Visual History of the World
The Contemporary World
1945 to the present
After World War II, a new
world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United
States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their
ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and
fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also
drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able
to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end
in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent
downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been
driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political
systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations
of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the
developing nations of the Third World.
The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for
possibilities of using space continues.
see also: United Nations member states -
see also collection:
"A Journey in the Holy Land"
The State of Israel's fight for existence determines its policies and
identity to this day. Between the wars, and especially after 1945, many
Jews settled in Palestine and cultivated and developed the country with
determination and idealism. However, from the beginning, no satisfactory
political solution could be found for the consequent expulsion of the
Palestinians who were already living in the area. Relations with
Israel's Soviet-backed Arab neighbors have long been strained to
breaking point. The US-Israeli alliance has become central to both
countries' foreign policies, helping to ensure Israeli supremacy in the
Middle East. After a series of military defeats, most Arab countries
eventually reached an accommodation with Israel, leaving the
Palestinians isolated in their struggle for a state of their own.
List of Prime Ministers
A total of twelve people have served as Prime
Minister of Israel, five of whom have served on two
non-consecutive occasions. Additionally, one person,
Yigal Allon has served solely as an Interim Prime
Minister. The other two who have served as Interim Prime
Minister have gone on to become the Prime Minister.
14 May 1948
26 January 1954
26 January 1954
3 November 1955
3 November 1955
26 June 1963
Levi Eshkol 1 2
26 June 1963
26 February 1969
Alignment (from 12 January 1966)
Yigal Allon 2
26 February 1969
17 March 1969
17 March 1969
3 June 1974
Yitzhak Rabin 3
3 June 1974
20 June 1977
20 June 1977
10 October 1983
10 October 1983
13 September 1984
Shimon Peres 4
13 September 1984
20 October 1986
Yitzhak Shamir 4
20 October 1986
13 July 1992
Yitzhak Rabin 5
13 July 1992
4 November 1995
Shimon Peres 5
4 November 1995
22 November 1995
Shimon Peres 5
22 November 1995
18 June 1996
18 June 1996
6 July 1999
6 July 1999
7 March 2001
Ariel Sharon 6
7 March 2001
14 April 2006 (Incapacitated from
4 January 2006)
Kadima (from 21 November 2005)
Ehud Olmert 7
14 April 2006 (Acting from 4
4 May 2006
Ehud Olmert 8
4 May 2006
31 March 2009 8
31 March 2009
1 In 1965 Mapai merged with
Ahdut HaAvoda to form the
Labour Alignment, later renamed
2 Eshkol died while in office.
Yigal Allon briefly served as acting prime minister
until he was replaced by Meir.
3 Rabin resigned and called for
early elections in December 1976. After he was
re-elected as the Alignment's leader, he resigned as
candidate for the
upcoming elections on 7 April 1977, but continued to
serve as prime minister until Begin's first government
4 After the
1984 elections, Likud and the Alignment reached a
coalition agreement by which the role of prime minister
would be rotated mid-term between them. Shimon Peres of
the Alignment served as prime minister for the first two
years, and then the role was passed to Yitzhak Shamir.
After the 1988 election Likud was able to govern without
the Alignment, and Yitzhak Shamir became prime minister
5 Rabin was assassinated while in
office. Shimon Peres served as acting PM until 22
6 On 21 November 2005, PM Sharon,
along with several other ministers and MKs, split from
Likud over the issue of disengagement from the Gaza
Strip and negotiations over the final status of the West
Bank. Sharon formed a new party, Kadima, which would go
on to compete in the following elections of March 2006.
Sharon continued as Prime Minister.
7 As the result of Ariel Sharon
suffering a severe stroke on 4 January 2006, and being
put under general anaesthetic, Ehud Olmert served as the
Acting Prime Minister (Hebrew:
ממלא מקום ראש
הממשלה בפועל) from 4 January
to 14 April,
Basic Law: The Government: "Should the Prime
Minister be temporarily unable to discharge his duties,
his place will be filled by the Acting Prime Minister.
After the passage of 100 days upon which the Prime
Minister does not resume his duties, the Prime Minister
will be deemed permanently unable to exercise his
Basic Law: the Governmet 2001, section 16b In
Sharon's case, this occurred on 14 April 2006, upon
which Olmert became Interim Prime Minister.
8 Olmert officially resigned on 21
September 2008. With this his cabinet became an interim
government, and he was the "interim" prime minister
until the establishment of a new governing coalition (he
was officially the prime minister, however, the
government under him was an
interim government, in this case).
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
David Ben-Gurion (help·info) (Hebrew: דָּוִד בֶּן-גּוּרִיּוֹן, born
David Grün on 16 October 1886, died 1 December 1973) was the first Prime
Minister of Israel. Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early
in life, culminated in his instrumental role in the founding of the
state of Israel. After leading Israel to victory in the 1948
Arab-Israeli War, Ben-Gurion helped build the state institutions and
oversaw the absorption of vast numbers of Jews from all over the world.
Upon retiring from political life in 1970, he moved to Sde Boker, a
kibbutz where he lived until his death. Posthumously, Ben-Gurion was
named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Important People of the 20th
Ben-Gurion was born in Płońsk, Congress Poland which was then part of
the Russian Empire. His father, Avigdor Grün, was a lawyer and a leader
in the Hovevei Zion movement. His mother, Scheindel, died when he was 11
Ben-Gurion in his Jewish Legion uniform in 1918.Ben-Gurion grew up to be
an ardent Zionist. As a student at the University of Warsaw, he joined
the Marxist Poale Zion movement in 1904. He was arrested twice during
the Russian Revolution of 1905. He immigrated to Ottoman Palestine in
1906, shocked by the pogroms and anti-Semitism of life in Eastern
Europe, and became a major leader of Poale Zion with Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.
In Palestine, he first worked in agriculture, picking oranges. In
1909 he volunteered with HaShomer, a force of volunteers who helped
guard isolated Jewish agricultural communities. In 1912 he moved to
Constantinople (now Istanbul), the then Ottoman capital to study law at
Istanbul University together with Ben-Zvi, and adopted the Hebrew name
Ben-Gurion, after the medieval historian Yosef ben Gurion. He also
worked as a journalist. In 1915, Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zvi were expelled
from Palestine, still under Ottoman rule, for their political
Settling in New York City in 1915, he met Russian-born Paula Munweis.
They were married in 1917, and had three children. He joined the British
army in 1918 as part of the 38th Battalion of the Jewish Legion
(following the Balfour Declaration in November 1917). He and his family
returned to Palestine after World War I following its capture by the
British from the Ottoman Empire.
After the death of theorist Ber Borochov, the left-wing and right-wing
of Poale Zion split in 1919 with Ben-Gurion and his friend Berl
Katznelson leading the right faction of the Labor Zionist movement. The
Right Poale Zion formed Ahdut HaAvoda with Ben-Gurion as leader in 1919.
In 1920 he assisted in the formation and subsequently became general
secretary of the Histadrut, the Zionist Labor Federation in Palestine.
In 1930, Hapoel Hatzair (founded by A. D. Gordon in 1905) and Ahdut
HaAvoda joined forces to create Mapai, the more right-wing Zionist labor
party (it was still a left-wing organization, but not as far left as
other factions) under Ben-Gurion's leadership. The left-wing of Labour
Zionism was represented by Mapam. Labor Zionism became the dominant
tendency in the World Zionist Organization and in 1935 Ben-Gurion became
chairman of the executive committee of the Jewish Agency for Palestine,
a role he kept until the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
During the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, Ben-Gurion instigated
a policy of restraint ("Havlagah") in which the Haganah and other Jewish
groups did not retaliate for Arab attacks against Jewish civilians,
concentrating only on self-defense. In 1937, the Peel Commission
recommended partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab areas and
Ben-Gurion supported this policy. This led to conflict with Ze'ev
Jabotinsky who opposed partition and as a result Jabotinsky's supporters
split with the Haganah and abandoned Havlagah.
Ben-Gurion recognized the strong attachment of Palestinian Arabs to
the land but hoped that this would be overcome in time. In a
conversation about "the Arab problem" in 1956, Goldman wrote that
Ben-Gurion stated: "Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab
leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have
taken their country ... There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler,
Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have
come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They
may perhaps forget in one or two generations' time, but for the moment
there is no chance. So it is simple: we have to stay strong and maintain
a powerful army"
Nahum Goldman, president of the World Jewish Congress, criticized
Ben-Gurion for what Goldman viewed as his confrontational approach to
the Arab world: Goldman wrote that "Ben-Gurion is the man principally
responsible for the anti-Arab policy, because it was he who moulded the
thinking of generations of Israelis".
The view that Ben-Gurion's assessment of Arab feelings led him to
emphasize the need to build up Jewish military strength is supported by
Simha Flapan, who quoted Ben-Gurion as stating in 1938: "I believe in
our power, in our power which will grow, and if it will grow agreement
The British 1939 White paper stipulated that Jewish immigration to
Palestine was to be limited to 15,000 a year for the first five years,
and would subsequently be contingent on Arab consent. Restrictions were
also placed on the rights of Jews to buy land from Arabs. After this
Ben-Gurion changed his policy towards the British, stating: "Peace in
Palestine is not the best situation for thwarting the policy of the
White Paper". Ben-Gurion believed a peaceful solution with the Arabs
had no chance and soon began preparing the Yishuv for war. According to
Teveth 'through his campaign to mobilize the Yishuv in support of the
British war effort, he strove to build the nucleus of a "Hebrew army",
and his success in this endeavor later brought victory to Zionism in the
struggle to establish a Jewish state.'
During the Second World War, Ben-Gurion encouraged the Jews of
Palestine to volunteer for the British army. He famously told Jews to
"support the British as if there is no White Paper and oppose the White
Paper as if there is no war". About 10% of the Jewish population of
Palestine volunteered for the British army, including many women. At the
same time Ben-Gurion helped the illegal immigration of thousands of
European Jewish refugees to Palestine during a period when the British
placed heavy restrictions on Jewish immigration.
In 1946 Ben-Gurion agreed that the Haganah could cooperate with
Menachem Begin's Irgun in fighting the British. Ben-Gurion initially
agreed to Begin's plan to carry out the 1946 King David Hotel bombing,
with the intent of embarrassing (rather than killing) the British
military stationed there. However, when the risks of mass killing became
apparent, Ben-Gurion told Begin to call the operation off; Begin
Illegal Jewish migration led to pressure on the British to either
allow Jewish migration (as required by the League of Nations Mandate) or
quit - they did the latter in 1948, not changing their restrictions, on
the heels of a United Nations resolution partitioning the territory
between the Jews and Arabs.
Religious parties and the status quo
In September 1947 Ben-Gurion reached a status quo agreement with the
Orthodox Agudat Yisrael party. He sent a letter to Agudat Yisrael
stating that while he is committed to establishing a non-theocratic
state with freedom of religion he is promising that the Shabbat would be
Israel's official day of rest, that in State provided kitchens there
will be access to Kosher food, that every effort will be made to provide
a single jurisdiction for Jewish family affairs, and that each sector
would be granted autonomy in the sphere of education, provided minimum
standards regarding the curriculum are observed.
To a large extent this letter (or agreement) provided a framework for
religious affairs in Israel (e.g. no civil marriages, just as in Mandate
times) and is often a benchmark to which the status is compared.
Military leadership and 1948 Palestinian Exodus
During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War Ben-Gurion oversaw the nascent state's
military operations. During the first weeks of Israel's independence, he
ordered all militias to be replaced by one national army, the Israel
Defense Forces (IDF). To that end, Ben-Gurion used a firm hand during
the Altalena Affair, a ship carrying arms purchased by the Irgun. He
insisted that all weapons be handed over to the IDF. When fighting broke
out on the Tel Aviv beach he ordered to take it by force and shell the
ship. Sixteen Irgun fighters and three IDF soldiers were killed in this
battle. Following the policy of a unified military force, he also
ordered that the Palmach headquarters be disbanded and its units be
integrated with the rest of the IDF, to the chagrin of many of its
As head of the Jewish Agency, Ben-Gurion was de-facto leader of
Palestine's Jews even before the state was declared. In this position,
Ben-Gurion played a major role in the 1948 War and the resulting
Palestinian exodus. End of the eighties, after the opening of the IDF
and other archives dealing with the events, scholars started to
reconsider the events and the role of Ben Gurion.
David Ben-Gurion proclaiming independence beneath
a large portrait of Theodor Herzl,
founder of modern Zionism
Founding of Israel
On 14 May, on the last day the
British Mandate, Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the state of
Israel. In the Israeli declaration of independence, he stated that the
new nation would "uphold the full social and political equality of all
its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or gender."
Prime Minister of Israel
Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Ben-Gurion was elected Prime
Minister of Israel when his Mapai (Labour) party won the largest number
of seats in the first national election, held on February 14, 1949. He
would remain in that post until 1963, except for a period of nearly two
years between 1954 and 1955. As Premier, he oversaw the establishment of
the state's institutions. He presided over various national projects
aimed at the rapid development of the country and its population:
Operation Magic Carpet, the airlift of Jews from Arab countries, the
construction of the National Water Carrier, rural development projects
and the establishment of new towns and cities. In particular, he called
for pioneering settlement in outlying areas, especially in the Negev.
Ben-Gurion had a major role in the military operations that led to
the Qibya massacre in October, 1953. Later in 1953 he announced his
intention to withdraw from government and was replaced by Moshe Sharett,
who was elected the second Prime Minister of Israel in January, 1954.
Ben-Gurion returned to office in 1955 assuming the post of Defense
Minister and was soon re-elected prime minister. When Ben-Gurion
returned to government, Israeli forces responded more aggressively to
Palestinian guerilla attacks from Gaza—still under Egyptian rule. The
growing cycle of violence led Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser to
build up his arms with the help of the Soviet Union. The Israelis
responded by arming themselves with help from France. Nasser blocked the
passage of Israeli ships through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. In July
1956, America and Britain withdrew their offer to fund the Aswan High
Dam project on the Nile and a week later Nasser ordered the
nationalization of the French and British controlled Suez
Canal. Ben-Gurion collaborated with the British and
French to plan the 1956 Sinai War in which Israel stormed the Sinai
Peninsula thus giving British and French forces a pretext to intervene
in order to secure the Suez Canal. Intervention by the United States and
the United Nations forced the British and French to back down and Israel
to withdraw from Sinai in return for promises of free navigation through
the Red Sea and Suez Canal. A UN force was stationed between Egypt and
Ben-Gurion stepped down as prime minister for what he described as
personal reasons in 1963, and chose Levi Eshkol as his successor. A year
later a rivalry developed between the two on the issue of the Lavon
Affair. Ben-Gurion broke with the party in June 1965 over Eshkol's
handling of the Lavon affair and formed a new party, Rafi which won ten
seats in the Knesset. After the Six-Day War, Ben-Gurion was in favour of
returning all the occupied territories apart from Jerusalem, the Golan
Heights and Mount Hebron.
In 1968, when Rafi merged with Mapai to form the Alignment,
Ben-Gurion refused to reconcile with his old party. He favoured
electoral reforms in which a constituency-based system would replace
what he saw as a chaotic proportional representation method. He formed
another new party, the National List, which won four seats in the 1969
election. Ben-Gurion retired from politics in 1970 and spent his last
years living in a modest home on the kibbutz.
Ben-Gurion and the Negev
Ben-Gurion believed that the sparsely populated and barren Negev desert
offered a great opportunity for the Jews to settle in Palestine with
minimal obstruction of the Arab population. He set a personal example by
choosing to settle in kibbutz Sde Boker at the centre of the Negev and
established the National Water Carrier to bring water to the area. He
saw the struggle to make the desert bloom as an area where the Jewish
people could make a major contribution to humanity as a whole.
Ben-Gurion is buried alongside his wife Paula at a site in Midreshet
Ben-Gurion in the Negev desert.
In both 1951 and 1971, Ben-Gurion was awarded the Bialik Prize for
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Moshe Sharett (Hebrew: משה שרת, born Moshe Shertok (Hebrew: משה שרתוק)
on 10 October 1894, died 7 July 1965) was the second Prime Minister of
Israel (1953-1955), serving for a little under two years between David
Ben-Gurion's two terms.
Born in Kherson in the Russian Empire (today in Ukraine), Sharett
emigrated to Ottoman-controlled Palestine in 1906. In 1910 his family
moved to Jaffa, and they became one of the founding families of Tel
Aviv. He graduated from the first class of the Herzliya Hebrew High
School. He then went off to Istanbul to study law, but his time there
was cut short because of his service in the Turkish army as an
Post-World War I
After the war he worked as an Arab affairs and land purchase agent for
the Palestine Jewish Community's Representative Council. He also became
a member of Ahdut Ha'Avoda and later of Mapai. In 1922 he went to the
London School of Economics, and while there he actively edited the
"Workers of Zion". He then edited the Davar newspaper from
1925 until 1931. In 1931, after returning to Palestine, he became the
secretary of the Jewish Agency's political department. In 1933 he became
the head of the Jewish Agency, and he held that position until the
formation on Israel.
Sharett was one of the signatories of Israel's Declaration of
Independence. He was first elected to the Knesset in 1949, and served as
Israel's first Minister of Foreign Affairs. In this role he established
diplomatic relations with dozens of nations, and got Israel into the UN.
He held this role until 1956.
In the debate on how to deal with the increasing infiltration of
fedayeen across the borders in the years leading to the 1956 Suez
Crisis, Sharett was skeptical of retaliatory operations.
Sharrett met with Pius XII in 1952 in an attempt to improve relations
with the Holy See, although this was to no avail.
In December 1953 David Ben-Gurion retired from politics (temporarily
as it turned out), and Sharett was elected to take his place. During his
time as prime minister the Palestinian-Israeli conflict intensified and
the Lavon Affair occurred. As a result David Ben-Gurion returned to the
government as Defense Minister. At the next elections Ben Gurion
replaced Sharett as head of the list and became prime minister.
After stepping down as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sharett retired.
During his retirement he became chairman of Am Oved publishing house,
Chairman of Beit Berl College, and Chairman of the World Zionist
Organization and the Jewish Agency. He died in 1965 and was buried in
Tel Aviv's Trumpeldor Cemetery.
Sharett wrote personal diaries, which
were published posthumusly. His son Yaakov founded an Institute for his
heritage. Many cities have streets and neighborhoods named after him.
