise a pioneer army, Hehzlutz, of 10,000 men to fight on Turkey's side.Settling in New York City in 1915, he met Russian-born Paula Munweis
Paula Ben-Gurion
Paula Ben-Gurion was the Russian-born wife of David Ben-Gurion the founding Prime Minister of Israel. They had three children together: Geula, Amos and Renana....

. They were married in 1917, and had three children. He joined the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 in 1918 as part of the 38th Battalion of the Jewish Legion
Jewish Legion
The Jewish Legion was the name for five battalions of Jewish volunteers established as the British Army's 38th through 42nd Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers...

 (following the Balfour Declaration in November 1917). He and his family returned to Palestine after World War I following its capture by the British from the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

.

Zionist leadership


After the death of theorist Ber Borochov
Ber Borochov
Dov Ber Borochov was a Marxist Zionist and one of the founders of the Labor Zionist movement as well as a pioneer in the study of Yiddish as a language....

, the left-wing and right-wing of Poale Zion split in 1919 with Ben-Gurion and his friend Berl Katznelson
Berl Katznelson
Berl Katznelson was one the intellectual founders of Labor Zionism, instrumental to the establishment of the modern State of Israel, and the editor of Davar, the first daily newspaper of the workers' movement.-Biography:...

 leading the right faction of the Labor Zionist
Labor Zionism
Labor Zionism can be described as the major stream of the left wing of the Zionist movement. It was, for many years, the most significant tendency among Zionists and Zionist organizational structure...

 movement. The Right Poale Zion formed Ahdut HaAvoda
Ahdut HaAvoda
Ahdut HaAvoda was the name used by a sequence of political parties that existed firstly during Mandate Palestine and later in Israel. Its original version, led by David Ben-Gurion, is one of the main ancestors of the modern-day Israeli Labor Party....

 with Ben-Gurion as leader in 1919. In 1920 he assisted in the formation and subsequently became general secretary of the Histadrut
Histadrut
HaHistadrut HaKlalit shel HaOvdim B'Eretz Yisrael , known as the Histadrut, is Israel's organization of trade unions. Established in December 1920 during the British Mandate for Palestine, it became one of the most powerful institutions of the State of Israel.-History:The Histadrut was founded in...

, the Zionist Labor Federation in Palestine. At Ahdut HaAvoda's 3rd Congress, held in 1924 at Ein Harod
Ein Harod
Ein Harod was a kibbutz in Israel. It was located in northern Israel near Mount Gilboa. It is notable for being built near the battlefield of Ayn Jalut , a battle of huge macro-historical importance where the Mongols were defeated for the first time, in 1260.-History:The kibbutz was founded by...

, Shlomo Kaplansky
Shlomo Kaplansky
Shlomo Kaplansky was a Labour Zionist politician, who served as the Secretary of the World Union of Poalei Zion. During the 1920's he was a leading advocate of a bi-national state in Palestine....

, a veteran leader from Poalei Zion, proposed that the party should support British Mandatory authorites plans for setting up an elected legislative council in Palestine. He argued that a Parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

, even with an Arab majority, was the way forward. Ben Gurion, already emerging as the leader of the Yishuv
Yishuv
The Yishuv or Ha-Yishuv is the term referring to the body of Jewish residents in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel...

, succeeded in getting Kaplansky's ideas rejected.

In 1930, Hapoel Hatzair
Hapoel Hatzair
Hapoel Hatzair is a Zionist group which was active in Palestine from 1905 until 1930. They were founded by A.D. Gordon, Yosef Ahronowitz, Yosef Sprinzak and followed a non-Marxist, Zionist, socialist agenda. In accordance with A.D...

