Comprehensive coverage

"The next war will be fought by pressing buttons" and other topical things said by Ben-Gurion

In preparation for Independence Day, InformationWeek "interviewed" David Ben-Gurion, founder of the State of Israel, founder of the IDF and Prime Minister and first Minister of Defense * From what Ben-Gurion said and wrote, very topical issues arise, such as electronic warfare, the appearance of drones, cooperation between the industrial and defense sectors

David Ben Gurion By: Yossi Al-Toni, InformationWeek 

 Mr. Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, what is the face of war in the future?

"I don't know what the future war will be, what will happen in a few years. It is possible that we are facing huge revolutions. In a few years, if there is a war, it will be fought only by pushing buttons. Several people will press buttons, and planes and missiles will fly without people. It is possible then that all the small nations will be out of the game, but we cannot build on these speculations. We must build hourly on the existing reality, and see it as it changes.

...and all the tests we have had until now are not enough, we should not learn from them. Don't suspect me of hating the IDF, or of wanting to slander (who says hateful words - Y.H.) him, to slander him, but we need to be very careful not to exaggerate the conquests and victories we had... all the tests we had are not enough for us to have security either in the future. If we have to fight in the future - we will fight under different conditions. We cannot discriminate, it is our disaster and danger."

How important is the technological component in the strength of the State of Israel?

"The security of the State of Israel will not be based on the army alone. Our security depends on a number of factors, including immigration, settlement, foreign policy, and more. An important factor in the defense system is our industrial and technical strength. Our young industry, which grew mainly in the Second World War, played a great war role. We would not have been able to stand when we did, if it were not for the technical and industrial help and the equipment the army received from our industry. Our technical advantage was an important factor in this year's victory (in the War of Liberation - YH), and we must cultivate and increase this advantage. The state will not be able to rely on the private initiative alone. State measures are required for the development of special industries. Government planning and supervision will be required for several branches of industry and transportation, in order to adapt them to security needs.

The army has hardworking and talented employees who do their professional work with dedication and loyalty. This is to give our army the tools to win. This is the victory of science, and it does not fall to a known extent - and in a historical sense it is more important - than a victory on the battlefield.

And what about the importance of R&D and scientific research?

"This system also includes the element of scientific, pure and useful research. Our public still does not know how much it owes thanks for the glorious victories of our army to the humble scientists, who put their knowledge, talents and laboratories at the disposal of the security needs, before the outbreak of the war. Scientific research is needed not only for security purposes, all the activity of the economy and culture in Israel will not be described, without maximal and comprehensive use of the conquests of science and technology. The development of the country, the promotion of agriculture, industry, and education - all require the cultivation of science, to the limit of our intellectual and material capacity. The same is true for security purposes. For the sake of our resilience, we must concentrate in Israel the best scientific forces of the Jewish people, allow the scientific talents of our youth to pay off and dedicate their lives to study and scientific research, equip them with highly sophisticated laboratories in all fields of physical and biological research, and adapt their operation to the needs of the country's security and development."

What are the elements of the IDF's success?

"War nowadays is not as simple as it seemed in the past. The work of the army obliges us not only for training, order and discipline. The modern army is a complex and mechanized organization, and it operates in several dimensions. The effectiveness and success of the army depend on the intensity of fire and the speed of movement. These now depend on complicated and thin machines and devices, which require a lot of professional knowledge. This is the use of motor vehicles, radars, telephones, radios, electronics, electrical appliances and heavy and complex machines, on land, at sea and in the air. This, in addition to the use of weapons of all kinds, light and heavy, powered by muscular energy, mechanical energy, electrical energy and electronic energy.

The technological changes that took place in the world changed the face of the campaign. In the old days, it is doubtful whether we could have withstood a siege of five years. We received our weapons in the communist war from overseas, and the financial means - from distant countries. In June 1945, I recruited friends in one of the most developed countries in their military industry, and with the loyal help of these friends, the most sophisticated and modern machines and devices were purchased, in huge quantities, for the production of weapons and ammunition of all kinds.

Some good points for the IDF on us. He struck our enemy, and made judgments against them, and saved our independence, and sank enemy ships in the sea, and sank our fortress in it."

You mentioned the importance of the Air Force's technological superiority.