Since 1987, Sharett has appeared on the 20 NIS bills. The bill first
featured Sharett, with the names of his books in small print, and with a
small image of him presenting the Israeli flag to the United Nations in
1949. On the back of the bill, there was an image of the Herzliya Hebrew
High School, from which he graduated. In 1998 the bill went through a
graphic revision, the list of Sharett's books on the front side was
replaced by part of Sharett's 1949 speech in the UN. The back side now
features an image of Jewish Brigade volunteers, part of a speech by
Sharett on the radio after visiting the Brigade in Italy, and the list
of his books in small print.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Levi Eshkol (help·info) (Hebrew: לֵוִי אֶשְׁכּוֹל, born Levi Školnik
(Hebrew: לֵוִי שׁקוֹלנִיק) on 25 October 1895, died 26 February 1969)
served as the third Prime Minister of Israel from 1963 until his death
from a heart attack in 1969. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister to
die in office.
Levi Eshkol (Shkolnik) was born in the village of Oratov near Kiev,
Russian Empire. His mother came from an Hasidic background and his
father came from a family of Mitnagdim. Levi received a traditional
education. In 1914, he left for Palestine, then part of the Ottoman
Empire. He was a leading member of the Judea Workers' Union in 1915–17
and volunteered for the Jewish Legion in World War I. Eshkol joined
Kibbutz Deganya Bet and married Rivka Maharshek. They divorced shortly
after the birth of their daughter, Noa, in 1924. Eshkol's second wife
was Elisheva Kaplan, with whom he had three daughters, Dvora, Rivka and
After the establishment of the State of Israel, Eshkol was elected to
the Knesset in 1951 as a member of Mapai party. He served as Minister of
Agriculture until 1952, when he was appointed Finance Minister following
the death of Eliezer Kaplan. He held that position for the following 12
years. During his term as Finance Minister, Eshkol established himself
as a prominent figure in Mapai’s leadership, and was designated by Prime
Minister David Ben-Gurion as his successor. When Ben-Gurion resigned in
June 1963, Eshkol was elected party chairman with a broad consensus, and
was subsequently appointed Prime Minister. However, his relationship
with Ben-Gurion soon turned acrimonious over the latter’s insistence on
investigating the Lavon Affair, an Israeli covert operation in Egypt
which had gone wrong a decade earlier. Ben-Gurion failed to challenge
Eshkol’s leadership and split from Mapai with a few of his young
protégés to form Rafi in June 1965. In the meantime, Mapai merged with
Ahdut HaAvoda to form the Alignment with Eshkol as its head. Rafi was
defeated by the Alignment in the elections held in November 1965,
establishing Eshkol as the country’s indisputable leader. Yet
Ben-Gurion, drawing on his influence as Israel's founding father,
continued to undermine Eshkol’s authority throughout his term as Prime
Minister, portraying him as a spineless politician incapable of
addressing Israel's security predicament.
Eshkol’s first term in office saw continuous economic growth, epitomized
by the opening of the National Water Carrier system in 1964. His and
Finance Minister Pinchas Sapir's subsequent "soft landing" of the
overheated economy by means of recessive policies precipitated a drastic
slump in economic activity. Israel’s centralized planned economy lacked
the mechanisms to self-regulate the slowdown which reached levels higher
than expected. Eshkol faced growing domestic unrest as unemployment
reached 12% in 1966, yet the recession eventually served in healing
fundamental economic deficiencies and helped fuel the ensuing recovery
Upon being elected into office,
Levi Eshkol fulfilled Ze'ev Jabotinsky's wish and brought his body to
Israel where he was buried.
Eshkol worked to improve Israel’s foreign relations, establishing
diplomatic relations with West Germany in 1965, as well as cultural ties
with the Soviet Union which also allowed some Soviet Jews to immigrate
to Israel. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister invited on an
official state visit to the United States in May 1964. The special
relationship he developed with President Lyndon Johnson would prove
pivotal in securing US political and military support for Israel during
the "Waiting period" preceding the Six Day War of June 1967. Today,
Eshkol’s intransigence in the face of military pressure to launch an
Israeli attack is considered to have been instrumental in increasing
Israel’s strategic advantage as well as obtaining international
legitimacy, yet at the time he was perceived as hesitant, an image
cemented following a dismally stuttered radio speech on 28 May. With
Egyptian President Nasser's ever more overt provocations, he eventually
succumbed to public opinion and established a National Unity Government
together with Menachem Begin's Herut party, reluctantly conceding the
Defense portfolio to war hero Moshe Dayan, a close ally of Ben-Gurion’s
and a member of his Rafi party. Israel’s overwhelming victory allowed
Eshkol to remain Prime Minister despite never receiving recognition for
his role in achieving it.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Golda Meir (pronounced [ɡolˈda meˈʔiʁ], Hebrew: גּוֹלְדָּה מֵאִיר,
born Golda Mabovitch, 3 May 1898 – 8 December 1978, known as Golda
Meyerson from 1917–56) was the fourth prime minister of the State of
Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel on 17 March 1969, after
serving as Minister of Labour and Foreign Minister. Israel's first and
the world's third female to hold such an office, she was described as
the "Iron Lady" of Israeli politics years before the epithet became
associated with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Former
prime minister David Ben-Gurion used to call Meir "the best man in the
government"; she was often portrayed as the "strong-willed,
straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people".
1914 photo of Meir in Milwaukee
Meir was born Golda Mabovitch (Ukrainian: Ãîëäà Ìàáîâè÷) in Kiev in the
Russian Empire (today Ukraine) to Blume Neiditch and Moshe Mabovitch, a
carpenter. Meir wrote in her autobiography that her earliest memories
were of her father boarding up the front door in response to rumors of
an imminent pogrom. She had two sisters, Sheyna and Tzipke, as well as
five other siblings who died in childhood. She was especially close to
Sheyna. Moshe Mabovitch left to find work in New York City in 1903.
In his absence, the rest of the family moved to Pinsk to join her
mother's family. In 1905, Moshe moved to Milwaukee in search of
higher-paying work and found employment in the workshops of the local
railroad yard. The following year, he had saved up enough money to bring
his family to the United States.
Blume ran a grocery store on Milwaukee's north side, where by age
eight Golda had been put in charge of watching the store when her mother
went to the market for supplies. Golda attended the Fourth Street Grade
School (now Golda Meir School) from 1906 to 1912. A leader early on, she
organized a fundraiser to pay for her classmates' textbooks. After
forming the American Young Sisters Society, she rented a hall and
scheduled a public meeting for the event. She went on to graduate
valedictorian of her class despite not knowing English at the beginning
of her schooling.
At 14, she went to North Division High
School and worked part-time. Her mother wanted her to leave school and
marry, but she rebelled. She bought a train ticket to Denver, Colorado,
and went to live with her married sister, Sheyna Korngold. The Korngolds
held intellectual evenings at their home where Meir was exposed to
debates on Zionism, literature, women’s suffrage, trade unionism and
more. In her autobiography, she wrote: "To the extent that my own future
convictions were shaped and given form... those talk-filled nights in
Denver played a considerable role." In Denver, she also met Morris
Meyerson, a sign painter, whom she later married at the age of 19.
She attended the Milwaukee Normal School (now University of
Wisconsin–Milwaukee) in 1916, and probably part of 1917. The same year,
she took a position at a Yiddish-speaking Folks Schule. While at the
Folks Schule, she came more closely into contact with the ideals of
Labor Zionism. In 1913, she began dating Morris Meyerson, and they
married on 24 December 1917. She was a committed Labor Zionist and he
was a dedicated socialist. Together, they left their jobs to join a
kibbutz in Palestine in 1921. She gradually became more involved with
the Zionist movement. At the end of World War II, she took part in the
negotiations with the British that resulted in the creation of the state
of Israel. In 1948, she became Israel's first ambassador to the Soviet
Union. That position lasted seven months, and she returned to Israel in
1949 to become Minister of Labor. In 1956, she became Foreign Minister,
and served in this capacity until her retirement in 1965. She changed
her name from "Meyerson" to "Meir" in 1956.
On 26 February 1969, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol died of a heart
attack, at which time many members of the Knesset asked Meir to return
to politics. She became prime minister of Israel with the Labor Party's
support. Meir's greatest crisis came during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
While prime minister, she spent much of her time developing support for
Israel by meeting with western leaders. In 1974, the labor coalition
broke up and Meir left office. She died four years later.
In 1913, she returned to North Division High School in Milwaukee,
graduating in 1915. While there, she became an active member of Young
Poale Zion, which later became Habonim, the Labor Zionist youth
movement. She spoke at public meetings, embraced Socialist Zionism and
hosted visitors from Palestine.
After graduating from the Milwaukee State Normal School (a
predecessor of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee), she taught in
Milwaukee public schools. She formally joined Poale Zion in 1915.
Golda and Morris married in 1917. Settling in Palestine was her
precondition for the marriage. Golda had intended to make Aliyah
straight away but her plans were disrupted due to all transatlantic
passenger services being canceled due to the first world war. Instead
she threw her energies into Poale Zion activities. A short time after
their wedding, she embarked on a fundraising campaign for Poale Zion
that took her across the United States. Finding herself pregnant, she
underwent an abortion because she felt "her Zionist obligations simply
did not leave room for a child." The couple moved to Palestine in
1921 together with her sister Sheyna.
Aliyah to Palestine
In Palestine, the couple joined a
kibbutz. Their initial application to kibbutz Merhavia in the Jezreel
Valley was rejected, but in the end they were accepted. Her duties
included picking almonds, planting trees, working in the chicken coops
and running the kitchen. Recognizing her leadership abilities, the
kibbutz chose her as its representative to the Histadrut, the General
Federation of Labour. In 1924, she and her husband left the kibbutz and
resided briefly in Tel Aviv before settling in Jerusalem. There they had
two children, a son Menachem (born 1924) and a daughter Sarah (born
1926). In 1928, she was elected secretary of Moetzet HaPoalot (Working
Women’s Council), which required her to spend two years (1932–34) as an
emissary in the United States. The children went with her, but Morris
stayed in Jerusalem. Morris and Golda grew apart and eventually
divorced. Morris died in 1951.
In 1934, when Meir returned from the United States, she joined the
Executive Committee of the Histadrut and moved up the ranks to become
head of its Political Department. This appointment was important
training for her future role in Israeli leadership.
In July 1938, Meir was the Jewish observer from Palestine at the
Évian Conference, called by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to
discuss the question of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution.
Delegates from the 32 invited countries repeatedly expressed their
sorrow for the plight of the European Jews but made excuses as to why
their countries could not help by admitting the refugees. Meir was
disappointed at the outcome and remarked to the press, "There is only
one thing I hope to see before I die and that is that my people should
not need expressions of sympathy anymore."
Pre-state political role
In June 1946, the British cracked down on the Zionist movement in
Palestine, arresting many leaders of the Yishuv. They had been provoked
by paramilitary Zionist activities. Meir took over as acting head of
the Political Department of the Jewish Agency during the incarceration
of Moshe Sharett. Thus she became the principal negotiator between the
Jews in Palestine and the British Mandatory authorities. After his
release, Sharett went to the United States to attend talks on the UN
Partition Plan, leaving Meir to head the Political Department until the
establishment of the state in 1948.
In January 1948, the treasurer of the Jewish Agency was convinced
that Israel would not be able to raise more than $7–8 million from the
American Jewish community. Meir traveled to the United States and
managed to raise $50 million, which was used to purchase arms in Europe
for the nascent state. Ben-Gurion wrote that Meir’s role as the "Jewish
woman who got the money which made the state possible," would go down
one day in the history books.
On 10 May 1948, four days before the official establishment of the
state, Meir traveled to Amman disguised as an Arab woman for a secret
meeting with King Abdullah of Transjordan at which she urged him not to
join the other Arab countries in attacking the Jews. Abdullah asked her
not to hurry to proclaim a state. Golda, known for her acerbic wit,
replied: "We've been waiting for 2,000 years. Is that hurrying?"
As head of the Jewish Agency Political Department, Meir called the
mass exodus of Arabs before the War of Independence in 1948 as
"dreadful" and likened it to what had befallen the Jews in Nazi-occupied
Meir was one of twenty-four signatories (two of them women) of the
Israeli declaration of independence on 14 May 1948. She later recalled,
"After I signed, I cried. When I studied American history as a
schoolgirl and I read about those who signed the Declaration of
Independence, I couldn't imagine these were real people doing something
real. And there I was sitting down and signing a declaration of
establishment." Israel was attacked the next day by the joint armies of
Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Iraq in the 1948 Arab-Israeli
Ambassador to Moscow
Armed with the first Israeli-issued passport, Meir was appointed
Israel’s ambassador to the Soviet Union. During her brief stint there,
which ended in 1949, she attended high holiday services at the synagogue
in Moscow, where she was mobbed by thousands of Russian Jews chanting
her name. The Israeli 10,000 shekel banknote issued in November 1984
bore a portrait of Meir on one side and the image of the crowd that
turned out to cheer her in Moscow on the other.
In 1949, Meir was elected to the Knesset as a member of Mapai and served
continuously until 1974. From 1949 to 1956, she served as Minister of
Labour, introducing major housing and road construction projects. In
1955, on Ben Gurion's instructions, she stood for the position of mayor
of Tel Aviv. She lost by the two votes of the religious bloc who
withheld their support on the grounds that she was a woman.
In 1956, she became Foreign Minister under Prime Minister David
Ben-Gurion. Her predecessor, Moshe Sharett, had asked all members of the
foreign service to Hebraicize their last names. Upon her appointment as
foreign minister, she shortened "Meyerson" to "Meir," which means
"illuminate." As Foreign Minister, Meir promoted ties with the
newly-established states in Africa in an effort to gain allies in the
international community. But she also believed that Israel had
experience in nation-building that could be a model for the Africans. In
her autobiography, she wrote: "Like them, we had shaken off foreign
rule; like them, we had to learn for ourselves how to reclaim the land,
how to increase the yields of our crops, how to irrigate, how to raise
poultry, how to live together, and how to defend ourselves." Israel
could be a role model because it "had been forced to find solutions to
the kinds of problems that large, wealthy, powerful states had never
On 29 October 1957 she was slightly injured in the foot when a 'Mills
grenade' was thrown into the debating chamber of the Knesset. David
Ben-Gurion and Moshe Carmel were more seriously injured. The attack was
carried out by 25 year old Moshe Ben Yaakov Dueg. Born in Aleppo, his
motives were attributed to a dispute with the Jewish Agency, though he
was also described as 'mentally unbalanced'.
In 1958, she was recorded as having praised the work of Pope Pius XII
on behalf of the Jewish people shortly after the pontiff's death. Pope
Pius's legacy as a wartime pope remains controversial to this day.
In the early 1960s, Meir was diagnosed with lymphoma. In January
1966, she retired from the Foreign Ministry, citing exhaustion and ill
health, but soon returned to public life as secretary general of Mapai,
supporting the Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, in party conflicts.
David Ben-Gurion with Golda Meir at the Knesset in Jerusalem, 1962.
After Levi Eshkol’s
sudden death on 26 February 1969, the party elected Meir as his
successor. Meir came out of retirement to take office on 17 March
1969, serving as prime minister until 1974. Meir maintained the
coalition government formed in 1967, after the Six-Day War, in which
Mapai merged with two other parties (Rafi and Ahdut HaAvoda) to form the
Israel Labour party.
In 1969 and the early 1970s, Meir met with many world leaders to
promote her vision of peace in the Middle East, including Richard Nixon
(1969), Nicolae Ceausescu (1972) and Pope Paul VI (1973). In 1973, she
hosted the chancellor of West Germany, Willy Brandt in Israel.
In August 1970, Meir accepted a U.S. peace initiative that called for
an end to the War of Attrition and an Israeli pledge to withdraw to
"secure and recognized boundaries" in the framework of a comprehensive
peace settlement. The Gahal party quit the national unity government in
protest, but Meir continued to lead the remaining coalition.
In the wake of the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, Meir
appealed to the world to "save our citizens and condemn the unspeakable
criminal acts committed." Outraged at the perceived lack of global
action, she ordered the Mossad to hunt down and assassinate the Black
September and PFLP operatives who took part in the massacre. The
1986 TV film Sword of Gideon, based on the book Vengeance: The True
Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by George Jonas, and Steven
Spielberg’s movie Munich (2005) were loosely based on these events.
Yom Kippur War
In the days leading up to the Yom Kippur War, Israeli intelligence was
not able to determine conclusively that an attack was imminent. However,
on 5 October 1973, Meir received official news that Syrian forces were
massing on the Golan Heights. The prime minister was alarmed by the
reports, and felt that the situation reminded her of what happened
before the Six Day War. Her advisers, however, assured her not to worry,
saying that they would have adequate notice before a war broke out. This
made sense at the time, since after the Six Day War, most Israelis felt
it unlikely that Arabs would attack again. Consequently, although a
resolution was passed granting her power to demand a full-scale call-up
of the military (instead of the typical cabinet decision), Meir did not
mobilize Israel’s forces early. Soon, though, war became very clear. Six
hours before the outbreak of hostilities, Meir met with Minister of
Defense Moshe Dayan and general David Elazar. While Dayan continued to
argue that war was unlikely and thus was in favor of calling up the air
force and only two divisions, Elazar advocated launching a full-scale
pre-emptive strike on Syrian forces.
Meir sided with Dayan, citing Israel’s need for foreign aid. She
believed that Israel could not depend on European countries to supply
Israel with military equipment, and the only country that might come to
Israel’s assistance was the United States. Fearing that the U.S. would
be wary of intervening if Israel were perceived as initiating the
hostilities, Meir decided against a pre-emptive strike. She made it a
priority to inform Washington of her decision. Then-U.S. Secretary of
State Henry Kissinger later confirmed Meir’s assessment by stating that
if Israel had launched a pre-emptive strike, Israel would not have
received "so much as a nail."
Recent biographer Elinor Burkett comes to the interpretation that
Meir was the "real hero" of the war and not the Minister of Defense
Moshe Dayan, who considered surrender.
Golda Meir with Marc Chagall
Following the Yom Kippur War, Meir’s government was plagued by
in-fighting and questions over Israel’s lack of preparedness for the
war. The Agranat Commission appointed to investigate the war cleared her
of "direct responsibility", and related to her actions on Yom Kippur
“ she decided wisely, with common sense and speedily, in favour of
the full mobilization of the reserves, as recommended by the
chief-of-staff, despite weighty political considerations, thereby
performing a most important service for the defence of the state.”
Her party won the elections in December 1973, but she resigned on 11
April 1974, bowing to what she felt was the "will of the people." and
what she felt was a sufficient premiership as well as the pending
pressures of forming a coalition; "Five years are sufficient...It is
beyond my strength to continue carrying this burden."Yitzhak
Rabin succeeded her on 3 June 1974.
In 1975, she published her autobiography, My Life.
On 8 December 1978, Meir died of cancer in Jerusalem at the age of 80.
She was buried on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on 12 December 1978.
