Lavon (Lubianiker), Pinḥas

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LAVON (Lubianiker), PINḤAS

LAVON (Lubianiker ), PINḤAS (1904–1976), Israeli labor leader and politician, member of the First to Fourth Knessets. Born in Kopychintsy in East Galicia, Lavon completed his law studies at Lvov University. At first he was active in *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, but in the 1920s he was one of the founders of the pioneering youth movement *Gordonia in Galicia and Poland, contributing to its ideological, educational, and political programs. In 1929 he settled in Palestine with the first Gordonia group, which established itself in kibbutz Ḥuldah, renewing the settlement that had been destroyed in the 1929 disturbances. While in Ḥuldah Lavon became active in the labor movement and in the *Histadrut. He played a leading role in transforming Ḥever ha-Kevuẓot into a well-organized federation of kibbutzim (see *Kibbutz Movement) and initiated its merger with Gordonia. He soon became the acknowledged spokesman of the new organization, and advocated the unification of the entire kibbutz movement. In 1938–39 Lavon and Yitzhak *Ben-Aharon were joint secretaries of *Mapai. In 1942 he was elected to the Histadrut Executive, and in 1949 was elected its secretary general. He was instrumental in bringing the Teachers' Union into the Histadrut and the religious workers' movements into its trade union framework. He also initiated Histadrut housing projects for workers.

Lavon was elected to the First Knesset on the Mapai list in 1949, and remained a member of the Knesset until 1961. He served as minister of agriculture in the years 1950–51. In 1951–54 he was minister without portfolio, and following Ben-Gurion's temporary retirement in 1954–55 he served in the government of Moshe *Sharett as minister of defense. While he was minister of defense Israel's Air Force and paratroop units were upgraded, and Israel started the large-scale purchase of arms from France. Disagreements developed, however, between Sharett and Lavon over defense policy, with the prime minister complaining that he was not consulted in advance about reprisal attacks across the borders. Then came the Essek Bish ("the bad business"), later known as the *Lavon Affair, which resulted in Lavon's resignation from the ministry of defense and the return of David *Ben-Gurion to the government.

In 1956 Lavon was reelected secretary general of the Histadrut, remaining in that post until 1961. In this capacity he was involved in the separation of *Solel Boneh from the Koor holding company and other organizational changes. In 1961 he was removed from this post as a consequence of the struggle initiated by Ben-Gurion around the Lavon Affair. He was not included in Mapai's list for the elections to the Fifth Knesset in 1961; Lavon's supporters joined forces in a group within Mapai called Min ha-Yesod that existed for several years. Attempts in 1964 to rehabilitate Lavon, encouraged by Prime Minister Levi *Eshkol, failed due to opposition by Ben-Gurion. Lavon then retired from public life. He was considered a brilliant writer and speaker within the labor movement in Israel and, before the outbreak of the Affair, was viewed by many as a possible heir to Ben-Gurion.

He published numerous articles, which have been collected in Yesodot (1941), Arakhim u-Temurot (1959), Ba-Vikku'aḥ ha-Medini (1945), Bi-Netivei Iyyun u-Ma'avak (1968), and Al Arakhim u-Nekhasim (ed. A. Maniv, 1986).


A. Avnon (ed.), Pinhas Lavon: li-Demutoh (1978); N. Rotenstreich, Bein Ekronot le-Nivvut: Al Maḥshavto ha-Ḥevratit shel Pinḥas Lavon (1979); S. Horev, Hashkafat Olamo ha-Ẓiyyonit-Soẓialistit shel Pinḥas Lavon (1986); E. Kafkafi, Lavon: Anti-Mashi'aḥ (1998). (For bibliography on the Lavon Affair, see *Lavon Affair.)

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]

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Lavon (Lubianiker), Pinḥas

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