 (founded by A. D. Gordon
A. D. Gordon
Aaron David Gordon , more commonly known as A. D. Gordon, was a Zionist ideologue and the spiritual force behind practical Zionism and Labor Zionism. He founded Hapoel Hatzair, a movement that set the tone for the Zionist movement for many years to come. Influenced by Leo Tolstoy and others, it is...

 in 1905) and Ahdut HaAvoda
Ahdut HaAvoda
Ahdut HaAvoda was the name used by a sequence of political parties that existed firstly during Mandate Palestine and later in Israel. Its original version, led by David Ben-Gurion, is one of the main ancestors of the modern-day Israeli Labor Party....

 joined forces to create Mapai
Mapai
Mapai was a left-wing political party in Israel, and was the dominant force in Israeli politics until its merger into the Israeli Labor Party in 1968...

, the more right-wing Zionist labor party (it was still a left-wing organization, but not as far left as other factions) under Ben-Gurion's leadership. In the 1940s the left-wing of Mapai broke away to form Mapam
Mapam
Mapam was a political party in Israel and is one of the ancestors of the modern-day Meretz party.-History:Mapam was formed by a January 1948 merger of the Hashomer Hatzair Workers Party and Ahdut HaAvoda Poale Zion Movement. The party was originally Marxist-Zionist in its outlook and represented...

. Labor Zionism became the dominant tendency in the World Zionist Organization
World Zionist Organization
The World Zionist Organization , or WZO, was founded as the Zionist Organization , or ZO, in 1897 at the First Zionist Congress, held from August 29 to August 31 in Basel, Switzerland...

 and in 1935 Ben-Gurion became chairman of the executive committee of the Jewish Agency for Palestine
Jewish Agency for Israel
The Jewish Agency for Israel , also known as the Sochnut or JAFI, served as the organization in charge of immigration and absorption of Jews from the Diaspora into the state of Israel.-History:...

, a role he kept until the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

During the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, Ben-Gurion instigated a policy of restraint ("Havlagah
Havlagah
HaHavlagah was a strategic policy used by the Haganah members with regard to actions taken against Arab groups who were attacking the Jewish settlement during the British Mandate of Palestine. Its core principles were fortification and abstention from taking revenge on Arabs by attacking innocent...

") in which the Haganah
Haganah
Haganah was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces.- Origins :...

 and other Jewish groups did not retaliate for Arab attacks against Jewish civilians, concentrating only on self-defense. In 1937, the Peel Commission
Peel Commission
The Peel Commission of 1936-1937, formally known as the Palestine Royal Commission, was a British Royal Commission of Inquiry set out to propose changes to the British Mandate of Palestine following the outbreak of the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine...

 recommended partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab areas and Ben-Gurion supported this policy. This led to conflict with Ze'ev Jabotinsky who opposed partition and as a result Jabotinsky's supporters split with the Haganah and abandoned Havlagah.

The Ben Gurion House
Ben Gurion House
The Ben Gurion House is an historic house museum in Tel Aviv, in which between 1931-1968 served as an additional residence for Israel's 1st Defense and Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, and his family, along with another additional residence, Tzrif Ben Gurion at Sde Boker Kibbutz in the Negev , and...

, where he lived from 1931 on, and for part of each year after 1953, is now a museum in Tel Aviv.

Relations with Arabs


Ben-Gurion believed in the equal rights of Arabs who remained in and would become citizens of Israel. He was quoted as saying, "We must start working in Jaffa. Jaffa must employ Arab workers. And there is a question of their wages. I believe that they should receive the same wage as a Jewish worker. An Arab has also the right to be elected president of the state, should he be elected by all."

Ben-Gurion recognized the strong attachment of Palestinian Arabs to the land but hoped that this would be overcome in time. In an address to the United Nations and the British Mandate, he also doubted the likelihood of peace with the future Arab nations:

This is our native land; it is not as birds of passage that we return to it. But it is situated in an area engulfed by Arabic-speaking people, mainly followers of Islam. Now, if ever, we must do more than make peace with them; we must achieve collaboration and alliance on equal terms. Remember what Arab delegations from Palestine and its neighbors say in the General Assembly and in other places, talk of Arab-Jewish amity sound fantastic, for the Arabs do not wish it, they will not sit at the same table with us, they want to treat us as they do the Jews of Bagdad, Cairo, and Damascus.


