Ben-Gurion at the Moment of Crisis

In 1948, he served as a stark counter-example to the view (which he mostly held) that history is driven by material factors and not by great leaders.

David Ben-Gurion with his wife and others at the Haifa docks to see the last contingent of British troops leave Israel on July 4, 1948. Bettmann/Getty.

David Ben-Gurion with his wife and others at the Haifa docks to see the last contingent of British troops leave Israel on July 4, 1948. Bettmann/Getty.

Last Word
Feb. 24 2020
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.


I owe a debt to my three respondents, in order of their appearance: Benny Morris, Eliot A. Cohen, and Efraim Inbar. They’ve added context and some controversy to my essay, “Ben-Gurion’s Army: How the IDF Came into Being (and Almost Didn’t).” And this is a debt owed by Mosaic’s readers as well. The creation of Israel remade the Jewish people, altered the Middle East, and influenced world history. Thus, the pivotal events of 1948 invite never-ending research, questioning, and revision. Since we will never be closer to 1948 than we are now, today’s historians must leave a solid layer of interpretation for future colleagues, and my respondents have done their share.

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More about: 1948, David Ben-Gurion, IDF, Israel & Zionism