Ben-Gurion Resigns, Is Succeeded by Sharett Sharett and Ben-Gurion pictured at Kibbutz Sde Boker. Photo: GPO Israel

December 7, 1953

Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who declared Israel’s independence as the head of a provisional government May 14, 1948, announces his resignation and his plan to retire to Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev. He is succeeded by fellow Mapai member Moshe Sharett, the foreign minister, who becomes acting prime minister immediately and officially takes office as Israel’s second prime minister in January 1954.

Ben-Gurion also has filled the role of defense minister, and that position is taken by Pinchas Lavon.

But Ben-Gurion remains a member of the Knesset, and his retirement from the government proves to be temporary. He returns to the Cabinet as the defense minister in February 1955, and he regains the office of prime minister after Knesset elections in August 1955. He holds the office until retiring a second time in 1963, this time giving way to Levi Eshkol as prime minister. Ben-Gurion remains in the Knesset until 1970. During the mid-1960s he forms and leads Rafi, a breakaway party from Mapai, in response to the controversy over what is known as the Lavon Affair, from the time after Lavon takes over the defense portfolio in 1954.

Ben-Gurion, who was born as David Gruen in Poland in 1886 and moved to Palestine in 1906, remains Israel’s longest-serving prime minister until being surpassed by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2019.