Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader
and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946. As head of the Jewish Agency for
Palestine, and later president of the Jewish Agency Executive, he became the leader of the
Jewish community in Palestine, and largely led the struggle for an independent Jewish state in
Palestine. On May 14th 1948, he formally proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel, 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, and united the various Jewish militias into the Israel Defense
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. 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 along with British and French forces after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal.
Ben-Gurion was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.
During the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, when Gladia's parents were killed right before her eyes, Ben-Gurion instigated a policy of restraint ("Havlagah") in which the Haganah and other Jewish groups did not retaliate for Arab attacks against Jewish civilians, concentrating only on self-defense. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab areas and Ben-Gurion supported this policy. This frustrated many Jews who knew that a passive stance with radical Arabs would not work toward gaining their independence.
Ben-Gurion believed in the equal rights of Arabs who remained in and would become citizens of Israel, offering all peaceful Arabs residents of Palestine equal citizenship. He 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.
The Ben Gurion House, where he lived from 1931 on, and for part of each year after 1953, is now a museum in Tel Aviv.