In 1975, Meir was awarded the Israel Prize for her special
contribution to society and the State of Israel.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Yitzhak Rabin (help·info) (Hebrew: יִצְחָק רַבִּין ) (1 March 1922 – 4
November 1995) was an Israeli politician and general. He was the fifth
Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–1977 and
1992 until his assassination in 1995. In 1994, Rabin won the Nobel Peace
Prize together with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat. He was assassinated
by right-wing Israeli radical Yigal Amir, who was opposed to Rabin's
signing of the Oslo Accords. Rabin was the first native-born prime
minister of Israel, the only prime minister to be assassinated and the
second to die in office after Levi Eshkol.
Yitzhak Rabin was born in Jerusalem in 1922 to Nehemiah and Rosa, two
pioneers of the Third Aliyah. Nehemiah Rubitzov, born in a small
Ukrainian town in 1886, lost his father when he was a child and worked
to support his family from a young age. At the age of 18, he emigrated
to the United States, where he joined the Poale Zion party and changed
his surname to Rabin. In 1917, he went to the British Mandate of
Palestine with a group of volunteers from the Jewish Legion. Rabin's
mother, Rosa Cohen, was born in 1890 in Mohilev in Belarus. Her father,
a rabbi, opposed the Zionism movement, but sent Rosa to a Christian high
school for girls in Homel, enabling her to acquire a broad general
education. Early on, Rosa took an interest in political and social
causes. In 1919, she sailed to the region on the S.S. Ruslan, the
bellwether of the Third Aliyah. After working on a kibbutz on the shores
of the Sea of Galilee, she moved to Jerusalem.
Rabin grew up in Tel Aviv, where the family relocated when he was one
year old. In 1940, he graduated with distinction from the Kadoori
Agricultural High School and hoped to be an irrigation engineer.
However, apart from several courses in military strategy in the United
Kingdom later on, he never pursued a degree.
Rabin married Leah Rabin (born Schlossberg) during the 1948
Arab-Israeli War. Leah Rabin was working at the time as a reporter for a
Palmach newspaper. They had two children, Dalia and Yuval. Rabin was
non-religious, with Dennis Ross remarking that Ross had never met a more
secular Jew in Israel.
In 1941, during his practical training at kibbutz Ramat Yohanan, Rabin
joined the Palmach section of the Haganah, under the influence of Yigal
Allon. The first operation he participated in was assisting the allied
invasion of Lebanon, then held by Vichy French forces (the same
operation where Moshe Dayan lost his eye) in June-July 1941. After the
end of the war the relationship between the Palmach and the British
authorities became strained, especially with respect to the treatment of
Jewish immigration. In October 1945 Rabin was in charge of planning and
later successfully executing an operation for the liberation of interned
immigrants from the Atlit detainee camp for Jewish illegal immigrants.
In the Black Shabbat, a massive British operation against the leaders of
the Jewish Establishment in the Land of Israel, Rabin was arrested and
detained for five months. After his release he became the commander of
the second Palmach battalion and rose to the position of Chief
Operations Officer of the Palmach in October 1947.
During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War Rabin directed Israeli operations in
Jerusalem and fought the Egyptian army in the Negev. During the
beginning of the war he was the commander of the Harel Brigade which
fought on the road to Jerusalem from the coastal plain, including the
Israeli "Burma Road", as well as many battles in Jerusalem, such as
securing the southern side of the city by recapturing kibbutz Ramat
During the First truce he participated in the altercation between the
IDF and the Irgun on the beach of Tel Aviv as part of the Altalena
Affair. In the following period he was the deputy commander of Operation
Danny, during which the cities of Ramle and Lydda were captured, as well
as the major airport in Lydda. Following the capture of the two towns
there was an exodus of their Arab population and only a few hundred of
the 50,000 to 70,000 residents remained.
Operation Danny was the largest scale operation until then and it
involved four IDF brigades. He was then Chief of Operations for the
Southern Front and participated in the major battles ending the fighting
there, including Operation Yoav and Operation Horev.
In the beginning of 1949 he was a member of the Israeli delegation to
the armistice talks with Egypt that were held on the island of Rhodes.
The result of the negotiations were the 1949 Armistice Agreements which
ended the official hostilities of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Following
the demobilization at the end of the war he was the most senior (former)
member of the Palmach that remained in the IDF.
In 1964 he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces
(IDF) by Levi Eshkol who replaced David Ben Gurion and, like him, served
as Prime-Minister and Minister of Defense. Since Eshkol did not have
much military experience, Rabin had a relatively free hand. Under his
command, the IDF achieved victory over Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the
Six-Day War in 1967. After the Old City of Jerusalem was captured by the
IDF, Rabin was among the first to visit the Old City, and delivered a
famous speech on Mount Scopus, at the Hebrew University. In the days
leading up to the war, it was reported that Rabin suffered a nervous
breakdown and was unable to function. After this short hiatus, he
resumed full command over the IDF.
General Moshe Dayan, Israeli Defence Minister (left) with General
Istraeli Chief of Staff (centre) and the local commander as they walk to
Wailing Wall after its capture by Israeli troops during the 6 Day War
Jerusalem, Israel - 8 June 1967
Ambassador and Minister of Labour
Following his retirement from the IDF he became ambassador to the United
States beginning in 1968, serving for five years. In this period the US
became the major weapon supplier of Israel and in particular he managed
to get the embargo on the F-4 Phantom fighter jets lifted. During the
1973 Yom Kippur war he served in no official capacity and in the
elections held at the end of 1973 he was elected to the Knesset as a
member of the Alignment. He was appointed Israeli Minister of Labour in
March 1974 in Golda Meir's short-lived government.
First term as Prime Minister
Following Golda Meir's resignation on April 1974, Rabin was elected
party leader, after he defeated Shimon Peres. The rivalry between these
two labor leaders remained fierce and they competed several times in the
next two decades for the leadership role. Rabin succeeded Golda Meir as
Prime Minister of Israel on 3 June 1974. This was a coalition
government, including Ratz, the Independent Liberals, Progress and
Development and the Arab List for Bedouins and Villagers. This
arrangement, with a bare parliamentary majority, held for a few months
and was one of the few periods in Israel's history where the religious
parties were not part of the coalition. The National Religious Party
joined the coalition on 30 October 1974 and Ratz left on the 6 November.
In foreign policy, the major development at the beginning of Rabin's
term was the Sinai Interim Agreement between Israel and Egypt, signed on
September 1, 1975. Both countries declared that the conflict between
them and in the Middle East shall not be resolved by military force but
by peaceful means. This agreement followed Henry Kissinger's shuttle
diplomacy and a threatened ‘reassessment’ of the United States’ regional
policy and its relations with Israel. Rabin notes it was,”an
innocent-sounding term that heralded one of the worst periods in
American-Israeli relations.” The agreement was an important step
towards the Camp David Accords of 1978 and the peace treaty with Egypt
signed in 1979.
Operation Entebbe was perhaps the most dramatic event during Rabin's
first term of office. On his orders, the IDF performed a long-range
undercover raid to rescue passengers of an airliner hijacked by
militants belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine's Wadie Haddad faction and the German Revolutionary Cells
(RZ), and had been brought to Idi Amin's Uganda. The operation was
generally considered a tremendous success, and its spectacular character
has made it the subject of much continued comment and study.
Towards the end of 1976 his coalition government with the religious
parties suffered a crisis: a motion of no confidence had been brought by
Agudat Israel over a breach of the Sabbath on an Israeli Air Force base
when four F-15 jets were delivered from the US and the National
Religious Party had abstained. Rabin dissolved his government and
decided on new elections, which were to be held in May 1977. Meanwhile
two unfortunate developments from his perspective occurred: following
the March 1977 meeting between U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Rabin,
Rabin publicly announced that the U.S. supported the Israeli idea of
defensible borders. Carter then issued a clarification. A "fallout" in
U.S./Israeli relations ensued. It is thought that the fallout
contributed to the Israeli Labor Party defeat in the May 1977 elections. The second development was the revelation that his wife, Leah,
continued to hold a US dollar account from the days that Rabin was
ambassador to the United States. According to Israeli currency
regulations at the time, it was illegal for citizens to maintain foreign
bank accounts without prior authorization. In the wake of this
disclosure, Rabin handed in his resignation from the party leadership
and candidacy for prime minister, an act that earned him praise as a
responsible person and a man of integrity.
Opposition Knesset member and Minister of Defense
Following his resignation and Labor Party defeat at the elections,
Likud's Menachem Begin was elected in 1977. Until 1984 Rabin was a
member of Knesset and sat on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
From 1984 to 1990, he served as Minister of Defense in several national
unity governments led by prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon
When Rabin came to office, Israeli troops were still deep in Lebanon.
Rabin ordered their withdrawal to a "Security Zone" on the Lebanese side
of the border. The South Lebanon Army was active in this zone, along
with the Israeli Defence Forces.
When the first Intifada broke out, Rabin adopted harsh measures to
stop the demonstrations, even authorizing the use of "Force, might and
beatings," on the demonstrators. Rabin the "bone breaker" was used as an
International image. The combination of the failure of the "Iron Fist"
policy, Israel's deteriorating international image and Jordan cutting
legal and administrative ties to the West Bank with the U.S.'s
recognition of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people
forced Rabin to seek an end to the violence though negotiation and
dialogue with the PLO.
In 1990 to 1992, Rabin again served as a Knesset member and sat on
the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Israeli Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his wife arrives in the United
Second term as Prime Minister
In 1992 Rabin was elected as chairman of the
Labor Party, winning against Shimon Peres. In the elections that year
his party, strongly focusing on the popularity of its leader, managed to
win a clear victory over the Likud of incumbent Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir. However the left-wing bloc in the Knesset only won an overall
narrow majority, facilitated by the disqualification of small
nationalist parties that did not manage to pass the electoral threshold.
Rabin formed the first Labor-led government in fifteen years, supported
by a coalition with Meretz, a left wing party, and Shas, a Mizrahi
ultra-orthodox religious party.
Rabin played a leading role in the signing of the Oslo Accords, which
created the Palestinian National Authority and granted it partial
control over parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Prior to the signing
of the accords, Rabin received a letter from PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat
renouncing violence and officially recognizing Israel, and on the same
day, 9 September 1993, Rabin sent Arafat a letter officially recognizing
the PLO. During this term of office, Rabin also oversaw the signing of
the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace in 1994.
For his role in the creation of the Oslo Accords, Rabin was awarded
the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Yasser Arafat and Shimon
Peres. The Accords greatly divided Israeli society, with some
seeing Rabin as a hero for advancing the cause of peace and some seeing
him as a traitor for giving away land rightfully belonging to Israel.
Many Israelis on the right wing often blame him for Jewish deaths in
terror attacks, attributing them to the Oslo agreements.
Rabin was also awarded the 1994 Ronald Reagan Freedom Award by the
former president's wife, former First Lady Nancy Reagan. The award is
only given to "those who have made monumental and lasting contributions
to the cause of freedom worldwide," and who "embody President Reagan's
lifelong belief that one man or woman truly can make a difference."
Assassination and aftermath
The grave of Yitzhak (right) and Leah Rabin (left) on Mount HerzlOn 4
November 1995 (11th of Heshvan on the Hebrew Calendar) Prime Minister
Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir, a radical right-wing Orthodox Jew
who opposed the signing of the Oslo Accords and believed he was saving
the country from a dire fate. The shooting took place in the evening as
Rabin was leaving a mass rally in Tel Aviv in support of the Oslo
process. Rabin was rushed to the nearby Ichilov Hospital, where he died
on the operating table of blood loss and a punctured lung within 40
minutes. Amir was immediately seized by Rabin's bodyguards. He was
tried, found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
After an emergency cabinet meeting, Israel's foreign minister, Shimon
Peres was appointed as acting Israeli prime minister.
The assassination of Rabin came as a great shock to the Israeli
public and much of the rest of the world. Hundreds of thousands of
grieving Israelis thronged the square where Rabin was assassinated to
mourn his death. Young people, in particular, turned out in large
numbers, lighting memorial candles and singing peace songs. Rabin's
funeral was attended by many world leaders, among them U.S. president
Bill Clinton, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and King Hussein of
Jordan. Bill Clinton delivered a eulogy whose memorable final words were
in Hebrew — "Shalom, Haver" (Hebrew: שלום חבר,
lit. Goodbye, Friend).
Before leaving the stage on the night of the assassination, Rabin had
been singing Shir LaShalom (literally Song for Peace), along with
Israeli singer Miri Aloni. After he died, a sheet of paper with the
lyrics was found in his pocket, stained with blood.
The square where he was assassinated, Kikar Malkhei Yisrael (Kings of
Israel Square), was renamed Rabin Square. Streets and public
institutions have been named after him all over the country. After his
assassination, Rabin was hailed as a national symbol and came to embody
the Israeli peace camp ethos, despite his military career and hawkish
views earlier in life. He is buried on Mount Herzl. In November
2000, his wife Leah died and was buried alongside him.
As with many political assassinations, there is much debate regarding
the background of Rabin's assassination. There are a number of
conspiracy theories related to the assassination of Rabin.
After Rabin's assassination, his daughter Dalia Rabin-Pelossof
entered into politics and was elected to the Knesset in 1999 as part of
the Centre Party. In 2001, she served as Israel's Deputy Minister of
The Knesset has set the 12th of Heshvan, the murder date according to
the Hebrew calendar, as the official memorial day of Rabin. An
unofficial but widely followed memorial date is November 4th, the date
according to the Gregorian calendar.
In 1995 the Israeli Postal Authority issued a commemorative Rabin
The Yitzhak Rabin Center was founded in 1997 by an act of the
Knesset, to create "[a] Memorial Center for Perpetuating the Memory of
Yitzhak Rabin." It carries out extensive commemorative and educational
activities emphasizing the ways and means of democracy and peace.
Mechinat Rabin, an Israeli pre-army preparatory program for training
recent high school graduates in leadership prior to their IDF service,
was established in 1998.
Many cities and towns in Israel have named streets, neighborhoods,
schools, bridges and parks after Rabin. Also two government office
complexes and two synagogues are named after Yitzhak Rabin. Outside
Israel, there are streets named after him in Bonn, Berlin and New York
and parks in Montreal, Rome and Lima. 
Reggae singer Alpha Blondy has recorded a single named 'Yitzhak
Rabin' in memory of the Israeli prime minister.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Menachem Begin (help·info) (Hebrew: מְנַחֵם בְּגִין, Polish: Mieczysław
Biegun, Russian: Ìåíàõåì Âîëüôîâè÷ Áåãèí, 16 August 1913 – 9 March 1992)
was an Israel politician and the sixth prime minister of the State of
Israel. Before the independence, he was the leader of the Irgun, a
revisionist breakaway from the larger mainstream Jewish paramilitary
organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on February 1, 1944,
against the British mandatory government, which was opposed by the
Jewish Agency. He played a significant role in Jewish resistance against
the British control in the waning years of the mandate, leading the more
Begin was elected to the first Knesset, as head of Herut, the party
he founded, and was at first on the political fringe, embodying the
opposition to the Mapai-led government and Israeli establishment. He
remained in opposition in the eight consecutive elections (except for a
national unity government around the Six-Day War), but became more
acceptable to the political center. His 1977 electoral victory and
premiership ended three decades of Labour Party political dominance.
Begin’s most significant achievement as prime minister was signing a
peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, for which he and Anwar Sadat shared the
Nobel Prize for Peace. In the wake of the Camp David Accords, the Israel
Defense Forces withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and returned the
Egyptian territories captured in the Six-Day War. Later, Begin’s
government promoted the construction of Israeli settlements in Judea and
Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Begin authorized the bombing of the Osirak
nuclear plant in Iraq and the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 to fight PLO
strongholds there, igniting the 1982 Lebanon War. As Israeli military
involvement in Lebanon deepened, and the Sabra and Shatila massacre
carried out by the Christian militia shocked world public opinion,
Begin grew increasingly isolated. As IDF forces remained mired in
Lebanon and the economy suffered from hyperinflation, the public
pressure on Begin mounted. Depressed by the death of his wife Aliza in
November 1982, he gradually withdrew from public life, until his
resignation in October 1983.
Menachem Begin was born to Zeev Dov and Hassia Begun in Brest-Litovsk,
(Brisk), a town then part of the Russian Empire which was known for its
Talmudic scholars. He was the youngest of three children. On his
mother's side he was descended from distinguished rabbis. His father, a
timber merchant, was a community leader, a passionate Zionist, and an
admirer of Theodor Herzl. The midwife who attended his birth was the
grandmother of Ariel Sharon.
After a year of a traditional cheder education Begin started studying
at a "Tachkemoni" school, associated with the religious Zionist
movement. At 12, he joined the Zionist Socialist youth movement Hashomer
Hatzair, but soon switched to Betar. At 14, he was sent to a Polish
government school, where he studied he received a solid grounding in
classical literature, and gained a lifelong love of classical works,
which he was able to read in Latin.
Begin began studying law at the University of Warsaw where he learned
the oratory and rhetoric skills that became his trademark as a
politician, and viewed as Demagogy by his critics. He graduated in
1935, but never practiced law. In these same years he became a key
disciple of Vladimir "Ze'ev" Jabotinsky, the founder of the militant,
nationalist Revisionist Zionism movement and its Betar youth wing. His
rise within Betar was rapid: in the same year he graduated, at age 22,
he shared the dais with his mentor during Betar's World Congress in
Krakow. In 1937 he was the active head of Betar in Czechoslovakia and
Poland, leaving just prior to the 1939 invasion.
Picture from the arrest of Menachem Begin in September 1940 by the
(the picture was located in KGB archives).
Exile to the Soviet Camp
In September 1939, after Nazi Germany invaded Poland, Begin escaped to
Wilno, then located in eastern Poland. The town was shortly to be
occupied by the Soviet Union, but from 28 October 1939, it was the
capital of the Republic of Lithuania. Wilno was a predominately Polish
and Jewish town; an estimated 40 percent of the population was Jewish,
with the YIVO institute was located there. On 15 June 1940 the Soviet
Union invaded Lithuania, ushering in mass persecution of Poles and Jews.
An estimated 120,000 people were arrested by the NKVD and deported to
Siberia. Thousands were executed with or without trial.
NKVD mug shot of Menachem Begin, 1940On 20 September 1940 Begin was
arrested by the NKVD and detained in the Lukiškės Prison. He was accused
of being an "agent of British imperialism" and
sentenced to eight years in the Soviet gulag camps. On 1 June 1941 he
was sent to the Pechora labor camps in the northern part of European
Russia, where he stayed until May 1942. Much later in life, Begin would
record and reflect upon his experiences in the interrogations and life
in the camp in his memoir "White Nights".
In June 1941, just after Germany attacked the Soviet Union, and
following his release under the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement, Begin joined
the Polish Army of Anders. He was later sent with the army to Palestine
via the Persian Corridor. Upon arrival in August 1942, he received a
proposal to take over a position in the Irgun, as Betar's Commissioner.