Goldmann criticized Ben-Gurion for what he viewed as Ben-Gurion's confrontational approach to the Arab world. Goldmann wrote that "Ben-Gurion is the man principally responsible for the anti-Arab policy, because it was he who moulded the thinking of generations of Israelis."

The view that Ben-Gurion's assessment of Arab feelings led him to emphasize the need to build up Jewish military strength is supported by Simha Flapan
Simha Flapan
Simha Flapan was an Israeli historian and politician. He was the author of The Birth of Israel: Myths And Realities.He is probably best known for his book The Birth of Israel: Myths And Realities, published in the year of his death....

, who quoted Ben-Gurion as stating in 1938: "I believe in our power, in our power which will grow, and if it will grow agreement will come..."

In 1909 Ben Gurion attempted to learn Arabic but gave up. Later he did become fluent in Turkish. The only other languages he was able to use when in discussions with Arab leaders were English and to a lesser extent French.

British


The British 1939 White paper
White Paper of 1939
The White Paper of 1939, also known as the MacDonald White Paper after Malcolm MacDonald, the British Colonial Secretary who presided over it, was a policy paper issued by the British government under Neville Chamberlain in which the idea of partitioning the Mandate for Palestine, as recommended in...

 stipulated that Jewish immigration to Palestine was to be limited to 15,000 a year for the first five years, and would subsequently be contingent on Arab consent. Restrictions were also placed on the rights of Jews to buy land from Arabs.
After this Ben-Gurion changed his policy towards the British, stating: "Peace in Palestine is not the best situation for thwarting the policy of the White Paper". Ben-Gurion believed a peaceful solution with the Arabs had no chance and soon began preparing the Yishuv
Yishuv
The Yishuv or Ha-Yishuv is the term referring to the body of Jewish residents in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel...

 for war. According to Teveth 'through his campaign to mobilize the Yishuv in support of the British war effort, he strove to build the nucleus of a "Hebrew army", and his success in this endeavor later brought victory to Zionism in the struggle to establish a Jewish state.'

During the Second World War, Ben-Gurion encouraged the Jews of Palestine to volunteer for the British army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

. He famously told Jews to "support the British as if there is no White Paper and oppose the White Paper as if there is no war". About 10% of the Jewish population of Palestine volunteered for the British army, including many women. At the same time Ben-Gurion helped the illegal immigration of thousands of European Jewish refugees to Palestine during a period when the British placed heavy restrictions on Jewish immigration.

In 1946 Ben-Gurion agreed that the Haganah
Haganah
Haganah was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces.- Origins :...

 could cooperate with Menachem Begin
Menachem Begin
' was a politician, founder of Likud and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Before independence, he was the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on 1 February 1944,...

's Irgun
Irgun
The Irgun , or Irgun Zevai Leumi to give it its full title , was a Zionist paramilitary group that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948. It was an offshoot of the earlier and larger Jewish paramilitary organization haHaganah...

 in fighting the British. Ben-Gurion initially agreed to Begin's plan to carry out the 1946 King David Hotel bombing
King David Hotel bombing
The King David Hotel bombing was an attack carried out by themilitant right-wing Zionist underground organization Irgun on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on 22 July 1946...

, with the intent of embarrassing (rather than killing) the British military stationed there. However, when the risks of mass killing became apparent, Ben-Gurion told Begin to call the operation off; Begin refused.

Illegal Jewish migration led to pressure on the British to either allow Jewish migration (as required by the League of Nations Mandate
League of Nations mandate
A League of Nations mandate was a legal status for certain territories transferred from the control of one country to another following World War I, or the legal instruments that contained the internationally agreed-upon terms for administering the territory on behalf of the League...

