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Menachem Begin

(1913—1992) Israeli statesman, Prime Minister 1977–83


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(b. 16 Aug. 1913, d. 9 Mar. 1992).

Prime Minister of Israel 1977–83 Born in Brest‐Litovsk in White Russia (later Poland), he graduated in law from the University of Warsaw. He was soon active in the radical Revisionist Zionist Movement, whose Polish president he became in 1939. After the outbreak of World War II Begin was imprisoned by the USSR, and was interned in Siberian labour camps until 1941. He joined the Polish army in exile and was sent to Palestine until demobilization in 1943. As commander of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, he became involved in various terrorist attacks against the British, including the destruction of the King David Hotel. On the creation of Israel he founded the Herut (Freedom) Party, which he represented in parliament (the Knesset) from 1949. During the Six Day War in 1967 he joined a National Unity government and in 1973 helped to form the right‐wing Likud bloc.

Likud won the elections of 1977, whereupon Begin became Israel's first non‐socialist Prime Minister. During his leadership, US military and financial assistance rose to new heights, in return for his acceptance of Sadat's overtures for peace. In 1978, he signed the Camp David Accords, which ended hostilities with Egypt, Israel's most populous neighbour, also requiring it to relinquish its vast occupied territories in the Sinai peninsula. For this, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His decision to invade the Lebanon in 1982 proved to be misguided, however. It failed to meet its objective of destroying the PLO, aroused widespread international condemnation, and inflicted heavy casualties on the Israeli army. He resigned in 1983 despite his undented domestic popularity.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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