"Security will not be established without an army - and in the first place without an air force, which has top quality - in its equipment, training and spirit. (In the War of Independence) we would not have expelled the Egyptian invader and we would not have liberated the south and the Negev - without the superiority of our air force over the Egyptian air force. Our Air Force discovered in the war, as soon as it appeared, a professional and expert superiority, and played a decisive role in some of the battles, when it destroyed the enemy's Air Force bases. It was made clear without a doubt - in the Second World War, as well as in the War of Independence - without superior air power there is no possibility and no chance of winning the battle. If the State of Israel exists now, and its borders stretch from Dan to Eilat - the Air Force has a big part in that. We would not have come this far, without the Air Force, which will be organized and equipped mainly during the war. (It should be noted) the volunteers from abroad, who played an important, responsible and blessed role, because the Israeli Air Force required more professional expertise and experience than any other branch of our military. The volunteers have a profession and experience - they acquired their knowledge and experience in the Second World War in the allied armies, and helped to establish and guide the pilots of the Israeli Air Force in a short time."

What has changed in the world in terms of technology?

"There has been a great change in the world, with rich results: the whole world has become one. When the State of Israel was established, the members of the Jewish people were scattered in almost all countries of the world. And all parts of the earth are connected to each other by telephone, telegraph, radio, and every event that occurs in one corner of the world is communicated immediately, on the same day, to all the inhabitants of the earth. The decisive value was taken away from the geographical neighborhood, a value that was so important in the past, in ancient times. Today, a brave, mental and cultural closeness is possible between residents of distant countries, more so than two peoples living on a common border. The modern means of transportation - fast ships, airplanes, telegraph and radio - have changed all concepts of time and place. In modern wars, millions of fighters are moved from one continent to another with a speed and efficiency that the ancients could not have imagined."

What is your opinion about technological education?

"The army requires prolonged training of many years. We do not know under what conditions we will have to stand up for ourselves once again. One thing is necessary for everyone to be clear - if, God forbid, a "second round" comes (meaning another war after 48'), it will in no way resemble the first. We need a top quality military core. The ways of war are no longer the same as they were at the time of King David. The army nowadays is a complex and complicated organization, and it needed experts in many professions, who would only be trained for their military duties through many years of study and training. We don't have enough professionals right now for that. We don't have technical professionals... an army these days is based on machines and devices that are complex and thin like none other. The youth of the Jewish people did not receive professional training. The professional education within us is deficient. The civilian economy also suffers from a lack of professional training. One must make an effort to reach the peak of professional perfection and specialization in the position. This specialization requires years. It is clear to me that the entire system of vocational education in the country, and not only in the army, requires a new examination. Sufficient attention has not been paid until now to the needs of professional education"

And finally, what awaits us?

"We are Jews born of Jews, we believe that we can turn the tanks into tractors, and the fighter planes - into transport planes. If this great day comes - we can disband our army.

One of the reasons for Israel's attractiveness is the achievements of Jewish science. Achievements in the fields of physics, geology, medicine, agriculture and society. The success of the Jewish people in their country was helped by many scientists. The university, the Weizmann Institute, and the Technion are assets. The laboratories in these institutions are assets, and the people working in these institutions, the scientists, professors, doctors, are assets. Science, teaching and research have a meaning of value, to enrich the understanding of man and nature, to enrich and raise the spirit.

The military industry is not enough, and the industry in general is deficient. The security of the nation no longer depends on the army alone, or on military equipment and military industry alone. Our security depends on the general capacity of the nation in the areas of economy, agriculture, industry, technology and spirituality. The vocational education of the youth is also an important factor. Without technical perfection and excellent equipment, especially in certain basic branches, we will not succeed in winning the war. Something is being done in this direction (an allusion to the beginning of Israel's nuclear equipping - Y.H.) There is also known progress in the field of research and scientific equipment. And I'm sorry that I can't vouch for its details.

From mastering the physical instruments of science and technology... the Hebrew people in their renewed homeland will shape the image of an exemplary nation, which will not shame the legacy of its prophets, sages and guides from that time to this day."

The quotations are taken from the book: David Ben-Gurion, "Uniqueness and Designation - Words on Israel's Security". Systems Publishing, 1971 (a collection of Ben-Gurion's writings and speeches from the years 1947-1963).

The world today according to Ben Gurion

 The Soviet Union will collapse and Europe will unite - these were just two of the predictions made by David Ben-Gurion in 1962, when he was asked by an American magazine to describe the world 25 years later. Black skin 

Ben-Gurion and Einstein in 1952. Failed in his attempt to appoint Einstein as the country's president

The appeal that arrived at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem in early 1962 surprised Prime Minister David Bengurion: the editor of the American magazine "Luke" Daniel Mitch asked the Prime Minister of Israel to vacate his current occupations, and try to predict how the world will look in 25 years.

