Ben-Gurion, David (1886-1973)

Head of the Jewish Agency and first Premier of Israel

Born David Gruen in Plonsk, Belarus, he arrived in Palestine as a twenty year-old to fulfill his Zionist convictions. Expelled by the Turks in 1915, he traveled to the US and returned in 1918 to start a career as a Zionist politician with the labor movement. In 1933, he became head of the Jewish Agency, structured as a shadow government of the Jewish population in Palestine, the Yishuv. Displayed incredible leadership against odds from the outside as well as from inside the Yishuv and his party, the MAPAI.   

Ben-Gurion had one overriding objective - the establishment of the State of Israel. It grew in intensity during the war. He was dedicated to this premise and would not let anything interfere with the achievement of this goal. He realized that the only power to help him expedite this on a practical level were the British, the temporary landlords, the holders of the Mandate. Early on he put the emphasis on able-bodied young Chalutzim, capable to build and defend a country. Brand’s mission of a million people was not compatible with his agenda. In his pre-war trip through Eastern Europe he had not been impressed with the human material he met. Assuming there would come a million people? Would MAPAI lose its dominance through this sudden new-comer voter influx? How many of the million offered fit the able–bodied schematic with which one can build a State?  Then there was the other point, that of the British cooperation. To push too hard, to fight them, will make them uncooperative. It will cause delays Thus, in conclusion – establishing Israel is preferential to bringing a million people out.

The question still begs for an answer: ‘Why did they not engage in a make-believe negotiations ploy, just to gain time, exchange some fake correspondence, create some illusionary cable traffic, make some misleading radio announcements, make the Germans believe that their offer was under consideration and that it is being discussed. Why not do that?’ The answer could be that the British would not have participated, although they produced a great number of subterfuge projects and were masters at it. Maybe Ben-Gurion was loathe to rattle them, he wanted to keep them amenable for the big occasion.

On 15 May 1948 Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the independent state of Israel Acting as Minister of Defense and Prime Minister, responsible for the creation of the Israel Defense Forces, the IDF. Resigned the premiership in 1953. Retires to Kibbutz Sde-Boker in the Negev. Returned to office in 1955 as Minister of Defense and subsequently as Prime Minister until 1963 when he retired again and returned to Kibbutz Sde-Boker in the heart of the Negev desert.  In 1973, at age eighty-seven, he died in Sde-Boker.

 

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