Israel / Politics /
Hebrew: david ben-guryon
(1886- 1973) Jewish/Israeli politician, and first prime minister of Israel (1948-53, 1955-63), in both periods doubling as defence minister.
Ben-Gurion was known as extremely stubborn and cynical about reaching his goals. He made few friends in the leadership of leading states like USA and Britain, who supported other politicians rather than him like Chaim Weizmann and Moshe Sharett. Ben-Gurion's main ally in the West was France.
Ben-Gurion was a wholehearted Zionist, believing firmly that the Jews had a God-given right to Palestine. He also believed that the state of Israel could be reestablished by human efforts, even if one of the main cores of Jewish thinking said that this could only happen through the return of Messiah to earth.
At the same time, Ben-Gurion took many initiatives towards Arab leaders, with the aim of establishing peace and stability with Israel's neighbours.
Ben-Gurion was a man of great charisma, and he enjoyed much adoration from the Israeli population. He was often referred to as the "Father of the Nation".
Ben-Gurion is known for his standard phrase: "What matters is not what the Gentiles will say, but what the Jews will do".
1886 October 16: Born in Plonsk, Russia (now Poland), as a son of lawyer Victor Gruen. Victor Gruen was one of the leaders of the movement, Lovers of Zion, which sought to motivate Jewish resettlement in Israel. Ben-Gurion's given name was David Gruen.
1904: Starts at the Warsaw University, where he joined the organization Poale Zion (Zionist Workers).
1906: Emigrates to Palestine, which is part of the Ottoman Empire, where he begins as a farm worker. Difficult years follow for Ben-Gurion, and he is the victim of both malaria and hunger. After some time he takes the Hebrew name Ben-Gurion.
1910: Starts editing the Hebrew-language newspaper Achdut (Unity).
1912: Starts to study Turkish law and government in Istanbul.
1914: With the outbreak of World War 1, Ben-Gurion returns to Palestine.
1915: Is deported from the Ottoman Empire as a troublemaker, end ends up in New York, USA. Here he marries Russian-born Pauline Munweis.
1918: After the Balfour Declaration of the preceding year, Ben-Gurion enlists in the Jewish Legion of the British Army, is trained and returned to Palestine as a member of the 40th Royal Fusiliers. But by the time he arrives, the Ottomans were already defeated in the region.
1920: Together with others, Ben-Gurion forms the Histadrut.
1921: Ben-Gurion becomes the first secretary general of Histadrut. Through Histadrut Ben-Gurion can work for his Zionist goal.
1930: Ben-Gurion is central in forming the Israeli Workers Party, Mapai.
1933: After the leader of Mapai, Chaim Arlosoroff, is assassinated, Ben-Gurion becomes leader.
1935: Is elected chairman of the Zionist Executive, the highest body of international Zionism. Perhaps more important, however, is that he also was elected chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, which came to be regarded by the British as the official representative for the Jews in Palestine.
1939: After Britain introduces restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine, Ben-Gurion calls for a Jewish rebellion, involving both peaceful and military actions. This would last until 1948, when Israel was founded.
1942 May 12: At a Zionist conference in New York, Ben-Gurion gets support for establishing a Jewish state after the end of World War 2.
1945: Through Histadrut, Ben-Gurion buys arms from Europe.
1946: He becomes leader of the Zionist Organization's defence department. Through this Ben-Gurion gets control over the main Jewish militia groups in Palestine.
1948 May 14: Ben-Gurion gives the declaration of independence for Israel in Tel Aviv. He becomes head of the provisional government.
1949 January: Mapai wins 46 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, and Ben-Gurion is elected prime minister.
1950 May: He supports the Tri-partite Declaration which guaranteedt hat the borders might remain as they were at the end of the First Palestinian War.
1953: Steps down from office and returns to his kibbutz in Negev, Sede Boqer. He is succeeded by Moshe Sharett.
1955: Ben-Gurion returns to politics as defence minister.
Some months after becoming defence minister, he follows Sharett as prime minister as well.
1956 October 29: Under the leadership of Ben-Gurion, Israel attacks Egypt, and takes control over most of the Sinai (see Suez-Sinai War).
1957 March: The last Israeli troops withdraw from Sinai after pressure from the USA and Soviet Union.
1959 November: Following general elections, Ben-Gurion forms a new government, that would prove to be unstable, much due to tensions between Ben-Gurion and the leader of Histadrut, Pinchas Lavon.
1963: Steps down from office for "personal reasons." He is succeeded by Levi Eshkol, against whom he campaigns heavily. However, he begins to use more time at the kibbutz the Negev desert, and begins writing his autobiography.
1965: Ben-Gurion leaves the Mapai party in protest against its merger with Ahdut HaAvodah-Poale Zion, and formed the new party, Rafi.
November: Rafi gains 10 seats in the Knesset, while Mapai-Ahdut HaAvodah-Poale Zion gains 45.
1968: Against Ben-Gurion's whishes, Rafi joins the Mapai coalition. Ben-Gurion forms another party, LaAam.
1969: LaAam gains 4 seats in the Knesset.
1970: Ben-Gurion resigns from the Knesset.
Publishes Israel: A Personal History.
1973 December 1: Dies of natural causes in Tel Aviv.
1974: The Jews in Their Land is published posthumously.