) or quit – they did the latter in 1948, not changing their restrictions, on the heels of a United Nations resolution partitioning the territory between the Jews and Arabs.

Comments regarding flight of Arabs


Ben-Gurion had stated to the Mapai Council on 8 February 1948 that "From your entry into Jerusalem, through Lifta, Romema [East Jerusalem]. . . there are no Arabs. One hundred percent Jews. Since Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, it has not been Jewish as it is now. In many Arab neighborhoods in the west one sees not a single Arab. I do not assume that this will change. . . . What had happened in Jerusalem. . . . is likely to happen in many parts of the country. . . in the six, eight, or ten months of the campaign there will certainly be great changes in the composition of the population in the country." (Benny Morris, Expulsion of the Palestinians,p. 180–181)

He had also stated in a speech addressing the Zionist Action Committee regarding the 'Arab Demographic Problem' that "We will not be able to win the war if we do not, during the war, populate upper and lower, eastern and western Galilee, the Negev and Jerusalem area, even if only in an artificial way, in a military way. . . . I believe that war will also bring in its wake a great change in the distribution of Arab population." (Benny Morris, p. 181 & Expulsion Of The Palestinians, p. 181)

Religious parties and the status quo


In September 1947 Ben-Gurion reached a status quo
Status quo (Israel)
In Israel, the term status quo refers to the political understanding between religious and secular political parties not to alter the communal arrangement in relation to religious matters, in a predominantly secular population...

 agreement with the Orthodox Agudat Yisrael party. He sent a letter to Agudat Yisrael stating that while he is committed to establishing a non-theocratic state with freedom of religion he is promising that Shabbat
Shabbat
Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after when one would expect to be able to see three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact times, therefore, differ from...

 would be Israel's official day of rest, that in State provided kitchens there will be access to Kosher food, that every effort will be made to provide a single jurisdiction
Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...

 for Jewish family affairs, and that each sector would be granted autonomy in the sphere of education, provided minimum standards regarding the curriculum are observed.

To a large extent this letter (or agreement) provided a framework for religious affairs in Israel (e.g. no civil marriage
Civil marriage
Civil marriage is marriage performed by a government official and not a religious organization.-History:Every country maintaining a population registry of its residents keeps track of marital status, and most countries believe that it is their responsibility to register married couples. Most...

s, just as in Mandate times) and is often a benchmark to which the status is compared.

Military leadership during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War


During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

 Ben-Gurion oversaw the nascent state's military operations. During the first weeks of Israel's independence, he ordered all militias to be replaced by one national army, the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 (IDF). To that end, Ben-Gurion used a firm hand during the Altalena Affair
Altalena Affair
The Altalena Affair was a violent confrontation that took place in June 1948 between the newly formed Israel Defense Forces and the Irgun, a right-wing Jewish paramilitary group...

, a ship carrying arms purchased by the Irgun
Irgun
The Irgun , or Irgun Zevai Leumi to give it its full title , was a Zionist paramilitary group that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948. It was an offshoot of the earlier and larger Jewish paramilitary organization haHaganah...

. He insisted that all weapons be handed over to the IDF. When fighting broke out on the Tel Aviv beach he ordered it be taken by force and to shell the ship. Sixteen Irgun fighters and three IDF soldiers were killed in this battle. Following the policy of a unified military force, he also ordered that the Palmach
Palmach
The Palmach was the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the underground army of the Yishuv during the period of the British Mandate of Palestine. The Palmach was established on May 15, 1941...

 headquarters be disbanded and its units be integrated with the rest of the IDF, to the chagrin of many of its members. His attempts to reduce the number of Mapam
Mapam
Mapam was a political party in Israel and is one of the ancestors of the modern-day Meretz party.-History:Mapam was formed by a January 1948 merger of the Hashomer Hatzair Workers Party and Ahdut HaAvoda Poale Zion Movement. The party was originally Marxist-Zionist in its outlook and represented...