He declined the invitation because he felt himself honour-bound to abide
by his oath as a soldier and not to desert the Polish army, where he
worked as an English translator. Begin was subsequently released from
the Polish Army after the Irgun intervened unofficially on his behalf
with senior Polish army officers. He then joined the
Jewish national movement in the British Mandate of Palestine.
Begin's father was among the 5,000 Brest Jews rounded up by the Nazis
at the end of June 1941. Instead of being sent to a forced labor camp,
they were shot or drowned in the river. His mother and older brother
Herzl also died in the Holocaust.
Begin was married to Aliza Arnold. They had three children: Binyamin,
Leah and Hassia.
Begin quickly made a name for himself, both as a fierce critic of
dominant Zionist leadership for being too cooperative with British
‘colonialism’, and as a proponent of guerrilla tactics against the
British, which he saw as a necessary means to achieve independence. In
1942 he joined the Irgun (Etzel), an underground Zionist group which had
split from the main Jewish military organization, the Haganah, in
1931. In 1944 Begin assumed the organization's leadership, determined
to force the British government to remove its troops entirely from
Palestine. Citing that the British had reneged on their original promise
of the Balfour Declaration, and that the White Paper of 1939 restricting
Jewish immigration was an escalation of their pro-Arab policy, he
decided to break with the Haganah. Soon after he assumed command, a
formal 'Declaration of Revolt' was publicized, and armed attacks against
British forces were initiated.
Begin issued a call to arms and from 1944–48 the Irgun launched an
all-out armed rebellion, perpetrating hundreds of attacks against
British installations and posts. Begin financed these operations by
extorting money from Zionist businessmen, and running bogus robbery
scams in the local diamond industry, which enabled the victims to get
back their losses from insurance companies.
For several months in 1945–46, the Irgun’s activities were
coordinated within the framework of the Hebrew Resistance Movement under
the direction of the Haganah, but this fragile partnership collapsed
following the Irgun’s bombing of the British administrative headquarters
at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where 91 people, including British
officers and troops as well as Arab and Jewish civilians, were killed.
The attack was conducted as a response to the British actions on Black
Sabbath, in which they arrested many Jews, and confiscated many
important documents from the Jewish Agency. The attack on the King David
Hotel was not meant to cause many deaths, as before the explosives went
off, calls were placed by the Irgun to the King David Hotel. The issue
of whether sufficient warning was given was subject to much controversy.
Under Begin’s leadership, the Irgun continued to carry out operations
such as breaking into Acre Prison, and the kidnapping and hanging of two
British sergeants in response to the execution of several Irgun members
by the British; this latter action caused the British to suspend any
further executions of Irgun prisoners. Growing numbers of British forces
were deployed to quell the Jewish uprising, yet Begin managed to elude
captivity, at times disguised as a rabbi. MI5 placed a 'dead-or-alive'
bounty of £10,000 on his head after Irgun threatened 'a campaign of
terror against British officials', saying they would kill Sir John Shaw,
Britain's Chief Secretary in Palestine.
The Jewish Agency, headed by David Ben-Gurion, opposed the Irgun’s
independent agenda, which it saw as a challenge to its authority as the
representative body of the Jewish community in Palestine. Ben-Gurion
openly denounced the Irgun as the “enemy of the Jewish People”, accusing
it of sabotaging the political campaign for independence. In 1944, the
Haganah actively pursued and handed over Irgun members to the British
authorities in what became known as The Hunting Season; Begin’s
instruction to his men to refrain from violent resistance prevented this
from deteriorating into an armed intra-Jewish conflict. In November
1947, the UN adopted the Partition Plan for Palestine, and Britain
announced its plans to fully withdraw from Palestine by May 1948. Begin,
once again rejected the plan and remained in opposition to the
mainstream Zionist leadership. In the years following the establishment
of the State of Israel, the Irgun’s contribution to precipitating
British withdrawal became a contested historic debate, as different
factions vied for control over the emerging narrative of Israeli
independence. Begin resented his being portrayed as a belligerent
Altalena and the War of Independence
As the Israeli War
of Independence broke, Irgun fighters joined forces with the Haganah and
Lehi militia in fighting the Arab forces. Notable operations in which
they took part were the battles of Jaffa and the Jordanian siege on the
Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. One such operation was the
Deir Yassin massacre of Palestinian villagers in April 1948. The day
after the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel on 14
May 1948, Begin broadcast a speech on radio declaring that the Irgun was
finally moving out of its underground status. On June 1 Begin signed
an agreement with the provisional government headed by David Ben Gurion,
where the Irgun agreed to formally disband and to integrate its force
with the newly formed Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
However, tensions with the IDF persisted, culminating in the
confrontation over the Altalena cargo ship, which secretly delivered
weapons to the Irgun in June 1948. The government demanded that all the
weapons be handed over to it unconditionally, in accordance with the
agreement regarding the integration of the Irgun into the IDF. However
Begin refused to comply. Rather than negotiating, Ben-Gurion was
determined to exercise the state’s authority over military affairs. A
violent confrontation between the IDF and members of the Irgun occurred
and Ben Gurion eventually ordered the IDF to take the ship by gunfire,
and it burnt off the shore of Tel Aviv. Begin was on board as the ship
was being shelled. In a speech later he ordered his men not to retaliate
in an attempt to prevent the crisis from spiraling into a civil war. For
years later Begin saw the Altalena Affair as a defining moment and
viewed the government actions against the Irgun as a great injustice.
Herut opposition years
In August 1948, Begin and members of the Irgun High Command emerged from
the underground and formed the right-wing political party Herut
("Freedom") party. The move countered the weakening attraction for
the earlier revisionist party, Hatzohar, founded by his late mentor
Vladimir Jabotinsky. Revisionist 'purists' alleged nonetheless that
Begin was out to steal Jabotinsky's mantle and ran against him with the
old party. The Herut party can be seen as the forerunner of today's
In November 1948, Begin visited the US on a campaigning trip. During
his visit, a letter signed by Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook, Hannah
Arendt, and other prominent Americans and several rabbis was published
which described Begin's Herut party as closely akin in its organization,
methods, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and
Fascist parties and accused his group (along with the smaller, militant,
Stern Gang) of having inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine
In the first elections in 1949, Herut, with 11.5 percent of the vote,
won 14 seats, while Hatzohar failed to break the threshold and disbanded
shortly thereafter. This provided Begin with legitimacy as the leader of
the Revisionist stream of Zionism.
Between 1948 and 1977, under Begin, Herut and the alliances it formed
(Gahal in 1965 and Likud in 1973) formed the main opposition to the
dominant Mapai and later the Alignment (the forerunners of today's
Labour Party) in the Knesset; Herut adopted a radical nationalistic
agenda committed to the irredentist idea of Greater Israel. During those
years, Begin was systematically delegitimized by the ruling party, and
was often personally derided by Ben-Gurion who refused to either speak
to or refer to him by name. Ben-Gurion famously coined the phrase
'without Herut and Maki' (Maki was the communist party), referring to
his refusal to consider them for coalition, effectively pushing both
parties and their voters beyond the margins of political consensus.
The personal animosity between Ben-Gurion and Begin, going back to
the hostilities over the Altalena Affair, underpinned the political
dichotomy between Mapai and Herut. Begin was a keen critic of Mapai,
accusing it of coercive Bolshevism and deep-rooted institutional
corruption. Drawing on his training as a lawyer in Poland, he preferred
wearing a formal suit and tie and evincing the dry demeanor of a
legislator to the socialist informality of Mapai, as a means of
accentuating their differences.
One of the fiercest confrontations between Begin and Ben-Gurion
revolved around the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West
Germany, signed in 1952. Begin vehemently opposed the agreement,
claiming that it was tantamount to a pardon of Nazi crimes against the
Jewish people. While the agreement was debated in the Knesset in
January 1952, he led a passionate demonstration in Jerusalem in which he
attacked the government, calling for a violent overthrow of the elected
government. Incited by his speech, the crowd marched towards the
Knesset (then at the Frumin Building on King George Street), throwing
stones and injuring dozens of policemen and several Knesset members.
Many held Begin personally responsible for the violence, and he was
consequently barred from the Knesset for several months. His behavior
was strongly condemned in mainstream public discourse, reinforcing his
image as a provocateur. In a 1952 a group of former Irgun members
attempted to assassinate by a bomb package Konrad Adenauer, Federal
Chancellor of West Germany. In 2006 one of the perpetrators claimed that
Begin was the initiator of the attempt, with the goal of preventing the
agreement. There are also claims, published in 2006, that Begin
Laden with pathos and evocations of the Holocaust, Begin's
impassioned rhetoric appealed to many, but was deemed inflammatory and
demagoguery by others.
Gahal and unity government
In the following years, Begin failed to gain electoral momentum, and
Herut remained far behind Labor with a total of 17 seats until 1961. In
1965, Herut and the Liberal Party united to form the Gahal party under
Begin’s leadership, but failed again to win more seats in the election
that year. In 1966, during Herut's party convention, he was challenged
by the young Ehud Olmert, who called for his resignation. Begin
announced that he would retire from party leadership, but soon reversed
his decision when the crowd pleaded with him to stay. At the outbreak of
the Six-Day War in June 1967, Gahal joined a national unity government
under Prime Minister Levi Eshkol of the Alignment, resulting in Begin
serving in the cabinet for the first time, as a Minister without
Portfolio. The arrangement lasted until August 1970, when Begin and
Gahal left the government, then led by Golda Meir due to disagreements
over the Rogers Plan and its "in place" cease-fire with Egypt along the
Suez Canal, Other sources, including William B. Quandt, note that the
Labor party, by formally accepting UN 242 in mid-1970, had accepted
"peace for withdrawal" on all fronts, and because of this Begin had left
the unity government. On August 5, Begin explained before the Knesset
why he was resigning from the cabinet. He said, "As far as we are
concerned, what do the words 'withdrawal from territories administered
since 1967 by Israel' mean other than Judea and Samaria. Not all the
territories; but by all opinion, most of them."
In 1973, Begin agreed to a plan by Ariel Sharon to form a larger bloc of
opposition parties, made up from Gahal, the Free Centre, and other
smaller groups. They came through with a tenuous alliance called the
Likud ("Consolidation"). In the elections held later that year, two
months after the Yom Kippur War, the Likud won a considerable share of
the votes, though with 39 seats still remained in opposition.
Yet the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War saw ensuing public
disenchantment with the Alignment. Voices of criticism about the
government's misconduct of the war gave rise to growing public
resentment. Personifying the antithesis to the Alignment's socialist
ethos, Begin appealed to many Mizrahi Israelis, mostly first and second
generation Jewish immigrants from Arab countries, who felt they were
continuously being treated by the establishment as second-class
citizens. His open embrace of Judaism stood in stark contrast to the
Alignment's secularism, which alienated Mizrahi voters and drew many of
them to support Begin, becoming his burgeoning political base. In the
years 1974-1977 Yitzhak Rabin's government suffered from instability due
to infighting within the labor party (Rabin and Shimon Peres) and the
shift to the right by the National Religious Party, as well as numerous
corruption scandals. All these weakened the labor camp and allowed Begin
to finally capture the center stage of Israeli politics.
Prime Minister of Israel
1977 electoral victory
On 17 May 1977 the Likud, headed by Begin, won the Knesset elections by
a landslide, becoming the biggest party in the Knesset. Popularly known
as the Mahapakh ("upheaval"), the election results had seismic
ramifications as for the first time in Israeli history a party other
than the Alignment/Mapai was in a position to form a government,
effectively ending the left's hitherto unrivalled domination over
Israeli politics. Likud's electoral victory signified a fundamental
restructuring of Israeli society in which the founding socialist
Ashkenazi elite was being replaced by a coalition representing
marginalized Mizrahi and Jewish-religious communities, promoting a
socially conservative and economically liberal agenda.
The Likud campaign leading up to the election
centered on Begin's personality. Demonized by the Alignment as
totalitarian and extremist, his self-portrayal as a humble and pious
leader struck a chord with many who felt abandoned by the ruling party's
ideology. In the predominantly Jewish Mizrahi working class urban
neighborhoods and peripheral towns, the Likud won overwhelming
majorities, while disillusionment with the Alignment's corruption
prompted many middle and upper class voters to support the newly founded
centrist Democratic Movement for Change ("Dash") headed by Yigael Yadin.
Dash won 15 seats out of 120, largely at the expense of the Alignment,
which was led by Shimon Peres and had shrunk from 51 to 32 seats. Well
aware of his momentous achievement and employing his trademark sense for
drama, when speaking that night in the Likud headquarters Begin quoted
from the Gettysburg Address and the Torah, referring to his victory as a
'turning point in the history of the Jewish people'.
With 43 seats, the Likud still required the support of other parties
in order to reach a parliamentary majority that would enable it to form
a government under Israel's proportionate representation parliamentary
system. Though able to form a narrow coalition with smaller Jewish
religious and ultra-orthodox parties, Begin also sought support from
centrist elements in the Knesset to provide his government with greater
public legitimacy. He controversially offered the foreign affairs
portfolio to Moshe Dayan, a former IDF Chief of Staff and Defense
Minister, and a prominent Alignment politician identified with the old
establishment. Begin was sworn in as Prime Minister of Israel on 20 June
1977. Dash eventually joined his government several months later, thus
providing it with the broad support of almost two thirds of the Knesset.
Camp David accords
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin acknowledge
applause during a joint session of Congress
in Washington, D.C., during
which President Jimmy Carter announced the results of the Camp David
18 September 1978.
In 1978 Begin, aided by Foreign Minister
Moshe Dayan and Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, negotiated the Camp David
Accords, and in 1979 signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty with Egyptian
President, Anwar Sadat. Under the terms of the treaty, brokered by US
President, Jimmy Carter, Israel was to hand over the Sinai Peninsula in
its entirety to Egypt. The peace treaty with Egypt was a watershed
moment in Middle Eastern history, as it was the first time an Arab state
recognized Israel’s legitimacy whereas Israel effectively accepted the
land for peace principle as blueprint for resolving the Arab-Israeli
conflict. Given Egypt’s prominent position within the Arab World,
especially as Israel’s biggest and most powerful enemy, the treaty had
far reaching strategic and geopolitical implications.
Almost overnight, Begin’s public image of an irresponsible
nationalist radical was transformed into that of a statesman of historic
proportions. This image was reinforced by international recognition
which culminated with him being awarded, together with Sadat, the Nobel
Peace Prize in 1978.
Yet while establishing Begin as a leader with broad public appeal,
the peace treaty with Egypt was met with fierce criticism within his own
Likud party. His devout followers found it difficult to reconcile
Begin’s history as a keen promoter of the Greater Israel agenda with his
willingness to relinquish occupied territory. Agreeing to the removal of
Israeli settlements from the Sinai was perceived by many as a clear
departure from Likud’s Revisionist ideology. Several prominent Likud
members, most notably Yitzhak Shamir, objected to the treaty and
abstained when it was ratified with an overwhelming majority in the
Knesset, achieved only thanks to support from the opposition. A small
group of hardliners within Likud, associated with Gush Emunim Jewish
settlement movement, eventually decided to split and form the Tehiya
party in 1979. They led the Movement for Stopping the Withdrawal from
Sinai, violently clashing with IDF soldiers during the forceful eviction
of Yamit settlement in April 1982. Despite the traumatic scenes from
Yamit, political support for the treaty did not diminish and the Sinai
was handed over to Egypt in 1982.
Begin was far less resolute in implementing the
section of the Camp David Accord, which defined a framework for
establishing autonomous Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip. He appointed Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon to implement a
large scale expansion of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied
territories, a policy intended to make future territorial concessions in
these areas effectively impossible. Begin refocused Israeli settlement
strategy from populating peripheral areas in accordance with the Allon
Plan, to building Jewish settlements in areas of Biblical and historic
significance. When the settlement of Elon Moreh was established on the
outskirts of Nablus in 1979, following years of campaigning by Gush
Emunim, Begin declared that there are "many more Elon Morehs to
come". Indeed during his term as Prime Minister dozens of new
settlements were built, and Jewish population in the West Bank and Gaza
more than quadrupled.
Bombing Iraqi nuclear reactor
Begin took Saddam Hussein's anti-Zionist threats very seriously and
therefore took aim at Iraq. Israel attempted to negotiate with France so
as not to provide Iraq with the nuclear reactor named Osirak or Tammuz
1, but to no avail. On June 7, 1981, Begin ordered the bombing and
destruction of Osirak by the Israeli Air Force in a successful
long-range operation called Operation Opera. Soon after, Begin
enunciated what came to be known as the Begin doctrine: "On no account
shall we permit an enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
against the people of Israel." Many foreign governments, including the
United States, condemned the operation, and the United Nations Security
Council passed a unanimous resolution 487 condemning it. The Israeli
left-wing opposition criticized it also at the time, but mainly for its
timing relative to elections only three weeks later.
On 6 June 1982, Begin’s government authorized the Israel Defense Forces'
invasion of Lebanon, in response to the attempted assassination of the
Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, Shlomo Argov. Operation Peace
for Galilee’s stated objective was to force the PLO out of rocket range
of Israel's northern border. Begin was hoping for a short and limited
Israeli involvement that would destroy the PLO’s political and military
infrastructure in southern Lebanon, effectively reshaping the balance of
Lebanese power in favor of the Christian Militias who were allied with
Israel. Nevertheless, fighting soon escalated into war with Palestinian
and Lebanese militias, as well as the Syrian military, and the IDF
progressed as far as Beirut, well beyond the 40 km limit initially
authorized by the government. Israeli forces were successful in driving
the PLO out of Lebanon and forcing its leadership to relocate to
Tunisia, but the war ultimately failed in achieving security to Israel’s
northern border, as well as imposing stability in Lebanon. Israeli
entanglement in Lebanon intensified throughout Begin’s term, leading to
a partial unilateral withdrawal in 1985, and finally ending in 2000.
Like Begin, the Israeli public was expecting quick and decisive
victory. Yet as this failed to arrive, disillusionment with the war, and
concomitantly with his government, was growing. Begin continuously
referred to the invasion as an inevitable act of survival, often
comparing Yasser Arafat to Hitler, but its image as a war of necessity
was gradually eroding. Within a matter of weeks into the war it emerged
that for the first time in Israeli history there was no consensus over
the IDF’s activity. Public criticism reached its peak following the
Sabra and Shatila Massacre in September 1982, when tens of thousands
gathered to protest in Tel Aviv in what was one of the biggest public
demonstrations in Israeli history. The Kahan Commission, appointed to
investigate the events, found the government indirectly responsible for
the massacre, accusing Defense Minister Ariel Sharon of gross
negligence. The commission’s report, published in February 1983,
severely damaged Begin’s government, forcing Sharon to resign. As the
Israeli quagmire in Lebanon seemed to grow deeper, public pressure on
Begin to resign increased.