The attempt to sketch the appearance of the world in 1987 is problematic, to say the least, even pretentious. Ben-Gurion himself probably hesitated, but accepted the challenge. He opened the short article he sent to "Luke" with brief explanatory words: "I will not take it upon myself to predict what will happen in 25 years. The achievements of science in the 20th century, and the political transformations after the First and Second World Wars are so surprising that it is difficult to see in advance what will happen in 10 years."
"If I'm trying to answer your question," Mitch wrote to the editor, in a letter whose copy is preserved in the archives of the Ben-Gurion Heritage Institute in Sde Boker, "it is more than wishful thinking what should be in 25 years from the future forecast." Ben-Gurion listed 13 sections in his prediction-wish. At the top of the first page he wrote "to English" - his usual instruction for translating into English.

"Luke" published an abbreviated formula, from which several clauses were omitted. Beside her, predictions of President John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, and other personalities also appeared.

1987 has long passed, and only some of the predictions have come true. Conspicuous by its absence in the list - the computer.

In his book "Ben-Gurion and the Intellectuals" Prof. Michael Kern quotes the short version, the one that appeared in "Luke", and adds that the Israeli public was amazed in January 1962 to read these statements from the Prime Minister.

"It is not acceptable to discover that your prime minister is engaged in futurist entertainment in an American weekly," wrote Kern. However, according to him, the "futurism" of the old version was intended for clear political roles, such as emphasizing the centrality of Jerusalem in the future world order.

"His statements also reflected a true belief in the potential of science," Keren estimates, "Ben-Gurion was genuinely fascinated by the power that science and technology give to the human race, to overcome the constraints of nature, and allow it to control its own destiny. He was particularly impressed by the power of the atom."

The engagement in the variety of fields included in the forecast reflects the breadth of knowledge and interest of Ben-Gurion, who at the same time conducted political struggles - as well as discussions about Plato, Buddhism and Spinoza. Not everyone, by the way, is impressed: in the age of the Internet (which was not included in Ben-Gurion's vision), it is possible to find several anti-Semitic websites where Ben-Gurion's prediction is presented in several areas, and especially the establishment of the Temple of the Prophets in Jerusalem - as conclusive evidence of the intentions of Judaism and Zionism to expand and take over the entire world. And the magazine "Look" itself, which for many years competed with "Life" in magazine writing accompanied by high-quality photojournalism, did not arrive in 1982. 11 years earlier it had to stop its appearance, the victim of the increase in production costs and the decrease in income from ads, which were increasingly directed to the medium Ben-Gurion had reservations about him for years and postponed his arrival in Israel - the television.


"The cold war will be a thing of the past. The internal pressure of the ever-increasing intelligentsia in Russia for more freedom, and the pressure of the masses to raise the standard of living may lead to the democratization of the Soviet Union for the next quarter of a century."

In this section, it must be admitted, Ben-Gurion scored a ball. Almost, he was only wrong in a few years. The Soviet Union officially collapsed in December 1991, four years after Ben-Gurion's deadline, but already in the late XNUMXs, during the reign of Mikhail Gorbachev, one could clearly see the end.

When French President François Mitterrand visited Israel in 1992, Sde-Boker was also included in his tour. From among the many documents kept there, Shimon Peres chose to read Ben-Gurion's future forecast to Mitterrand, and Mitterrand could not hide his admiration for the political foresight.

"On the other hand, the growth of the influence of the workers and farmers on the one hand, and the increase in the power of scientists in the United States, will turn the United States into a welfare state and a planned economy."

As a loyal socialist, Ben-Gurion may have hoped to see the weakening of American capitalism. Bill Clinton also tried to take care of health insurance for American citizens, with partial success. Some huge corporations were indeed dismantled, but others grew beyond recognition. A planned economy? Maybe when the planner is Bill Gates.


"Western and Eastern Europe will become a federative alliance of autonomous countries with a socialist and democratic regime."

The "old man" did not predict the euro, but he put his finger on the process in which the European Union embraces countries not only from the west and south of the continent, but also from countries that were part of the Soviet bloc at the time the forecast was written, strongholds of a rigid communist regime. In 1962, Europe took the first hesitant steps towards economic cooperation, but a year earlier there was already a committee that recommended the introduction of a single currency for the countries of the continent.


"Science and technology will discover a cheap process for desalination of sea water, and it will be possible to irrigate the deserts in Asia and Africa, and thereby raise the standard of living in the countries of the two backward continents."

Ben-Gurion, who dreamed of making the desert bloom, and for years maintained a detailed correspondence with Alexander Zarhin, the pioneer of sea water desalination, did not foresee, as far as is known, the endless delays in water desalination on a significant scale, nor the preference for the option of importing water from Turkey over desalination.


"Science will discover the secret of fusion (the process of melting) - and by doing so cheap and abundant power will be created, and this will gradually lead to a comparison of the standard of living in all countries."