 members in the senior ranks led to the "General's Revolt"
The General's Revolt
Prior to the establishment of the state of Israel the leader of the Yeshuv, David Ben Gurion, made several attempts to reorganise the main underground militia, the Haganah, and its elite force, the Palmach...

 in June 1948. ‎

As head of the Jewish Agency, Ben-Gurion was de-facto leader of Palestine's Jews even before the state was declared. In this position, Ben-Gurion played a major role in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

 and the resulting Palestinian exodus
1948 Palestinian exodus
The 1948 Palestinian exodus , also known as the Nakba , occurred when approximately 711,000 to 725,000 Palestinian Arabs left, fled or were expelled from their homes, during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the Civil War that preceded it. The exact number of refugees is a matter of dispute...

. When the IDF archives and others were opened in the late 1980s, scholars started to reconsider the events and the role of Ben Gurion.

Founding of Israel


On 14 May, on the last day of the British Mandate, Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the state of Israel
Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel
The Israeli Declaration of Independence , made on 14 May 1948 , the day before the British Mandate was due to expire, was the announcement by David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, that the new Jewish state named the...

. In the Israeli declaration of independence, he stated that the new nation would "uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of religion, race."

In his War Diaries in February of 1948, Ben-Gurion wrote: "The war shall give us the land. The concepts of 'ours' and 'not ours' are peace concepts only, and they lose their meaning during war." Also later he confirmed this by stating that, "In the Negev we shall not buy the land. We shall conquer it. You forget that we are at war."

Prime Minister of Israel


After leading Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

, Ben-Gurion was elected Prime Minister of Israel
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

 when his Mapai (Labour) party won the largest number of seats in the first national election, held on 14 February 1949. He would remain in that post until 1963, except for a period of nearly two years between 1954 and 1955. As Premier, he oversaw the establishment of the state's institutions. He presided over various national projects aimed at the rapid development of the country and its population: Operation Magic Carpet
Operation Magic Carpet (Yemen)
Operation Magic Carpet is a widely-known nickname for Operation On Wings of Eagles , an operation between June 1949 and September 1950 that brought 49,000 Yemenite Jews to the new state of Israel. British and American transport planes made some 380 flights from Aden, in a secret operation that was...

, the airlift of Jews from Arab countries, the construction of the National Water Carrier, rural development projects and the establishment of new towns and cities. In particular, he called for pioneering settlement in outlying areas, especially in the Negev
Negev
The Negev is a desert and semidesert region of southern Israel. The Arabs, including the native Bedouin population of the region, refer to the desert as al-Naqab. The origin of the word Neghebh is from the Hebrew root denoting 'dry'...

.

Ben-Gurion had a major role in the military operations that led to the Qibya massacre
Qibya massacre
The Qibya massacre, also known as the Qibya incident, occurred in October 1953 when Israeli troops under Ariel Sharon attacked the village of Qibya in the West Bank. Sixty-nine Palestinian Arabs, two thirds of them women and children were killed. Forty-five houses, a school, and a mosque were...

 in October, 1953. Later in 1953 he announced his intention to withdraw from government and was replaced by Moshe Sharett
Moshe Sharett
Moshe Sharett on 15 October 1894, died 7 July 1965) was the second Prime Minister of Israel , serving for a little under two years between David Ben-Gurion's two terms.-Early life:...

, who was elected the second Prime Minister of Israel in January, 1954.