Begin’s disoriented appearance on national television while visiting
the Beaufort battle site raised concerns that he was being misinformed
about the war’s progress. Asking Sharon whether PLO fighters had
‘machine guns’, Begin seemed out of touch with the nature and scale of
the military campaign he had authorized. Almost a decade later, Haaretz
reporter Uzi Benziman published a series of articles accusing Sharon of
intentionally deceiving Begin about the operation’s initial objectives,
and continuously misleading him as the war progressed. Sharon sued both
the newspaper and Benziman for libel in 1991. The trial lasted 11 years,
with one of the highlights being the deposition of Begin's son, Benny,
in favor of the defendants. Sharon lost the case.
Retirement from public life
Begin himself retired from politics in August 1983 and handed over the
reins of the office of Prime Minister to his old friend-in-arms Yitzhak
Shamir, who had been the leader of the Lehi resistance to the British.
Begin had become deeply disappointed by the war in Lebanon because he
had hoped to establish peace with Bashir Gemayel, who was assassinated.
Instead, there were mounting Israeli casualties. The death of his wife
Aliza in Israel while he was away on an official visit to Washington DC,
added to his own mounting depression. After his wife's death, Begin
would rarely leave his apartment, and then usually to visit her
grave-site to say the traditional Kaddish prayer for the departed. His
seclusion was watched over by his children and his lifetime personal
secretary Yechiel Kadishai, who monitored all official requests for
Begin died in Tel Aviv in 1992, followed by a simple ceremony and burial
on the Mount of Olives. He asked to be buried there instead of Mount
Herzl, where most Israeli leaders are laid to rest, because he wanted to
be buried beside Meir Feinstein of Irgun and Moshe Barazani of Lehi, who
committed suicide in jail while awaiting execution by the British.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Yitzhak Shamir (Icchak Jeziernicky) was born in Ruzhany (Polish:
Różana), Russia later Poland. He studied at a Hebrew High School in
Białystok, Poland. As a youth he joined Betar, the Revisionist Zionist
youth movement. He studied at the law faculty of Warsaw University, but
cut his studies short to immigrate to what was then the British Mandate
of Palestine. In 1935, after settling in Palestine, he Hebraized his
surname to Shamir. He joined the Irgun Zvai Leumi, an underground Jewish
militia organization that opposed British control of Palestine. When the
Irgun split in 1940, Shamir sided with the more militant faction, Lehi,
headed by Avraham Stern. In secret contacts with German representatives
at Beirut the group offered to open up a military front against the
British in the Middle East in return for the expulsion (rather than
extermination) of the Jewish population of Europe to Palestine.
In 1941 Shamir was imprisoned by British authorities. After Stern was
killed by the British in 1942, Shamir escaped from the detention camp
and became one of the three leaders of the group in 1943, reforming it
as "Lehi". In October 1944 he was exiled and interned in Africa by the
Mandate authorities. He made an attempt to escape from one of the camps
by hiding in a water tank. He was returned, along with the other
detainees, after the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. As
one of Lehi's triumvirate, he authorized the assassination of the United
Nations representative in the Middle East, Count Folke Bernadotte, who
was seen by Shamir and his collaborators as an anti-Zionist and "an
obvious agent of the British enemy".
Shamir admired the Irish Republicans and sought to emulate their
anti-British struggle. Shamir himself took the nickname "Michael" for
Michael Collins. After the battle for independence, Shamir joined the
secret intelligence service (Mossad) (1955-1965).
Yitzhak Shamir is married to Shulamit. They have two children, Yair
and Gilada.In 2004, his health declined and he was moved to a nursing
home. The government turned down a request by the family to finance his
stay at the facility.
In 1969, Shamir joined the Herut party headed by Menachem Begin and was
first elected to the Knesset in 1973 as a member of the Likud. He became
Speaker of the Knesset in 1977, and foreign minister in 1980, before
succeeding Begin as prime minister in 1983 when he retired.
Shamir had a reputation as a Likud hard-liner. In 1977 he presided at
the Knesset visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He abstained in the
Knesset votes to approve the Camp David Accords and the Peace Treaty
with Egypt. In 1981 and 1982, as Foreign Minister, he guided
negotiations with Egypt to normalize relations after the treaty.
Following the 1982 Lebanon War he directed negotiations which led to the
May 17 1983 Agreement agreement with Lebanon, which did not materialize.
His failure to stabilize Israel's inflationary economy and to suggest
a solution to the quagmire of Lebanon led to an indecisive election in
1984, after which a national unity government was formed between his
Likud party and the Alignment led by Shimon Peres. As part of the
agreement, Peres held the post of Prime Minister until September 1986,
when Shamir took over.
As he prepared to reclaim the office of prime minister, which he had
held previously from October 1983 to September 1984, Shamir's hard-line
image appeared to moderate. However Shamir remained reluctant to change
the status quo in Israel's relations with its Arab neighbors, and
blocked Peres's initiative to promote a regional peace conference as
agreed in 1987 with King Hussein of Jordan in what has become known as
the London Agreement. Re-elected in 1988, Shamir and Peres formed a new
coalition government until "the dirty trick" of 1990, when the Alignment
left the government, leaving Shamir with a narrow right-wing coalition.
During the First Gulf War Shamir's government decided not to
retaliate after the Iraqi Scud missile volleys (many of which struck
Israeli population centers) . The United States urged restraint, saying
Israeli attacks would jeopardize the delicate Arab-Western coalition
assembled against Iraq. In May 1991, as the Ethiopian government of
Mengistu Haile Mariam was collapsing, Shamir ordered the airlifting of
thousands of Ethiopian Jews, known as Operation Solomon. Relations with
the US were actually strained in the period after the war, over the
Madrid peace talks which Shamir opposed. As a result, US President
George Herbert Walker Bush was reluctant to approve loan guarantees
needed to help absorb the large immigration from the former Soviet
Union. Finally, Shamir gave in and in October 1991 participated in the
Madrid talks. His narrow right wing government collapsed as a result,
over the participation of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, and
new elections were called.
Electoral defeat and retirement
Shamir was defeated by Yitzhak Rabin's Labour in the 1992 election. He
stepped down from the Likud leadership in March 1993, but remained a
member of the Knesset until the 1996 election. For some time, Shamir was
a critic of his Likud successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, as being too
indecisive in dealing with the Arabs. Shamir went so far as to resign
from the Likud in 1998 and endorse the right-wing splinter movement led
by Benny Begin, Herut - The National Movement, that later joined the
National Union during the 1999 election. After Netanyahu was defeated,
Shamir returned to the Likud fold and supported Ariel Sharon in the 2001
election. Subsequently, in his late 80's, Shamir ceased making public
In 2001, Shamir received the Israel Prize, for his lifetime achievements
and special contribution to society and the State of Israel.
According to Israeli politician Ruby Rivlin, Shamir was "an honest
politician who performed his duties with utter integrity." Former head
of Israeli Mossad, Shabtai Shavit, calls him a "remarkably honest
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ehud Barak (Hebrew: אֵהוּד בָּרָק (help·info), born Ehud Brog on 12
February 1942) is an Israeli politician, former Prime Minister, and
current Minister of Defense, deputy prime minister and leader of
Israel's Labor Party.
Barak served as the 10th Prime Minister of Israel from 1999 to 2001.
After losing the 2001 election, Barak embarked on a business career. On
12 June 2007 he completed a political comeback by winning the Labor
Party leadership election. He was appointed as Minister of Defense,
replacing outgoing party leader Amir Peretz.
Prior to his political career he served as an officer in the Israel
Defense Forces. Following a highly decorated career he was appointed the
14th Ramatkal (Head of General Staff) of the IDF.
Barak was born on 12 February 1942 in kibbutz Mishmar HaSharon in
Mandate Palestine. He is the eldest of four sons of Esther (née Godin)
and Israel Brog. Ehud hebraized his family name from "Brog" to "Barak"
in 1959, when he joined the Israeli army.
His paternal grandparents, Frieda and Reuven Brog, were murdered in
Pushelat, Lithuania in 1912, leaving his father orphaned at the age of
two. Barak’s maternal grandparents, Elka and Shmuel Godin, died at
It was during his military service that he met his future wife, Naava.
They had three daughters together. Barak and Naava divorced in August
2003. On 30 July 2007 Barak married Nili Priel in a small ceremony in
his private residence.
Barak earned his bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics from
the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1968, and his master's degree in
engineering-economic systems in 1978 from Stanford University in Palo
Ehud Brog joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1959. At that
time he decided to change his name to "Barak", which means "lightning"
or "shine" in Hebrew. He served in the IDF for 35 years, rising to the
position of Chief of the General Staff and the rank of Rav Aluf, the
highest in the Israeli military. During the Yom Kippur War, Barak
commanded an improvised regiment of tanks which among other things,
helped rescue paratrooper battalion 890 commanded by Yitzhak Mordechai
who were suffering heavy losses in the Battle of the Chinese Farm.
During his service as a commando in the elite Sayeret Matkal, Barak led
several highly acclaimed operations, such as: "Operation Isotope", the
rescue mission to free the hostages onboard Sabena Flight 572 at Lod
Airport in 1972; the 1973 covert mission Operation Spring of Youth in
Beirut, in which he was disguised as a woman in order to assassinate
members of the Palestine Liberation Organization; Barak was also a key
architect of the June 1976 Operation Entebbe, another rescue mission to
free the hostages of the Air France aircraft hijacked by terrorists and
forced to land at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. These highly acclaimed
operations, along with Operation Bayonet led to the dismantling of
Palestinian terrorist cell Black September and a decline in
international terrorism for over 20 years. It has been
alluded that Barak also masterminded the Tunis Raid on April 16, 1988,
in which PLO leader Abu Jihad was assassinated.
Later he served as head of Aman, the Military Intelligence
Directorate (1983-1985), head of Central Command (1986 - 1987) and
Deputy Chief of the General Staff (1987-1991). He served as Chief of the
General Staff between April 1, 1991 and January 1, 1995. During this
period he implemented the first Oslo Accords and participated in the
negotiations towards the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace.
Barak was awarded the Medal of Distinguished Service and four Chief
of Staff citations (Tzalash HaRamatcal) for courage and operational
excellence. These five decorations make him the most decorated soldier
in Israeli history (jointly with close friend Nechemiah Cohen). He was
also awarded, in 1993, the Legion of Merit (Commander) by the United
Barak is also an expert in krav maga, the official martial art of the
Israeli Defense Forces.
As a politician, Barak served as Minister of the Interior (1995)
and then as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1995-1996). He was elected to
the Knesset in 1996, where he served as a member of the Knesset Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee. In 1996 Barak became the leader of the
Prime Minister of Israel
Barak was elected Prime Minister of Israel on 17 May 1999. Barak
sparked controversy by deciding to form a coalition with the haredi
party Shas who had received an unprecedented 17 seats in the 120-seat
Knesset. Shas grudgingly agreed to Barak's terms that they eject their
leader Aryeh Deri, a convicted felon, and enact reform to "clean up"
in-party corruption. Consequentially, the left wing Meretz party quit
the coalition after they failed to agree on the powers to be given to a
Shas deputy-minister in the Ministry of Education.
In 1999 Barak gave a campaign promise to end Israel's 22-year long
occupation of Southern Lebanon within a year. On May 24, 2000 Israel
withdrew from Southern Lebanon. On October the 7th, 2000, three Israeli
soldiers were captured by Hezbollah and then subsequently killed. The
bodies of these soldiers, along with the living Elhanan Tenenbaum, were
eventually exchanged for Lebanese captives in 2004. Barak inaugurated
peace negotiations with the PLO, which ultimately proved fruitless.
Barak also took part in the Camp David 2000 Summit which was meant to
finally resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but failed. Barak also
allowed Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami to attend the Taba Summit with
the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, after his government had
Barak was in power during the appointment of the Tal committee which
dealt with the controversial issue of haredi Jews' exemption from
military service. Riots in October 2000 led to the killing of 12
Israeli-Arabs and 1 Palestinian by Israel Police and one Israeli-Jewish
civilian by Israeli Arabs. In 1999–2000, Israel experienced high growth
rates (GDP) relative both to the economy’s past performance and by
Party leader, return to politics
In 2005, Barak announced his return to Israeli politics, and ran for
leadership of the Labor Party in November. However, in light of his weak
poll showings, Barak dropped out of the race early and declared his
support for veteran statesman Shimon Peres.
After Peres lost the race to Amir Peretz and left the Labor party,
Barak announced he would stay at the party, despite his shaky
relationship with its newly elected leader. He declared, however, that
he would not run for a spot on the Labor party's Knesset list for the
March 2006 elections.
In January 2007 Barak launched a bid to recapture the leadership of
the Labor party in a letter acknowledging "mistakes" and "inexperience"
during his tenure as Prime Minister. In early March 2007, a poll of
Labor Party primary voters put Barak ahead of all other opponents,
including current leader Amir Peretz. In the first round of voting, on
28 May 2007, he gained 39% of the votes, more than his two closest
rivals, but not enough to win the election.
As a result, Barak faced a runoff against the second-place finisher,
Ami Ayalon, on June 12 2007, which he won by a narrow margin.
After winning back the leadership of the Labor party, Barak was
sworn in as Minister of Defense on June 18, 2007, as part of Prime
Minister Olmert's cabinet reshuffle. However on 1 July 2007, Barak led a
successful effort in the Labor central committee to stipulate that Labor
would leave the government coalition if Olmert did not resign by
September or October 2007. At that time the Winograd Commission would
publish its final report on the performance of the Israel Defense Forces
and its civilian leadership. The preliminary Winograd report released
earlier this year laid most of the blame on Olmert for poorly planning,
executing, and reviewing war strategies in the 2006 conflict against
During December 2008 through January 2009, Barak led (as defense
minister) Operation Cast Lead.
2009 Knesset Elections
Labor won only 13 out of the 120 Knesset seats in the 2009 Knesset
Elections, making them the fourth largest party. Barak and other Labor
Party officials initially stated they would not take part in the next
government. However, over the objections of some in the Labor party,
Barak later reached an agreement under which Labor joined the governing
coalition. Barak retained his position as Defense Minister.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ariel Sharon (help·info) (Hebrew: אריאל שרון, also known by his
diminutive Arik, אַריק) (born Ariel Scheinermann (אריאל שיינרמן) on 26
February 1928) is an Israeli general and statesman, former Israeli Prime
Minister. Sharon served as Prime Minister from March 2001 until April
2006, though he was unable to carry out his duties after suffering a
stroke on 4 January 2006, when he fell into a coma and entered a
persistent vegetative state.
During his career, Sharon was a controversial figure among many
factions, both inside and outside Israel. The Israeli government
established the Kahan Commission to investigate Sharon's involvement in
the Sabra and Shatila massacre, and subsequently found he bore personal
responsibility, specifically "for having disregarded the prospect of
acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the
population of the refugee camps and for having failed to take this
danger into account." Sharon resigned from the Defence Ministry,
but remained in the cabinet as minister without portfolio.
During his tenure as Prime Minister, Sharon's policies caused a rift
within the Likud Party, and he ultimately left Likud to form a new party
called Kadima. He became the first Prime Minister of Israel who did not
belong to either Labor or Likud (the two parties that have traditionally
dominated Israeli politics). The new party created by Sharon, with Ehud
Olmert having stepped in as its leader after Sharon fell ill in the
midst of election season, won the most Knesset seats in the 2006
elections, and became the senior coalition partner in the Israeli
government. Following the rise in 2009 of Israel's second Netanyahu
government, Kadima has now become the senior member of the loyal
opposition in the Knesset.
Prime Minister Sharon was mainly responsible, in 2004, for the
unilateral withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and the
evacuation of Jewish settlements there. These measures were welcomed in
many political and diplomatic circles around the world, but the Israeli
right wing responded with anger and perplexity.
In his military career he attained the rank of Major-General.
Sharon was born in Kfar Malal, then in the British Mandate of Palestine,
to a family of "Lithuanian Jews" - Shmuel Sheinerman, of Brest-Litovsk
(now Brest, Belarus) and Dvora (formerly Vera), of Mogilev. His father
was studying agronomy at the university of Tbilisi, Georgia (Georgian
SSR) and his mother had just started her fourth year of medical studies
when the couple married. They immigrated to the British Mandate
Palestine from Russia, fleeing the Red Army. Apart from Hebrew, Sharon's
father spoke Yiddish and his mother spoke Russian; their son also
learned to speak Russian as a young boy.
The family arrived in the Second Aliyah and settled in a socialist,
secular community where, despite being Mapai supporters, they were known
to be contrarians against the prevailing community consensus:
The Scheinermans' eventual ostracism... followed the 1933 Arlozorov
murder when Dvora and Shmuel refused to endorse the Labor movement's
anti-Revisionist calumny and participate in Bolshevic-style public
revilement rallies, then the order of the day. Retribution was quick to
come. They were expelled from the local health-fund clinic and village
synagogue. The cooperative's truck wouldn't make deliveries to their
farm nor collect produce.
Four years after their arrival at Kfar Malal, the Sheinermans had a
daughter, Yehudit (Dita), and two years after, they had a son, Ariel.
At age 10, Sharon entered the Zionist youth movement Hassadeh (“the
In 1942 at the age of 14, Sharon joined the Gadna, a paramilitary
youth battalion, and later the Haganah, the underground paramilitary
force and the Jewish military precursor to the Israel Defense Forces
From 1948 War to Suez Crisis
At the creation of Israel (and Haganah's transformation into the
Israel Defense Forces), Sharon became a platoon commander in the
Alexandroni Brigade. He was severely wounded in the groin by the
Jordanian Arab Legion in the first Battle of Latrun, an unsuccessful
attempt to relieve the besieged Jewish community of Jerusalem. His
injuries eventually healed.
In September 1949, Sharon was promoted to company commander (of the
Golani Brigade's reconnaissance unit) and in 1950 to intelligence
officer for Central Command. He then took leave to begin studies in
history and Middle Eastern culture at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem. A year and a half later, he was asked to return to active
service in the rank of major and as the leader of the new Unit 101,
Israel's first special forces unit.
Unit 101 undertook a series of military raids against Palestinians
and neighboring Arab states that helped bolster Israeli morale and
fortify its deterrent image. The unit was known for raids against Arab
civilians and military, notably in the widely condemned Qibya
massacre in the fall of 1953, in which 69 Palestinian civilians, some of
them children, were killed by Sharon's troops in a reprisal attack on
their West Bank village. In the documentary Israel and the Arabs: 50
Year War, Sharon recalls what happened after the raid, which was heavily
condemned by many Western nations, including the U.S.:
I was summoned to see Ben-Gurion. It was the first time I met him,
and right from the start Ben-Gurion said to me: "Let me first tell you
one thing: it doesn't matter what the world says about Israel, it
doesn't matter what they say about us anywhere else. The only thing that
matters is that we can exist here on the land of our forefathers. And
unless we show the Arabs that there is a high price to pay for murdering
Jews, we won't survive."
