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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon implied parallels between his own leadership and that of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, at a state memorial in honor of the late founding father at his gravesite in Sde Boker in the Negev.
Sharon praised the leadership of nation's founder, who according the prime minister, disregarded polls, the media, and prestige. "I don't know what the nation desires," Sharon quoted his predecessor, "but I know what is desirable for the nation." The prime minister believed that was secret behind Ben-Gurion's power.
Sharon expressed his belief that Ben-Gurion's leadership was "founded on a great vision and at the same time rational analysis, which was free from illusion." According to the prime minister, Ben-Gurion "correctly recognized that at the heart of the conflict with our neighbors, lurked a negation of the Jewish people's right to exist in its own nation," and therefore placed Israel's security at the top of his priorities.
Apparently comparing himself to the late leader, the prime minister noted Ben-Gurion's view that concessions must be made for the sake of peace. Sharon quoted his predecessor as saying "When the question was posed as to whether we should choose the whole Land without a Jewish State or a Jewish State without the whole Land, we chose a Jewish state without the whole Land." In fact, Ben-Gurion was opposed to the incorporation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Sinai Peninsula into Israel, rejecting suggestions to acquire those lands during his prime ministry.
Sharon made sure to mention Ben-Gurion's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The declaration angered the entire world at the time, who believed the city should have an international status.
The prime minister was also sure to stress his predecessor's close bond to the Negev. He noted that, whereas the UN did not include the region within the territories assigned to Israel, but Ben-Gurion insisted on creating a new reality in which the Negev becomes part of the state. In 1953 Ben-Gurion resigned the prime ministry in favor of working in Kibbutz Sde Boker, where he was buried years later. In that move, he hoped to draw the youth to settle in Israel's southern region.
Ariel Sharon himself lives in the Negev and has served there for a large part of his military career. During the early stages of his service in the IDF, he may have been considered Ben-Gurion's protege.
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