Ben-Gurion returned to office in 1955 assuming the post of Defense Minister and was soon re-elected prime minister. When Ben-Gurion returned to government, Israeli forces responded more aggressively to Palestinian guerilla attacks from Gaza—still under Egyptian rule. The growing cycle of violence led Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein was the second President of Egypt from 1956 until his death. A colonel in the Egyptian army, Nasser led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 along with Muhammad Naguib, the first president, which overthrew the monarchy of Egypt and Sudan, and heralded a new period of...

 to build up his arms with the help of the Soviet Union. The Israelis responded by arming themselves with help from France. Nasser blocked the passage of Israeli ships through the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 and Suez Canal. In July 1956, America and Britain withdrew their offer to fund the Aswan High Dam project on the Nile and a week later Nasser ordered the nationalization of the French and British controlled Suez Canal
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

. Ben-Gurion collaborated with the British and French to plan the 1956 Sinai War
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

 in which Israel stormed the Sinai Peninsula
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

 thus giving British and French forces a pretext to intervene in order to secure the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

. Intervention by the United States and the United Nations forced the British and French to back down and Israel to withdraw from Sinai in return for promises of free navigation through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. A UN force was stationed between Egypt and Israel.


Ben-Gurion stepped down as prime minister for what he described as personal reasons in 1963, and chose Levi Eshkol
Levi Eshkol
' served as the third Prime Minister of Israel from 1963 until his death from a heart attack in 1969. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister to die in office.-Biography:...

 as his successor. A year later a rivalry developed between the two on the issue of the Lavon Affair
Lavon Affair
The Lavon Affair refers to a failed Israeli covert operation, code named Operation Susannah, conducted in Egypt in the Summer of 1954. As part of the false flag operation, a group of Egyptian Jews were recruited by Israeli military intelligence for plans to plant bombs inside Egyptian, American and...

. Ben-Gurion broke with the party in June 1965 over Eshkol's handling of the Lavon affair and formed a new party, Rafi which won ten seats in the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

. After the Six-Day War, Ben-Gurion was in favour of returning all the occupied territories apart from Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Mount Hebron
Mount Hebron
Mount Hebron is a geographic region and geologic formation in the southern West Bank, with its western foothills extending into Israel. The area was in biblical times a center of the Israelite and Hasmonean kingdoms. The region lends its name to the Mount Hebron Regional Council....

.

In 1968, when Rafi merged with Mapai to form the Alignment
Alignment (political party)
The Alignment was an alliance of the major left-wing parties in Israel between the 1960s and 1990s. It was established in 1965 as an alliance of Mapai and Ahdut HaAvoda but was dissolved three years later when the two parties and Rafi formally merged into the Israeli Labor Party...

, Ben-Gurion refused to reconcile with his old party. He favoured electoral reforms in which a constituency-based system would replace what he saw as a chaotic proportional representation method. He formed another new party, the National List
National List
The National List , sometimes translated as the State List, was a political party in Israel. Despite being founded by David Ben-Gurion, one of the fathers of the Israeli left, the party is an ancestor of the modern-day Likud, Israel's largest right-wing bloc.-Background:The National List had been...

, which won four seats in the 1969 election
Israeli legislative election, 1969
Elections for the seventh Knesset were held in Israel on 28 October 1969. Voter turnout was 81.7%.-Results:¹ Meir Avizohar defected from the National List to the Alignment² Avner Shaki left the National Religious Party and remained a single MK...

. Ben-Gurion retired from politics in 1970 and spent his last years living in a modest home on the kibbutz.

Ben-Gurion and the Negev



Ben-Gurion believed that the sparsely populated and barren Negev
Negev
The Negev is a desert and semidesert region of southern Israel. The Arabs, including the native Bedouin population of the region, refer to the desert as al-Naqab. The origin of the word Neghebh is from the Hebrew root denoting 'dry'...

 desert offered a great opportunity for the Jews to settle in Palestine with minimal obstruction of the Arab population. He set a personal example by choosing to settle in kibbutz Sde Boker
Sde Boker
Sde Boker is a kibbutz in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Best known as the retirement home of Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, it falls under the jurisdiction of Ramat HaNegev Regional Council.-History:...

 at the centre of the Negev and established the National Water Carrier to bring water to the area. He saw the struggle to make the desert bloom as an area where the Jewish people could make a major contribution to humanity as a whole.