Shortly afterwards, just a few months after its founding, Unit 101
was merged with the 890 Paratroopers Battalion to create the
Paratroopers Brigade (Sharon eventually became the latter's commander).
It continued to attack military, culminating with the attack on the
Qalqilyah police station in the autumn of 1956.
In 1952-53, Sharon attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
taking History and Oriental studies.
Sharon has been widowed twice. Shortly after becoming a military
instructor, he married his first wife, Margalit, with whom he had a son,
Gur. Margalit died in a car accident in May 1962. Their son, Gur, died
in October 1967 after a friend shot him while they were playing with a
rifle. After Margalit's death, Sharon married her younger
sister, Lily. They had two sons, Omri and Gil'ad. Lily Sharon died of
cancer in 2000.
From 1958 to 1962, Sharon served as commander of an infantry brigade
and studied law at Tel Aviv University.
In the 1956 Suez War (the British "Operation Musketeer"), Sharon
commanded Unit 202 (the Paratroopers Brigade), and was responsible for
taking ground east of the Sinai's Mitla Pass and eventually taking the
pass itself. Having successfully carried out the first part of his
mission (joining a battalion parachuted near Mitla with the rest of the
brigade moving on ground), Sharon's unit was deployed near the pass.
Neither reconnaissance aircraft nor scouts reported enemy forces inside
the Mitla Pass. Sharon, whose forces were initially heading east, away
from the pass, reported to his superiors that he was increasingly
concerned with the possibility of an enemy thrust through the pass,
which could attack his brigade from the flank or the rear.
Sharon asked for permission to attack the pass several times, but his
requests were denied, though he was allowed to check its status so that
if the pass was empty, he could receive permission to take it later.
Sharon sent a small scout force, which was met with heavy fire and
became bogged down due to vehicle malfunction in the middle of the pass.
Sharon ordered the rest of his troops to attack in order to aid their
comrades. In the ensuing successful battle to capture the pass, 38
Israeli soldiers were killed.
Sharon was criticized by his superiors and he was damaged by
allegations several years later made by several former subordinates, who
claimed that Sharon tried to provoke the Egyptians and sent out the
scouts in bad faith, ensuring that a battle would ensue. Deliberate or
not, the attack was considered[who?] strategically reckless because the
Egyptian forces were expected to withdraw from the pass within a day or
Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War
The Mitla incident hindered Sharon's military career for several years.
In the meantime, he occupied the position of an infantry brigade
commander and received a law degree from Tel Aviv University. When
Yitzhak Rabin (who within a few years became associated with the Labor
Party) became Chief of Staff in 1964, however, Sharon began again to
rise rapidly in the ranks, occupying the positions of Infantry School
Commander and Head of Army Training Branch, eventually achieving the
rank of Aluf (Major General). In the 1967 Six-Day War, Sharon commanded
the most powerful armored division on the Sinai front which made a
breakthrough in the Kusseima-Abu-Ageila fortified area (see Battle of
Abu-Ageila). In 1969, he was appointed the Head of IDF's Southern
Command. He had no further promotions before retiring in August 1973.
Soon after, he joined the Likud ("Unity") political party.
At the start of the Yom Kippur War on 6 October 1973, Sharon was
called back to active duty along with his assigned reserve armored
division. His forces did not engage the Egyptian Army immediately,
despite his requests. Under cover of darkness Sharon's forces moved to a
point on the Suez Canal that had been prepared before the war. Bridging
equipment was thrown across the canal on 17 October. The bridgehead was
between two Egyptian Armies. He then headed north towards Ismailia,
intent on cutting the Egyptian second army's supply lines, but his
division was halted south of the Fresh Water Canal.
Abraham Adan's division (Bren) passed over the bridgehead into Africa
advancing to within 101 kilometers of Cairo. His division managed to
encircle Suez, cutting off and encircling the Third Army, but did not
force its surrender before the ceasefire. Tensions between the two
generals followed Sharon's decision, but a military tribunal later found
his action was militarily effective. This move was regarded by many
Israelis as the turning point of the war in the Sinai front. Thus,
Sharon is widely viewed as a war hero who saved Israel from defeat in
Sinai. A photo of Sharon wearing a head bandage on the Suez Canal became
a famous symbol of Israeli military prowess.
Sharon's aggressive political positions were controversial and he was
relieved of duty in February 1974.
Early political career
Beginnings of political career
In the 1940s and 1950s, Sharon seemed to be personally devoted to the
ideals of Mapai, the predecessor of the modern Labor Party. However,
after retiring from military service, he was instrumental in
establishing Likud in July 1973 by a merger of Herut, the Liberal Party
and independent elements. Sharon became chairman of the campaign staff
for that year's elections, which were scheduled for November. Two and a
half weeks after the start of the election campaign, the Yom Kippur War
erupted and Sharon was called back to reserve service. In the elections
Sharon won a seat, but a year later he resigned.
From June 1975 to March 1976, Sharon was a special aide to Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He planned his return to politics for the 1977
elections; first he tried to return to the Likud and replace Menachem
Begin at the head of the party. He suggested to Simha Erlich, who headed
the Liberal Party bloc in the Likud, that he was more fitting than Begin
to win an election victory; he was rejected, however. He then tried to
join the Labor Party and the centrist Democratic Movement for Change,
but was rejected by those parties too. Only then did he form his own
list, Shlomtzion, which won two Knesset seats in the subsequent
elections. Immediately after the elections he merged Shlomtzion with the
Likud and became Minister of Agriculture.
When Sharon joined Begin's government he had relatively little
political experience. During this period, Sharon supported the Gush
Emunim settlements movement and was viewed as the patron of the
settlers' movement. He used his position to encourage the establishment
of a network of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to
prevent the possibility of Palestinian Arabs' return of these
territories. Sharon doubled the number of Jewish settlements on the West
Bank and Gaza Strip during his tenure.
On his settlement policy, Sharon said while addressing a meeting of
the Tzomet party: "Everybody has to move, run and grab as many (Judean)
hilltops as they can to enlarge the (Jewish) settlements because
everything we take now will stay ours... Everything we don't grab will
go to them."
After the 1981 elections, Begin rewarded Sharon for his important
contribution to Likud's narrow win, by appointing him Minister of
Defense. On 16 January 1982 US President Ronald Reagan, in his diary,
said that Sharon was "the bad guy who seemingly looks forward to a war."
Sabra and Shatila massacre
During the 1982 Lebanon War, while Sharon was Defense Minister, the
Sabra and Shatila massacre took place,carried out between September 16
and 18, in which between 800 and 3,500 Palestinian civilians in the
refugee camps were killed by the Phalanges—Lebanese Maronite Christian
militias. The Security Chief of the Phalange militia, a Lebanese
himself, Elie Hobeika, was the ground commander of the militiamen who
entered the Palestinian camps and killed the Palestinians. The Phalange
had been sent into the camps to clear out PLO fighters while Israeli
forces surrounded the camps and provided them with some logistical
support and guarded camp exits. The incident led some of Sharon's
critics to refer to him as "the Butcher of Beirut".
An Associated Press report on 15 September 1982 stated:
Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, in a statement, tied the killing [of
the Phalangist leader Gemayel] to the PLO, saying: "It symbolises the
terrorist murderousness of the PLO terrorist organisations and their
supporters." Habib Chartouni, a Lebanese Christian from the Syrian
Socialist National Party confessed to the murder of Gemayel, and no
Palestinians were involved. Sharon had used this to instigate the
entrance of the Lebanese militias into the camps.
The Kahan Commission found the Israeli Defence Forces indirectly
responsible for the massacre and charged Sharon with "personal
responsibility." It recommended in early 1983 the removal of Sharon from
his post as Defense minister. In their recommendations and closing
remarks, the commission stated:
We have found, as has been detailed in this report, that the Minister
of Defense [Ariel Sharon] bears personal responsibility. In our opinion,
it is fitting that the Minister of Defense draw the appropriate personal
conclusions arising out of the defects revealed with regard to the
manner in which he discharged the duties of his office — and if
necessary, that the Prime Minister consider whether he should exercise
his authority under Section 21-A(a) of the Basic Law: the Government,
according to which "the Prime Minister may, after informing the Cabinet
of his intention to do so, remove a minister from office."
Sharon initially refused to resign as Defense Minister, and Prime
Minister Menachem Begin initially refused to fire him. After a grenade
was tossed into a dispersing crowd of an Israeli Peace Now march,
killing Emil Grunzweig and injuring 10 others, a compromise was reached:
Sharon agreed to forfeit the post of Defense Minister but stayed in the
cabinet as a Minister without Portfolio. Sharon's removal as Defense
Minister is listed as one of the important events of the Tenth Knesset.
In its 21 February 1983 issue, Time published a story implying Sharon
was directly responsible for the massacres. Sharon sued Time for libel
in American and Israeli courts. Although the jury concluded that the
Time story included false allegations, they found that Time had not
acted with "actual malice" and so was not guilty of libel.
On 18 June 2001 relatives of the victims of the Sabra massacre began
proceedings in Belgium to have Sharon indicted on war crimes
charges. In June 2002, a Brussels Appeals Court rejected the lawsuit
because the law was subsequently changed to disallow such lawsuits
unless a Belgian citizen is involved.
Political downturn and recovery
After his dismissal from the Defense Ministry post, Sharon remained in
successive governments as a Minister without Portfolio (1983—1984),
Minister for Trade and Industry (1984—1990), and Minister of Housing
Construction (1990—1992). In the Knesset, he was member of the Foreign
Affairs and Defence committee from (1990-1992) and Chairman of the
committee overseeing Jewish immigration from the Soviet Union. During
this period he was a rival to then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, but
failed in various bids to replace him as chairman of Likud. Their
rivalry reached a head in February 1990, when Sharon snapped the
microphone from Shamir, who was addressing the Likud central committee,
and famously exclaimed: "Who's for wiping out terrorism?" The incident
was widely viewed as an apparent coup attempt against Shamir's
leadership of the party.
In Benjamin Netanyahu's 1996–1999 government, Sharon was Minister of
National Infrastructure (1996—1998), and Foreign Minister (1998—1999).
Upon the election of the Barak Labor government, Sharon became leader of
the Likud party.
Campaign for Prime Minister, 2000-01
On 28 September 2000, Sharon and an escort of over 1,000 Israeli police
officers visited the Temple Mount complex, site of the Dome of the Rock
and al-Aqsa Mosque, the holiest place in the world to Jews and the third
holiest site in Islam. Sharon declared that the complex would remain
under perpetual Israeli control. Palestinian commentators accused Sharon
of purposely inflaming emotions with the event to provoke a violent
response and obstruct success of delicate ongoing peace talks. On the
following day, a large number of Palestinian demonstrators and an
Israeli police contingent confronted each other at the site. According
to the U.S. State Department, “Palestinians held large demonstrations
and threw stones at police in the vicinity of the Western Wall. Police
used rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition to disperse the
demonstrators, killing 4 persons and injuring about 200.” According to
the GOI, 14 policemen were injured.
Sharon's visit, a few months before his election as Prime Minister,
came after archeologists claimed that extensive building operations at
the site were destroying priceless antiquities. Sharon's supporters
point out that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian National Authority
planned the intifada months prior to Sharon's visit. They
state that Palestinian security chief Jabril Rajoub provided assurances
that if Sharon did not enter the mosques, no problems would arise. They
also often quote statements by Palestinian Authority officials,
particularly Imad Falouji, the P.A. Communications Minister, who
admitted months after Sharon's visit that the violence had been planned
in July, far in advance of Sharon's visit, stating the intifada "was
carefully planned since the return of (Palestinian President) Yasser
Arafat from Camp David negotiations rejecting the U.S. conditions".
According to the Mitchell Report,
President George W. Bush, center, discusses the Middle East peace
process with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, left, and
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Aqaba, Jordan, 4 June 2003.the
government of Israel asserted that the immediate catalyst for the
violence was the breakdown of the Camp David negotiations on 25 July
2000 and the “widespread appreciation in the international community of
Palestinian responsibility for the impasse.” In this view, Palestinian
violence was planned by the PA leadership, and was aimed at “provoking
and incurring Palestinian casualties as a means of regaining the
The Mitchell Report found that
the Sharon visit did not cause the Al-Aqsa Intifada. But it was
poorly timed and the provocative effect should have been foreseen;
indeed, it was foreseen by those who urged that the visit be prohibited.
More significant were the events that followed: The decision of the
Israeli police on 29 September to use lethal means against the
In addition, the report stated,
Accordingly, we have no basis on which to conclude that there was a
deliberate plan by the PA to initiate a campaign of violence at the
first opportunity; or to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by
the GOI to respond with lethal force.
The Or Commission, an Israeli panel of inquiry appointed to investigate
the October 2000 events,
criticised the Israeli police for being unprepared for the riots and
possibly using excessive force to disperse the mobs, resulting in the
deaths of 12 Arab Israeli, one Jewish and one Palestinian citizens.
Palestinians doubt the existence of popular support for Sharon's
actions. Polls published in the media, as well as the 140% call-up of
reservists (as opposed to the 60% in regular periods) seem to indicate
that the Israeli public is quite supportive of Sharon's policies. A
survey conducted by Tel Aviv University's Jaffe Center in May 2004 found
that 80% of Jewish Israelis believe that the Israel Defense Forces have
succeeded in militarily countering the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
President Bush serves Ariel Sharon "Israeli cookies" on his Texas
After the collapse of Barak's government, Sharon was elected Prime
Minister in February 2001.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, United States President George W.
Bush, and Ariel Sharon after reading statement to the press during the
closing moments of the Red Sea Summit in Aqaba, Jordan, 4 June 2003.
President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon meet in the White House on 14
April 2004.On 20 July 2004, Sharon called on French Jews to emigrate
from France to Israel immediately, in light of an increase in French
anti-Semitism (94 anti-Semitic assaults reported in the first six months
of 2004 compared to 47 in 2003). France has the fourth largest Jewish
population (about 600,000 people), after the United States, Israel, and
Russia. Sharon observed that an "unfettered anti-Semitism" reigned in
France. The French government responded by describing his comments as
"unacceptable", as did the French representative Jewish organization
CRIF, which denied Sharon's claim of intense anti-Semitism in French
society. An Israeli spokesperson later claimed that Sharon had been
misunderstood. France then postponed a visit by Sharon. Upon his visit,
both Sharon and French President Jacques Chirac were described as
showing a willingness to put the issue behind them.
In May 2003, Sharon endorsed the Road Map for Peace put forth by the
United States, European Union, and Russia, which opened a dialogue with
Mahmud Abbas, and announced his commitment to the creation of a
Palestinian state in the future.
He has embarked on a course of unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza
Strip, while maintaining control of its coastline and airspace. Sharon's
plan has been welcomed by both the Palestinian Authority and Israel's
left wing as a step towards a final peace settlement.
However, it has been greeted with opposition from within his own Likud
party and from other right wing Israelis, on national security,
military, and religious grounds.
Detractors of withdrawal plan
Detractors have publicly distrusted Sharon's motives for this plan, and
their suspicions were further roused after publication of an interview
with top Sharon aide Dov Weisglass in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on 8
October 2004, in which he explained Israel's motivation for withdrawing
from Gaza. He told the newspaper:
"Palestinian terrorism must end before a political process leading to
a Palestinian state begins. Otherwise, the result would be a Palestinian
state with terrorism. ... The Gaza withdrawal would allow Israel to
delay negotiations, and a Palestinian state, until such time that their
leadership abandons violence. The significance of the disengagement plan
is the freezing of the peace process, and when you freeze that process,
you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a
discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this
whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails,
has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with
authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the
ratification of both houses of Congress. The disengagement is actually
formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary
so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."
Disengagement from Gaza
On 1 December 2004, Sharon dismissed five ministers from the Shinui
party for voting against the government's 2005 budget. In January 2005
Sharon formed a national unity government that included representatives
of Likud, Labor, and Meimad and Degel HaTorah as "out-of-government"
supporters without any seats in the government (United Torah Judaism
parties usually reject having ministerial offices as a policy). Between
16 and 30 August 2005, Sharon controversially expelled 9,480 Jewish
settlers from 21 settlements in Gaza and four settlements in the
northern West Bank. Once it became clear that the evictions were
definitely going ahead a group of conservative Rabbis, led by Rabbi
Yosef Dayan, placed an ancient curse on him known as the Pulsa diNura,
calling on the Angel of Death to intervene and kill him. After Israeli
soldiers bulldozed every settlement structure except for several former
synagogues, Israeli soldiers formally left Gaza on 11 September 2005 and
closed the border fence at Kissufim. While his decision to withdraw from
Gaza sparked bitter protests from members of the Likud party and the
settler movement, opinion polls showed that it was a popular move among
most of the Israeli electorate with more than 80% of Israelis backing
the plans. On 27 September 2005, Sharon narrowly defeated a
leadership challenge by a 52-48 percent vote. The move was initiated
within the central committee of the governing Likud party by Sharon's
main rival, Binyamin Netanyahu, who had left the cabinet to protest
Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza. The measure was an attempt by Netanyahu
to call an early primary in November 2005 to choose the party's leader.
Founding of Kadima
On 21 November 2005, Sharon resigned as head of Likud, and dissolved
parliament to form a new centrist party called Kadima ("Forward").
November polls indicated that Sharon was likely to be returned to the
prime ministership. On 20 December 2005, Sharon's longtime rival
Benjamin Netanyahu was elected his successor as leader of Likud.Following Sharon's incapacitation, Ehud Olmert replaced Sharon as
Kadima's leader, for the nearing general elections. Netanyahu, along
with Labor's Amir Peretz, were Kadima's chief rivals in the March 2006
In the elections, which saw Israel's lowest-ever voter turnout of
64% (the number usually averages on the high 70%), Kadima, headed by
Olmert, received the most Knesset seats, followed by Labor. The new
governing coalition installed in May 2006 includes Kadima, with Olmert
as Prime Minister, Labor (including Peretz as Defense Minister), the Gil
(Pensioner's) Party, the Shas religious party, and Yisrael Beiteinu.