Again: Ben-Gurion recognized well the directions of the development of science. no wonder. He used to have curious conversations with scientists, subscribed to "Scientific American", and was particularly fascinated by the use of the atom for peaceful purposes (of course he did not say a word to the American magazine about the Dimona reactor). On the other hand, comparing the standard of living in all countries was an overly optimistic drift.


"A birth control pill will slow down the vigorous natural reproduction in China and India, and prevent the population explosion that is now causing fear to some biologists."

In that very month, January 1962, Israel was debating how to treat the new discovery - and tried to prevent the start of its use. "A well-known gynecologist contacted the health bureau in Petach Tikva, and asked her to conduct an experiment in the use of birth control pills," Ma'ariv reported on its front page. Deputy Minister of Health Yitzhak Raphael, who received a report about this, felt that "this question goes beyond its normal medical meaning", and immediately sent a letter to the CEO of his office, requesting that he not grant the gynecologist the requested approval. Not for religious reasons, explained Raphael, a member of the Federal Ministry of Health, but rather out of fear of a steep decline in the birth rate in Israel. Even "one of the greatest experts in gynecology in Israel", who was asked by Rafael about the pill, firmly stated that "even for medical reasons this attempt should be opposed". In America - where the use of the pill began only a few years earlier - in 1962, 1.2 million women already used the pill. The sexual revolution has begun. A quarter of a century later, in the early 50s, between 80 and XNUMX million women in the world already used the pill, but the fear of the population explosion in the third world did not diminish.


"Biochemical science will invent an injection that will change black skin to white skin (Ben-Gurion erased and corrected in his handwriting: the skin color from yellow to white, or from white to black), and thus the problem of segregation (separation of the races) in the United States and other countries will be completely eliminated."

Michael Jackson tried, it didn't work out so well. Ben-Gurion's critics will say that in this section - before the amendment - he tried to mobilize science to promote his "melting pot" concept, and also to export it around the world, at the expense of preserving the uniqueness of different population groups.


"Except for the Soviet Union, which will remain a European-Asian federated state, each continent will become a federation of autonomous states, united in an all-human alliance, with an international police force to maintain internal peace. All armies will be abolished."

You are getting carried away, Ben-Gurion, apparently reading too much into the vision of the prophets in the Bible affected the desire of the heart.


"The Hall of the Prophets will be built in Jerusalem on behalf of the United Nations, which will serve as a federative alliance of all the continents, and in which will be the seat of the Supreme Human Court, which will decide all the disputed questions between the continental federations."

In The Hague they have not yet heard of this idea. Nor in other places around the world. This section reflects the vision that Ben-Gurion repeated many times during his life. He believed that the state would not only be a magnet for the Israelites, but also an example and a model, a moral and spiritual center for the whole world, a light to the Gentiles. Perhaps this is also an anti-thesis to the Ben-Gurionist United Nations, a wish that the world will finally distinguish who is good and who is bad in the Middle East.


"Air conditioning on Earth will create a moderate climate in all parts of our world, and all parts of the continent near the northern and southern axes will be inhabited."

This project is still on the way. In the meantime, the world is actually warming, and the world's scientists constantly issue apocalyptic predictions about the flooding of cities as a result of the warming.


"The pumping of the cosmic dust will allow the establishment of colonies in Lebanon and Mars, and in the other elements of the solar system that are close to the Earth."

And the forecast never remains. Here is the news update: one of the senior officials of the European Space Agency estimated in August 2003 that "within 20 years humans will be able to live on the moon". When Ben-Gurion wrote the prediction, the United States had managed to send only two astronauts into space, and they had not yet circled the Earth. It wasn't until February 1962 that America sent John Glenn to the first circumnavigation of the Earth. The Russians had two cosmonauts, including the pioneer of manned space flights, Yuri Gagarin. In May 1961, President John Kennedy announced his vision, which was to come true - a man on the moon by the end of the decade.


"The average human lifespan will reach 100 years".

We are still on our way there. According to the data of the World Bank, the average life expectancy worldwide increases by four months every year since 1970. Between 1980 and 1998, the figure increased from 61 years to 67 years. In this respect, the Japanese are closer than others to the realization of Ben-Gurion's vision - the average life expectancy there reached 81 at the end of the nineties. In Rwanda, on the other hand, the vision is still far away: the average life expectancy there is only 41 years. Ben-Gurion himself, by the way, died at the age of 87.


"Scientific research will concentrate its efforts to stand for the secret of the brain's operation and the origin of thought, and the biological technique will raise the talent of the brain to a much higher level."

Today it is called biotechnology, and the human brain, no doubt, still needs considerable improvements.


"Higher education will be the property of every man and woman all over the planet."

Oops, we hoped.

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.