Ben-Gurion died on 1 December 1973, and is buried alongside his wife Paula at a site in Midreshet Ben-Gurion
Midreshet Ben-Gurion
Midreshet Ben-Gurion , also known as Midreshet Sde Boker, is a communal settlement in southern Israel. Located near Sde Boker in the Negev desert, it falls under the jurisdiction of Ramat HaNegev Regional Council. In 2010 it had a population of 1,200....

 in the Negev desert.

Awards


  • In both 1951 and 1971, Ben-Gurion was awarded the Bialik Prize
    Bialik Prize
    The Bialik Prize is an annual literary award given by the municipality of Tel Aviv, Israel for significant accomplishments in Hebrew literature. The prize is named in memory of Hayyim Nahman Bialik. There are two separate prizes, one specifically for "Literature", which is in the field of fiction,...

     for Jewish thought.


In 2005, he was voted the 2nd-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet
Ynet
Ynet is the most popular Israeli news and general content website. It is owned by the same conglomerate that operates Yediot Ahronot, the country's secondleading daily newspaper...

to determine whom the general public considered the 200 Greatest Israelis.

Commemoration


  • Israel's largest airport, Ben-Gurion International Airport is named in his honor.
  • One of Israel's major universities, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
    Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
    Ben-Gurion University of the Negev   is a university in Beersheba, Israel, established in 1969. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has a current enrollment of 17,400 students, and is one of Israel's fastest growing universities....

    , located in Beersheva, is named after him.
  • Numerous streets, as well as schools, throughout Israel have been named after him.
  • An Israeli modification of the British Centurion Tank
    Centurion tank
    The Centurion, introduced in 1945, was the primary British main battle tank of the post-World War II period. It was a successful tank design, with upgrades, for many decades...

     was named after Ben-Gurion
  • A desert research center, Midreshet Ben-Gurion
    Midreshet Ben-Gurion
    Midreshet Ben-Gurion , also known as Midreshet Sde Boker, is a communal settlement in southern Israel. Located near Sde Boker in the Negev desert, it falls under the jurisdiction of Ramat HaNegev Regional Council. In 2010 it had a population of 1,200....

    , near his "hut" in Kibbutz Sde Boker
    Sde Boker
    Sde Boker is a kibbutz in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Best known as the retirement home of Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, it falls under the jurisdiction of Ramat HaNegev Regional Council.-History:...

     has been named in his honor. Ben-Gurion's grave is in the research center.
  • An English heritage blue plaque
    Blue plaque
    A blue plaque is a permanent sign installed in a public place to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker....

     marks where Ben-Gurion lived in London at 75 Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale
    Maida Vale
    Maida Vale is a residential district in West London between St John's Wood and Kilburn. It is part of the City of Westminster. The area is mostly residential, and mainly affluent, consisting of many large late Victorian and Edwardian blocks of mansion flats...

    , Westminster, W9.
  • Is also a chapter in the Pacific Coast Region of The B'nai Brith Youth Organization in Pomona, California
    Pomona, California
    -2010:The 2010 United States Census reported that Pomona had a population of 149,058, a slight decline from the 2000 census population. The population density was 6,491.2 people per square mile...

  • Part of a river-side promendae of the Seine
    Seine
    The Seine is a -long river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France. It rises at Saint-Seine near Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau, flowing through Paris and into the English Channel at Le Havre . It is navigable by ocean-going vessels...

     is named after Ben-Gurion.

See also

  • List of Bialik Prize recipients
    Bialik Prize
    The Bialik Prize is an annual literary award given by the municipality of Tel Aviv, Israel for significant accomplishments in Hebrew literature. The prize is named in memory of Hayyim Nahman Bialik. There are two separate prizes, one specifically for "Literature", which is in the field of fiction,...

  • Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany
    Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany
    The Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany was signed on September 10, 1952, and entered in force on March 27, 1953...


External links