February 24, 2020

Netanyahu and Ben Gurion: A Comparison

“Comparing any leader, however successful, with a “founding father” inevitably puts that leader at a disadvantage. Founding fathers of David Ben-Gurion’s ilk – such as George Washington, Kamal Atatürk or Mao Zedong – are generally given a kind of immunity, and harsh criticisms are rare. In addition, because Benjamin Netanyahu is still serving as prime minister, only a limited perspective can be offered.

That said, the most obvious point of similarity between Netanyahu and Ben-Gurion an almost total devotion to Israel’s security. While the security of the country has been a key factor for all the prime ministers in Israel’s history, for these two leaders it was the ultimate consideration.

And in the same context: the nuclear issue. Ben-Gurion began to deal with the nuclear question as soon as the state was established. His realization that in such a hostile environment Israel could not remain viable over time without the ultimate deterrent became a fundamental plank of the country’s national security concept. During Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister, Israel’s nuclear status in the unstable Middle East returned to the top of the pyramid of the country’s security considerations.

Both leaders were prepared to confront US presidents on this issue. Both saw a link between the nuclear threat and the Holocaust, a view that perhaps figured most prominently for Menachem Begin.”

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