Incapacitation and end of political career
Stroke of December 2005
On 18 December 2005 Sharon was sent to Hadassah Medical Center after
suffering a mild stroke, specifically a relatively unusual type called a
paradoxical embolism, in which a clot from the venous circulation
crosses over into the arterial circulation through a hole between the
right and left atrium called an atrial septal defect (or a patent
foramen ovale) and goes to the brain, causing a transient speech and
Sharon often joked about his own weight; in October 2004 when asked
why he did not wear a ballistic vest despite frequent death threats,
Sharon smiled and replied, "There is none that fits my size". While
this obesity in itself would not necessarily lead to a stroke, the
associated conditions, such as high cholesterol, could.
On his way to the hospital he lost consciousness but regained it
shortly thereafter. He reportedly wanted to leave the hospital the
evening after his arrival but the hospital wanted him to stay another
day. He spent two days in the hospital and was to have had the small
hole in his heart repaired by a cardiac catheterization procedure in
Stroke of January 2006
On 4 January 2006, in the evening before his catheterization, Sharon
suffered a second, far more serious stroke at his Sycamore Ranch in the
Negev region. A "massive cerebral haemorrhage" led to bleeding in his
brain which doctors eventually brought under control the following
morning after performing two separate operations. After the first
operation, lasting seven hours, Hadassah Director Shlomo Mor-Yosef
reported Sharon's bleeding had stopped and his brain was functioning
without artificial support. After a second, 14-hour surgery, Sharon
was placed on a ventilator and some reports suggested that he was
suffering from paralysis in his lower body, while others said he was
still fighting for his life. He was placed in an induced coma and his
Prime Ministerial duties were handed over to his deputy, Ehud Olmert. On
Friday, 6 January, Sharon was brought back into the operating theatre
after doctors reviewed the results of a brain scan. Hospital officials
declined to comment on these reports.
On the night of Sharon's stroke, in the wake of his serious illness
and following consultations between Government Secretary Israel Maimon
and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, Sharon was declared "temporarily
incapable of discharging his powers." As a result, Ehud Olmert, the
Deputy Prime Minister, was officially confirmed as the Acting Prime
Minister of Israel. Olmert and the Cabinet announced that the elections
would take place on 28 March as scheduled.
On 9 January, Haaretz reported that while performing tests on Sharon
while treating his second stroke, doctors had discovered he was
suffering from undiagnosed cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA), a brain
disorder which, in conjunction with blood thinners prescribed after his
first stroke, greatly increased his risk of cerebral hemorrhage.
Although some have insinuated that this news represents a failure on
Hadassah's part to provide adequate care for Sharon, CAA can be very
difficult to accurately diagnose, and is often only discovered after an
individual suffers a brain hemorrhage. The following day, newspapers
reported that Sharon's CAA had actually been diagnosed following his
first stroke in December. This was confirmed by hospital director
Mor-Yosef who commented that "Hadassah physicians were aware of the
brain diagnosis, and no new diagnosis has been made during the current
hospitalization." Mor-Yosef declined to respond to criticism of the
combination of blood thinners and a CAA diagnosis, though Haaretz quoted
some doctors as saying the medication led to the second stroke and that
it would never have been given if doctors had known about his brain
Sharon underwent subsequent surgeries the following month. On 11
February 2006, doctors performed emergency surgery to remove 50-cm of
his large intestine that had become necrotic, probably because of a
blood clot. On 22 February, he underwent an additional procedure to
drain excess fluid from his stomach, discovered during a routine CT
Several commentators have noted that Sharon's care was
potentially flawed. Most seriously, after his second stroke, Sharon was
transported by ground ambulance to the hospital, a trip that took
approximately one hour. Helicopter transport was not used. Also, other
commentators have said that the dose of blood thinner given to Sharon
was potentially problematic for someone who had recently suffered a
Replacement by Ehud Olmert
According to Israeli law, an Acting Prime Minister can remain in office
100 days after the Prime Minister has become incapacitated. After 100
days, the Israeli President must appoint a new Prime Minister. At the
time of his stroke, Sharon enjoyed considerable support from the general
public in Israel. The new centrist political party that he founded, Kadima, won the largest number of seats in the Knesset elections held on
28 March 2006. (Since Sharon was unable to sign a nomination form, he
was not a candidate and therefore ceased to be a Knesset member.)
On 6 April, President of Israel Moshe Katsav formally asked Ehud
Olmert to form a government, making him Prime Minister-Designate. Olmert
had an initial period of 28 days to form a governing coalition, with a
possible two-week extension. On 11 April 2006, the Israeli Cabinet
deemed that Sharon was incapacitated. Although Sharon's replacement was
to be named within 100 days of his becoming incapacitated, the
replacement deadline was extended due to the Jewish festival of
Passover. A provision was made that, should Sharon's condition
improve between 11 April and 14 April, the declaration would not take
effect. Therefore, the official declaration took effect on 14 April,
formally ending Sharon's term as Prime Minister and making Ehud Olmert
the country's new Prime Minister.
On 28 May 2006, Sharon was transferred from the hospital in Jerusalem to
a long-term care unit of the Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer, a
large civilian and military hospital. Ha'aretz reported that this move
was an indication that Sharon's doctors did not expect him to emerge
from his coma in the foreseeable future. Dr. Yuli Krieger, a physician
not involved in Sharon's case, told Israel Radio that the chances of
waking up after such a lengthy coma were small. "Every day that passes
after this kind of event with the patient still unconscious the chances
that he will gain consciousness get smaller," said Krieger, Deputy Head
of Levinstein House, another long-term care facility.
On 23 July 2006, CNN reported that Sharon's condition was
deteriorating and his kidney function was worsening. On 26 July 2006
doctors moved him to intensive care and began hemofiltration. On 14
August 2006 doctors reported that Sharon's condition worsened
significantly and that he was suffering from pneumonia in both lungs. On
29 August, doctors reported that he had been successfully treated for
his pneumonia and moved out of intensive care back to the long-term care
On 3 November 2006, it was reported that Sharon had been admitted to
intensive care after contracting an infection, though doctors insisted
that his condition was 'stable'. He was moved out of the intensive
care unit on 6 November 2006 after treatment for a heart infection.
Doctors stated that "his heart function has improved after being treated
for an infection and his overall condition has stabilised".
In 2006, there were reports that Austrian and Israeli police were
investigating Martin Schlaff and Robert Nowikovsky of illicit payments
Sharon has remained in a long-term care centre since 6 November 2006.
Medical experts have indicated that Sharon's cognitive abilities were
destroyed by the massive stroke, and that he is in a persistent
vegetative state with slim chances of regaining consciousness.
On 13 April 2007, it was reported that Sharon's condition had
slightly improved and that according to his son, Omri, he was marginally
responsive. On 27 October 2009 his doctor reported that he is still
comatose but in a stable condition.
prime minister of Israel
born Sept. 30, 1945, near Binyamina, Palestine [now in Israel]
Israeli politician who served as mayor of Jerusalem (1993–2003) and as
prime minister of Israel (2006–09).
Olmert’s parents were members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, a militant Jewish
group that fought for the establishment of Israel. In the mid-1950s and
early ’60s, Olmert’s father, Mordechai, served in Israel’s Knesset
(parliament) as a member of the Herut Party, a political outgrowth of
the Irgun and a precursor of the Likud.
Olmert attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he received
both bachelor’s (1968) and law (1973) degrees. In 1973 he became
Israel’s youngest Knesset member, elected as a part of the right-wing
Likud led by Menachem Begin. In the Knesset Olmert established a
reputation for fighting organized crime and corruption in sports. He
rose within Likud, particularly after 1983, when Yitzḥak Shamir replaced
Begin as party leader and prime minister. In 1988 Olmert was appointed
minister without portfolio and was responsible for relations with
Israeli Arabs; in 1990 he became minister of health.
In 1993 Olmert left national politics and was elected mayor of
Jerusalem, defeating six-time incumbent Teddy Kollek; he was reelected
in 1998. In 2003 Olmert was recalled to national politics by Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon, who appointed him vice prime minister and
minister of trade and industry. Olmert became one of Sharon’s closest
political advisers and was a chief architect of Sharon’s policy of
withdrawing from some of the Israeli-held territory in the Gaza Strip
and West Bank and forcibly removing Jewish settlers there.
In January 2006, after Sharon was debilitated by a massive stroke,
Olmert became acting prime minister. In March 2006 he led to victory
Kadima—the centrist party Sharon had established in 2005 by breaking
away from the Likud—and was subsequently confirmed as prime minister
after forming a coalition government. Olmert promised to continue
Sharon’s policies of disengagement from Israeli-occupied areas and of
setting permanent borders between Israel and the Palestinians by 2010.
However, Ḥamās’s unexpected victory in the Palestinian elections in 2006
and its takeover of the Gaza Strip the following year brought a new
uncertainty to Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Following the abduction of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah in July
2006, Olmert initiated a massive military operation into southern
Lebanon in an effort to secure the soldiers’ release and deliver a
decisive blow to the Shīʿite militant group based there. The
inconclusive 34-day war—in which Israel failed to free its soldiers or
eradicate Hezbollah and in which more than 1,000 Lebanese and more than
150 Israelis were killed—drew both domestic and international reproach.
Although the final report issued in January 2008 by the Winograd
Commission (a body of inquiry convened to investigate the conduct of the
July 2006 campaign) was highly critical of the upper echelons of Israeli
political and military leadership, its appraisal of Olmert in particular
was not as harsh as some had anticipated.
Olmert’s weakened public standing was further damaged by allegations
of corruption, the most high-profile of which alleged that he had
accepted large sums of money from an American businessman before his
tenure as prime minister. In the course of the subsequent inquiry,
Olmert argued that the contributions were used to legally finance his
election campaign, but he pledged to step down if charged. Calls for his
resignation mounted as the inquiry progressed, and in July 2008 Olmert
announced that he would step down after party elections scheduled for
the fall of that year. In the September election, one of Olmert’s
rivals, Tzipi Livni, emerged as the leader of Kadima; as promised,
Olmert formally resigned, although he remained leader of an interim
government until a new prime minister could be selected. He was
succeeded by Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud on March 31, 2009, and, after a
lengthy investigation, in August of that year Olmert was formally
indicted on three counts of corruption.
prime minister of Israel
Benjamin also spelled Binyamin, byname Bibi
born October 21, 1949, Tel Aviv [now Tel Aviv–Yafo], Israel
Israeli politician and diplomat, who twice served as his country’s prime
minister (1996–99 and 2009– ).
In 1963 Netanyahu, the son of the historian Benzion Netanyahu, moved
with his family to Philadelphia in the United States. After enlisting in
the Israeli military in 1967, he became a soldier in the elite special
operations unit Sayeret Matcal and was on the team that rescued a
hijacked jet plane at the Tel Aviv airport in 1972. He later studied at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.B.A., 1976), taking time
out to fight in the Yom Kippur War in Israel in 1973. After his brother
Jonathan died while leading the successful Entebbe raid in 1976,
Benjamin founded the Jonathan Institute, which sponsored conferences on
Netanyahu held several ambassadorship positions before being elected
to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) as a Likud member in 1988. He served
as deputy minister of foreign affairs (1988–91) and then as a deputy
minister in Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s coalition cabinet (1991–92).
In 1993 he easily won election as the leader of the Likud party,
succeeding Yitzhak Shamir in that post. Netanyahu became noted for his
opposition to the 1993 Israel-PLO peace accords and the resulting
Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The governing Labour Party entered the 1996 elections with weakened
electoral appeal following Rabin’s assassination in November 1995 and a
series of suicide bombings by Muslim militants early in 1996. Netanyahu
eked out a victory margin of about 1 percent over Prime Minister Shimon
Peres in the elections of May 29, 1996, the first in which the prime
minister was directly elected. Netanyahu became the youngest person ever
to serve as Israel’s prime minister when he formed a government on June
Unrest dominated Netanyahu’s first prime ministership. Soon after he
entered office, relations with Syria deteriorated, and his decision in
September 1996 to open an ancient tunnel near Al-Aqsa Mosque angered
Palestinians and sparked intense fighting. Netanyahu then reversed his
earlier opposition to the 1993 peace accords and in 1997 agreed to
withdraw troops from most of the West Bank town of Hebron. Pressure from
within his coalition, however, led Netanyahu to announce his intention
to establish a new Jewish settlement on land claimed by the
Palestinians. He also significantly lowered the amount of land that
would be handed over to the Palestinians during Israel’s next phase of
withdrawal from the West Bank. Violent protests, including a series of
bombings, ensued. In 1998 Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yāsir ʿArafāt
participated in peace talks that resulted in the Wye Memorandum, the
terms of which included placing as much as 40 percent of the West Bank
under Palestinian control. The agreement was opposed by right-wing
groups in Israel, and several factions in Netanyahu’s government
coalition quit. In 1998 the Knesset dissolved the government, and new
elections were scheduled for May 1999.
Netanyahu’s reelection campaign was hindered by a fragmented right
wing as well as by voters’ growing dislike of his inconsistent peace
policies and his often abrasive style. In addition, a series of scandals
had plagued his administration, including his appointment in 1997 of
Roni Bar-On, a Likud party functionary, as attorney general. Allegations
that Bar-On would arrange a plea bargain for a Netanyahu ally who had
been charged with fraud and bribery led to a series of confidence votes
in the Knesset. With his core political support undermined, Netanyahu
was easily defeated by Ehud Barak, leader of the Labour Party, in the
Netanyahu was succeeded as head of Likud in 1999 by Ariel Sharon but
remained a popular figure in the party. When early elections were called
in 2001, Netanyahu, who had resigned his seat in the Knesset and thus
was ineligible to run for prime minister, unsuccessfully challenged
Sharon for leadership of the party. In Sharon’s government, Netanyahu
served as foreign minister (2002–03) and finance minister (2003–05). In
2005 Sharon left Likud and formed a centrist party, Kadima; Netanyahu
was subsequently elected leader of Likud and was the party’s
unsuccessful prime ministerial candidate for the 2006 Knesset elections
in which Likud secured only 12 seats to Kadima’s 29.
The election of February 2009 saw sizable Likud gains as Netanyahu
led the party to 27 Knesset seats, finishing a single seat behind Kadima,
led by Tzipi Livni. Because of the close and inconclusive nature of the
results, however, it was not immediately clear which party’s leader
would be invited to form a coalition government. Through the course of
coalition discussions in the days that followed, Netanyahu gathered the
support of Yisrael Beiteinu (15 seats), Shas (11 seats), and a number of
smaller parties, and he was asked by Israel’s president to form the
government, which was sworn in on March 31, 2009.
List of presidents of the State of Israel
17 May 1948
9 November 1952
8 December 1952
23 April 1963
21 May 1963
24 May 1973
24 May 1973
19 April 1978
19 April 1978
5 May 1983
5 May 1983
13 May 1993
13 May 1993
13 July 2000
1 August 2000
1 July 2007
15 July 2007
Ben-Gurion preceded Weizmann as Chairman of
Provisional State Council, a position which he held
from 14-17 May 1948. Weizmann's position remained as
Chairman of Provisional State Council until 17
February 1949, when he was declared President by the
first Knesset. Upon Weizmann's death on 9
Yosef Sprinzak took over as acting president
until the appointment of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.
2 Upon Ben-Zvi's
death on 23 April 1963, Knesset speaker
Kadish Luz took over as acting president until
the appointment of Zalman Shazar.
3 After Weizman
resigned from the Presidency, Knesset speaker
Avraham Burg took over as acting president until
the appointment of Moshe Katsav.
4 After Katsav
began a leave of absence due to police
investigations on 25 January 2007, Knesset speaker
Dalia Itzik took over as acting President. She
continued in this role after Katsav's resignation
came into effect on 1 July 2007 until Shimon Peres'
inauguration on 15 July.
Chaim Azriel Weizmann
Israeli president and scientist
in full Chaim Azriel Weizmann
born Nov. 27, 1874, Motol, Pol., Russian Empire [now in Belarus]
died Nov. 9, 1952, Reḥovot, Israel
first president of the new nation of Israel (1949–52), who was for
decades the guiding spirit behind the World Zionist Organization.
Early life and education.
Chaim Azriel Weizmann was born of humble parents in November 1874,
in Motol, a backwater hamlet in the western Russian empire, the third of
15 children of Ezer Weizmann, a lumber transporter. Motol lay close to
dense forests, surroundings that instilled in the boy a love of trees
that was to persist the rest of his life. He spent adolescent summers
riding his father’s log rafts downriver to Baltic ports.
Despite slender means, the parents arranged for their offspring to
receive the benefits of advanced education after strict Jewish orthodox
schooling in childhood. All except one of the children ultimately became
scientists, physicians, dentists, engineers, and pedagogues. Chaim
himself, on reaching 11, was sent to the secondary school in nearby
Pinsk, where his unusual scientific aptitude was encouraged by a
discerning science master.
Upon matriculating (1891), the young student, irked by university
quotas restricting Jewish admissions, left Russia to study chemistry in
Germany and Switzerland, eking out small remittances from home by
teaching science and Russian. After obtaining the Ph.D. magna cum laude
at Fribourg, Switz. (1900), Weizmann taught chemistry at Geneva
University and concurrently engaged in organic chemistry research,
concentrating on dyestuffs and aromatics. By selling several patented
discoveries in the late 1890s, he mitigated his chronic financial
straits and was able to help his younger brothers and sisters through
college. In 1900 he met Vera Chatzman, a medical student, in Geneva, and
six years later they married; they had two sons.
Weizmann settled in England in 1904 upon taking up a science
appointment at the University of Manchester. During World War I he gave
valuable assistance to the British munitions industry, then (1916) in
dire need of acetone (a vital ingredient of cordite), by devising a
process to extract the solvent from maize. This achievement signally
aided the Zionist political negotiations he was then conducting with the
Although he gained international renown as a chemist, it was as a
politician that he was most eminent. As a youth he imbibed Jewish
nationalist culture and ideals (as distinct from traditional pietistic
knowledge) under his father’s influence. At the age of 11 he wrote a
letter in Hebrew to his Hebrew teacher in Motol urging with boyish
fervour that the Jewish people must return to Zion.
Early political involvement.
Throughout his student and teaching years he assumed increasing
dominance as a Zionist politician. He initially gained prominence as the
leader of the “Young Zionist” opposition to Theodor Herzl, the founder
of modern Zionism, especially in the “Uganda dispute,” which erupted in
1903–05 over a British proposal for Jewish agricultural settlement in
East Africa. Elected to the General Council (Actions Committee) in 1905,
he played only a secondary role in the movement until 1914. Then, during
the early years of the war he took an important part in the negotiations
that led up to the government’s Balfour Declaration (November 1917)
favouring the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine.
