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David Ben-Gurion

(1886—1973) Israeli statesman

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(b. 16 Oct. 1886, d. 1 Dec. 1973).

Prime Minister of Israel 1948–53, 1955–63 Born David Gruen at Plonsk, in Russian Poland, he became a Zionist and emigrated to Palestine in 1906. He became active in the trade union movement and in journalism until he went to the University of Constantinople (1912–14) and obtained a law degree. Expelled by the Ottoman authorities for his renewed work in the trade unions, he joined the Jewish Legion. After World War I, he became one of the organizers of the Mapai (Israel Workers' Party) and of the Jewish Federation of Labour (Histadrut), for which he served as general secretary (1921–35). In 1935 he became chairman of the Jewish Agency, thus effectively becoming the leader of the Jewish community in Palestine. He opposed the radical actions of the Irgun under Begin, which he felt undermined British goodwill towards an independent Jewish state. Instead, he organized the influx of large refugee movements, which made a Jewish state more viable and more inevitable.

In 1948, Ben‐Gurion became Prime Minister of the newly founded state of Israel, and remained in government until 1963, except for two years of chosen retirement. Under his leadership, Israel survived the initial threat to its existence, when it was attacked by its Arab neighbours (1948–9). He also ensured that Israel was able to withstand subsequent Arab hostilities. Through agricultural and social reforms, Ben‐Gurion established the foundations of the new state and created a stable country. This achievement was particularly remarkable in the light of Israel's culturally and socially heterogenous population which had immigrated from all over the world, with most people having suffered from persecution. He founded a new party known as Rafi in 1965, and remained in parliament (Knesset) until 1970.

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