JERUSALEM (May. 18)
David Ben Gurion, the man who proclaimed Israel’s independence in 1948 and served twice as his nation’s Prime Minister, resigned from the Knesset today thereby removing himself, perhaps finally, from public life. Mr. Ben Gurion who always affected the informality of a bare head and an open collar, submitted his resignation in an equally informal manner. He wrote it on a sheet of blank note paper which he sent with a Knesset usher from his seat in the Knesset hall to the Speaker’s podium. The 83-year-old statesman explained briefly that he found it “impossible to spare any of my time for parliamentary work.” Entreaties by his colleagues to defer his resignation for several weeks in order to address the centenary of the Mikve Israel Agricultural School, were to no avail. Some political observers recalled that Mr. Ben Gurion had resigned once before and noted that Knesset rules give him 48 hours to rescind his resignation. But most agreed that this time the former Premier has left the political arena for good.
Mr. Ben Gurion who was born in Russia and came to Palestine as a youth when the country was under Turkish rule, served as a leader from 1935 to 1963, first as chairman of the Jewish Agency and later as Israel’s first Prime Minister. He issued Israel’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948, against the opposition of many of his colleagues and at a time when the country was threatened with imminent invasion by the armies of five Arab countries. Regarded by many as the greatest personality produced by the Jewish people in this century and revered by most Israelis for his achievements, Mr. Ben Gurion’s political influence waned sharply after his resignation from the Premiership, for the second time, in 1963. He engaged in a vendetta with his hand-picked successor, former Premier Levi Eshkol. In the past year he has been a bitter political opponent of Premier Golda Meir and has met with a great deal of public disapproval because of his opposition to coalition government policies.
Mr. Ben Gurion’s efforts to form new political factions met with only modest success after he left office. In 1965 he quit Mapai, the Israel labor party he helped found, and joined with Moshe Dayan to form the Rafi faction made up mainly of Mapai dissidents. The party remained small and following the June, 1967 Six-Day War it decided to join a coalition with Mapai and Achdut Avodah to form the present Israel Labor Party. Mr. Ben Gurion refused to go along with the merger and founded a second new party, the State List, which had even less success at the polls than Rafi. Some Knesset observers said today that Mr. Ben Gurion’s resignation was not due to “lack of time” but to the decline of his political influence. They noted that the former Premier was in good health for a man of his years and still full of energy.