The May 1948 Vote that Made the State of Israel

A long-accepted wisdom has it that just days before the state’s birth, its founders settled two burning issues in a pair of closely decided votes. The wisdom is half-wrong.

A portrait of David Ben-Gurion taken in the 1960s. Horst Tappe/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images.

A portrait of David Ben-Gurion taken in the 1960s. Horst Tappe/Pix Inc./The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images.

Essay
April 2 2018
About the author

Martin Kramer teaches Middle Eastern history and served as founding president at Shalem College in Jerusalem, and is the Koret distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


Israel’s 70th anniversary, which falls on April 19 (by the Hebrew calendar), coincides with a resurgence of interest in David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father. In addition to new biographies, most notably by Anita Shapira (2014) and Tom Segev (Hebrew, 2018), the Ben-Gurion revival probably owes most to a 2016 film, Ben-Gurion, Epilogue, directed by Yariv Mozer. Made up mostly of excerpts from a long-lost film interview given by Ben-Gurion in 1968, during his twilight years, the documentary ran in Israeli theaters and on TV and was screened by almost every Jewish film festival worldwide.

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More about: 1948, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Declaration of Independence