Israel’s Leaders: Ben-Gurion
First in a 10-part series.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced in August that he will not re-run for the top position of his political party, Kadima. Both Tzippi Livni and Shaul Mofaz are considered contenders for the position. But who will be the next Prime Minister? Some say rather than a member of Kadima, perhaps Likud’s Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu or Labor’s Ehud Barak.
Over the years, Israel has had many leaders, all of which helped shape the Jewish homeland into what it is today — literally and figuratively. Take David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973). Not only was he Israel’s first Prime Minister and Defense Minister, he was integral in the struggle to found the Jewish state.
Ben-Gurion led what was once Israel’s most prominent political party, Mapai. He founded the worker’s union, known as the Histadrut. He oversaw countless historic initiatives such as “Operation Magic Carpet” (the remarkable airlift of 45,000 Yemenite Jews), the construction of the national water carrier, and the building of many towns and cities.
Ben-Gurion couldn’t get away from politics. He retired in 1953, but two years later was back as defense minister and then again as PM, leading the country through the 1956 Sinai Campaign, in which Israeli forces temporarily secured the Sinai Peninsula. He retired from the Knesset in 1970 at age 84.