While in Jerusalem he travelled to ʿAqaba, southern Transjordan (June
1918), where he met Amīr Fayṣal of Hejaz (later first king of Iraq) to
discuss Jewish–Arab cooperation. They met again and reached written
agreement during the Versailles peace conference (July 1919). As an
observer, Weizmann attended the San Remo conference of Allied Powers
(1920), which confirmed the Balfour Declaration and awarded the
Palestine Mandate to Great Britain. The same year, Weizmann, who had
been president of the English Zionist Federation from 1917, became head
of the World Zionist Organization. From 1921 onward he travelled the
world tirelessly, preaching Zionist ideology and appealing for funds at
Weizmann’s skill as a negotiator was severely tested during the
1920s. Great Britain, confronted by the mounting problems and civil
disorders stemming from nascent Arab nationalism, gradually retreated
from its commitment to foster a Jewish national home. A dauntless
protagonist, Weizmann nevertheless plunged into the ceaseless imbroglios
of British policy vacillations, Arab and Jewish revolts, and Zionist
internecine feuds and conflicts that were commingled with opposition to
himself by adversaries.
Conflict with Zionist extremists.
Eventually, Weizmann’s doctrines of caution antagonized extremist
politicians. Exasperated by counsels of gradualism, some Zionists
accused him of undue amenability toward Britain in his political
thinking and performance—a characteristic they averred he owed to the
genteel influences of the upper English society in which he moved. His
control over the world nationalist movement was challenged after Britain
announced policy changes unfavourable to Zionist work in Palestine. He
therefore resigned in pique in 1930 but was prevailed upon to remain in
office. At the 1931 congress, however, he was subjected to a vote of
nonconfidence and was not reelected president of the Zionist
Organization and Jewish Agency, the expanded body of which he had been
the main architect in 1929.
Weizmann turned again to science, founding the Daniel Sieff Research
Institute at Reḥovot, Palestine (1934), with the help of friends in
England. Earlier, he had toured South Africa (1931) and played a leading
part in public efforts to save German Jewry and its property after the
advent of the Nazis (1933).
Back in office by election (1935), Weizmann supported the
recommendation of a British royal inquiry commission (1937) to divide
Palestine into Jewish and Arab areas, arguing that “half a loaf was
better than none.” Opponents furiously challenged this expedience as
pusillanimity and craven submission to British interests, though in the
end the commission’s plan failed because of Arab rather than Jewish
Weizmann’s unflagging insistence during World War II brought about
the formation of the Jewish Brigade Group in the British army. The Sieff
Research Institute under his direction also aided the Allied military
effort by providing essential pharmaceuticals, and Weizmann conferred
with the United States and British governments on methods of producing
synthetic rubber. His younger son, Michael, was killed in 1942 while
serving as an officer in the Royal Air Force.
Zionist antagonists revived allegations of Weizmann’s pro-British
prejudice after he had denounced (1945) on moral grounds the violent
campaign waged by Jewish dissident groups against British forces in
Palestine. He again lost the world Zionist presidency (1946) and never
returned to the official leadership. Nevertheless, Jewish people as a
whole continued to revere him.
President of Israel.
Early in 1948, though divested of formal office, he was sent to
Washington by the Zionist leadership for crucial talks with Pres. Harry
Truman. Weizmann persuaded the United States administration both to drop
its trusteeship plan for Palestine—a plan that would have jeopardized
founding the State of Israel—and to forego its proposal to exclude
Palestine’s southern province (Negev) from Israel. His intervention also
led to American recognition of the newly proclaimed state (May 14) and
the grant of a $100,000,000 loan. That September Weizmann became
president of the Provisional State Council and the following February
was elected president of the State of Israel.
Worn out by sorrow and arduous political strife and afflicted by
frail health and failing sight, he nevertheless maintained a brave front
in postwar years. He died in November 1952, after a long illness. He was
given a state burial on his estate at Reḥovot. More than 250,000 people
filed by the catafalque. The simple, unadorned grave is visited by
hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
Julian Louis Meltzer
president of Israel
original name Isaac Shimshelevich
born Nov. 24, 1884, Poltava, Ukraine
died April 23, 1963, Jerusalem [Israel]
second president of Israel (1952–63) and an early Zionist leader in
Palestine, who helped create the political, economic, and military
institutions basic to the formation of the state of Israel.
A Zionist from his youth, Ben-Zvi in 1905 helped form the Russian Poale
Zion, a socialistically oriented Zionist group that set an important
ideological precedent for later institutions in Palestine and elsewhere
and led to the formation of the Poale Zion World Federation in 1907. He
settled in Palestine and in 1908 helped found ha-Shomer, a self-defense
organization for Jewish agricultural settlements. In 1909 he founded in
Jerusalem the first Hebrew high school in Palestine.
Exiled from Palestine in 1915 by the Turks, Ben-Zvi traveled to the
United States, where with David Ben-Gurion, later prime minister of
Israel, he founded Heḥalutz, a Zionist pioneer youth organization, and
the Jewish Legion to fight alongside the British against the Germans and
Turks in Palestine during World War I. He returned with the legion to
Palestine in 1918 and two years later helped create the Histadrut, the
General Federation of Labour, which became the dominant labour
organization in Israel. He served as a member of Histadrut’s secretariat
from 1920 to 1929, when he and Ben-Gurion founded the Mapai Party, which
became the leading political force in the country. One of the creators
of Vaʿad Leʿumi, the Jewish National Council representing 90 percent of
the Jewish community during the British mandate in Palestine (1920–48),
Ben-Zvi served as the council’s chairman from 1931 to 1944 and as its
president from 1944 to 1949.
Ben-Zvi signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948,
and was elected to the Knesset the following year. He became president
of Israel in 1952, a position he held until his death. Also a noted
scholar of Middle Eastern history and archaeology, he founded the
Institute for Research of Jewish Middle Eastern Communities (now the
Ben-Zvi Institute) in 1948 and directed it until 1960. He wrote a
history of the Jews, The Exiled and the Redeemed (1958).
president of Israel
original name Shneur Zalman Rubashev
born October 6, 1889, Mir, Belarus, Russian Empire [now Belarus]
died October 5, 1974, Jerusalem
Israeli journalist, scholar, and politician who was the third president
of Israel (1963–73).
Shazar early became involved in the Zionist movement while a youth in
Belarus. In 1905 he joined Po’alei Zion, a Zionist workers’ party, and
was briefly imprisoned by tsarist authorities for his activities. In
1907 Shazar moved to Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania) and embarked on a
career in journalism, writing for Yiddish newspapers in Russia and the
United States. In 1912 he settled in Germany, where he studied history
and philosophy at the Universities of Freiburg, Strasburg, and Berlin.
Shazar first visited Palestine in 1911, returning there in 1920 as a
member of the World Labour Zionist delegation. He settled in Tel Aviv–Yafo
in 1924 and the following year helped found Davar, the daily newspaper
published by the Labour Zionist movement; he served as its editor from
1938 to 1948. In 1949 he was appointed minister of education in
independent Israel’s first government, resigning in 1950 to join the
Jewish Agency executive. On May 21, 1963, the Knesset (parliament)
elected him president to succeed Itzhak Ben-Zvi. He was reelected in
1968 and resigned in May 1973. Shazar was also a prolific writer, and
his published works included poetry, biographies, and autobiographical
president of Israel
original name Ephraim Katchalski
born May 16, 1916, Kiev, Ukraine, Russian Empire [now in Ukraine]
died May 30, 2009, Reḥovot, Israel
Russian-born scientist and politician who was the fourth president of
Katzir moved with his family to Palestine when he was nine years old.
After graduating from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he became an
assistant in the university’s department of theoretical and
macromolecular chemistry (1941–45). During this period he was also a
research fellow at Columbia University in the United States and was
active in the preindependence Jewish underground army, Haganah, to which
he became scientific adviser. In 1949 he was appointed acting head of
the department of biophysics in the Weizmann Institute of Science at
Reḥovot, later becoming its director. A recognized authority on
proteins, he was the first Israeli elected to the U.S. National Academy
of Sciences (1966). From 1966 to 1968 he was chief scientific adviser to
the Israeli Ministry of Defense.
Katzir was a member of the ruling Labour Party, and in 1973 he was
elected president of Israel in a secret ballot of the Knesset
(parliament). Although he had held no political office before, and
despite the fact that his presidency bestowed no executive power, he did
not remain silent on affairs of state. He attempted to close the wide
gap that existed in education and social welfare between Sephardic and
Oriental Jews and Ashkenazic Jews and to promote understanding between
Israeli Jews and their Arab neighbours. After leaving office in 1978,
Katzir returned to teaching and scientific research. In 2008 his
autobiography, Sipur ḥayim (“A Life’s Tale”), was published
Yitzhak Navon (Hebrew: יצחק נבון, born 9 April 1921) is an Israeli
politician, diplomat and author. He was the fifth President of Israel,
as well as the first born in the future territory of the State, then the
British Mandate of Palestine. The previous four Presidents were all born
in the Russian Empire. He was the first Sephardi Jew to be elected to
Born in Jerusalem, Navon is a multilingual descendant of a Sephardi
family of rabbis. On his father's side, he is descended from Spanish
Jews who settled in Turkey after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in
1492. The family (Baruch Mizrahi family or Al Mashraki) moved to
Jerusalem in 1670. On his mother's side, he is descended from the
renowned kabbalist Haim Ben Attar. The Ben-Atar family came from Morocco
to Jerusalem in 1884. Navon studied Hebrew literature and Islamic
studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After serving in the
Haganah in Jerusalem, he was sent by the Israeli foreign service to
Uruguay and Argentina. Navon's wife Ofira, who was considerably younger
than him, died of cancer. They had two children. His family later
expanded and became spread around different countries including romania
israel and a little of iran.
In 1978, Navon was elected fifth President of Israel. He was the first
president with small children to move into Beit HaNassi, the
presidential residence in Jerusalem. His wife, Ofira, was active in
promoting the welfare of Israeli children.
Although the Israeli presidency is a ceremonial office, Navon was an
outspoken advocate of a judicial commission of inquiry to probe Israel's
role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre perpetrated by Lebanese
Falangists in 1982.
In 1983, Navon turned down the opportunity to run for a second term
of office. Instead he returned to politics, the first and only Israeli
ex-president to do so. When the polls showed that Navon was more popular
than Labor chairman Shimon Peres, Peres was pressured to step aside and
allow Navon to take over the party leadership. Navon's fluency in the
Arabic language made him especially popular among Arab and Mizrahi
voters. But Navon did not accept the chairmanship. In 1984, he was
elected to the Knesset and served as minister of education and culture
from 1984 to 1990. He remained in the Knesset until 1992, after which he
president of Israel
born September 17, 1918, Belfast, Ireland [now in Northern Ireland]
died April 17, 1997, Tel Aviv–Yafo, Israel
Irish-born Israeli politician, soldier, lawyer, and author. He was an
eloquent and passionate spokesman for the Zionist cause and was
instrumental in the development of Israel, both as a soldier and as the
country’s longest-serving president (1983–93).
The son of Rabbi Isaac Halevi Herzog, Chaim grew up in Dublin before
immigrating with his family to Palestine in 1935. The following year he
joined the Haganah, the pre-Israel Jewish defense forces. Herzog later
returned to Britain, studying law at the University of London, and
served in the British army during World War II. In 1947 he rejoined the
Haganah, and with the formation of Israel in 1948, Herzog fought against
neighbouring Arab countries in the first Arab-Israeli war and was named
head of the country’s military intelligence, a position he held until
1950 and again from 1959 to 1962. He rose to the rank of major general
before retiring from the army in 1962 to practice law and pursue
business ventures. With a series of radio broadcasts during the
Arab-Israeli Six-Day War (1967), Herzog became one of the country’s
foremost political and military commentators, and he was appointed the
first military governor of the West Bank after its capture during that
conflict. As ambassador to the United Nations (1975–78), he drew
international attention for his passionate, though unsuccessful,
campaign to defeat the resolution that equated Zionism with racism.
In 1981, as a member of the Israel Labour Party, Herzog was elected
to the Knesset (parliament). Two years later he was nominated for
president, a largely ceremonial post. Although the rival Likud Party
controlled the Knesset, Herzog’s widespread popularity led to his narrow
victory. Once in office, he increased the role of the president. Herzog
traveled abroad and spoke before numerous foreign governments, improving
Israel’s international image. He stressed tolerance, supporting greater
rights for the Druze and other Arabs, and was an outspoken critic of the
country’s electoral system. In 1988 he ran unopposed in his bid for
reelection, winning a second term, the maximum allowed under Israeli
law. A noted author, Herzog wrote extensively on Israeli history. His
autobiography, Living History: A Memoir, was published in 1996.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ezer Weizman (help·info) (Hebrew: עזר ויצמן, born 15 June 1924,
died 24 April 2005) was the seventh President of Israel, first elected
in 1993 and re-elected in 1998. Before the presidency, Weizman was
commander of the Israeli Air Force and Minister of Defense.
Weizman was born in Tel Aviv as Ezer Weizmann on 15 June 1924.
His father, Yechiel, was an agronomist. He grew up in Haifa, and
attended Reali High School. He married Reuma Schwartz, and they had two
children, Shaul and Michal. Shaul was badly injured by a sniper's bullet
at the Suez Canal during the War of Attrition. In 1991, he and his wife
Rachel were killed in a car accident. Weizman's sister, Yael, died in
2006. Weizman was a nephew of Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann.
As he did not wish to be regarded as "the nephew of...", he dropped the
last n off his family name. He died of respiratory
failure at his home in Caesarea on April 24, 2005, at the age of 80. He
is not buried on Mt. Herzl, where Israeli presidents and prime ministers
are usually interred, but alongside his son and daughter-in-law in Or
Weizman was a combat pilot. He received his training in the
British Army in which he enlisted in 1942 in order to fight the Nazis.
He served as a truck driver in the Western Desert campaigns in Egypt and
Libya. In 1943, he joined the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and attended
aviation school in Rhodesia. He served with the RAF in India in early
1944. Weizman ended his service in the RAF as a sergeant pilot.
Between 1944 and 1946, he was a member of the Irgun underground in
Mandatory Palestine. Between 1946 and 1947, he studied aeronautics in
Weizman, hailed as the father of the Israeli Air Force, was a pilot
for the Haganah in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He was the commander of
the Negev Air Squadron near Nir-Am. In May 1948, he learned to fly the
Avia S-199 at the České Budějovice air base in Czechoslovakia and
participated in Israel's first fighter mission, a ground attack on an
Egyptian column advancing toward Ad Halom near the Arab town of Isdud
south of Tel Aviv. In a famous battle between Israeli and British RAF
aircraft on January 7, 1949, he flew one of four Israeli Spitfire
fighters that clashed with 14 British Spitfires and Tempests following a
reconnaissance flight from Egypt that infringed on Israel's southern
border. Three planes were shot down by the IAF.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, Weizman joined the
Israel Defense Forces and served as the Chief of Operations on the
Weizman learned to fly warplanes such as Czech versions of the
Messerschmitt and the Supermarine Spitfire.
In 1951 he attended the RAF Command and Staff College in England.
Upon his return he became commander of the first Israeli air force unit
flying Gloster Meteor jets.
He served as the commander of the Israeli Air Force between 1958 to
1966, and later served as deputy Chief of the General Staff. Major
General Weizman earned high credit for his contribution as the Chief of
Operations of the IDF in Israel's overwhelming victory over Arab forces
during the Six-Day War of June 1967. He directed the early morning
surprise air attacks against the Egyptian air bases, which resulted in
giving the Israelis almost total air superiority over the Sinai
Although he became the IDF's Deputy Chief of Staff in 1966, he
retired from military service in 1969 when he understood he would not be
appointed as Chief of Staff, the highest military position.
Anwar Sadat greets Ezer Weizman, Israeli Defense Minister
Upon retiring from the military, Weizman joined the right-wing
Gahal party. He served as Minister of Transportation in Levi Eshkol's
national unity government until Gahal left the coalition in 1970.
Weizman quit Gahal in 1972, but returned in 1976, by which time it had
become Likud. In 1977, he became Defense Minister under Menachem Begin.
During his term, Israel launched the Litani Operation against the PLO in
south Lebanon and developed the IAI Lavi fighter.
Over time, Weizman's views became more dovish. After the visit to
Jerusalem of Egypt's president Anwar Sadat in 1977, Weizman developed a
close friendship with him. These relations were a crucial factor in the
talks that culminated in the 1978 Camp David accords, followed by a
peace treaty with Egypt the following year.
In May 1980, Weizman quit the government. He considered establishing
a new party with Moshe Dayan, which led to his ousting from Likud. For
the next four years, he put politics on hold and entered the business
In 1984, he established a new party, Yachad, which won 3 seats in the
1984 elections. The party joined a national unity government in which
Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir served as prime ministers in rotation.
In October 1986, Yachad merged with the Alignment, after Mapam and Yossi
Sarid left. Between 1984 and 1990, Weizman was Minister for Arab Affairs
and then Minister of Science and Technology. In 1992, the Alignment
became the Israeli Labor Party.
Weizman was inaugurated on 13 May 1993. During his days in
office, Israel went through a trying period, as Hezbollah and Hamas
carried out terrorist attacks in cities around the country. Weizman
faithfully visited the families of soldiers killed in the line of duty
and families whose loved ones were killed or injured in terrorist
attacks. He was a frequent visitor to hospitals, to cheer up the
wounded. He was famous for his informal manner, and his outspokenness on
For the most part, the Israeli presidency is a ceremonial job.
Presidents are expected to represent the entire nation and remain
politically neutral. Weizman, unlike his predecessors, often flouted
these conventions. In 1996, in an attempt to promote the peace process,
Weizman invited Yasser Arafat for a private visit to his home in
Caesarea. In 1999, he met with the DFLP leader Nayef Hawatmeh, declaring
"I am even prepared to meet with the devil if it helps [to bring
peace]." He openly supported withdrawal from the Golan Heights in
exchange for peace with Syria, drawing criticism from the right wing
At the end of 1999, newspapers published allegations that Weizman had
accepted large sums of money from businessmen before becoming president,
without reporting this to the proper authorities. Although a decision
was reached not to prosecute him, since the statute of limitations had
expired, he was forced to resign due to public pressure. Weizman's
resignation took effect on 13 July 2000.
Moshe Katsav (Hebrew: משה קצב, Persian: موسى قصاب Mūsā Qasāb, born
5 December 1945) is a former President of Israel and member of the
The end of his term of President was marked by controversy, and from
25 January 2007 until his resignation on 1 July 2007, he was on a leave
of absence amid impending charges of crimes stemming from his alleged
rape of one female subordinate which were later dropped, but still later
resumed, as well as the sexual harassment of others.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Shimon Peres (help·info) (Hebrew: שמעון פרס, born Szymon Perski on
2 August 1923) is the ninth and current President of the State of
Israel. Peres served twice as Prime Minister of Israel and once as
Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a
political career spanning over 66 years. Peres was elected to the
Knesset in November 1959 and, except for a three-month-long hiatus in
early 2006, served continuously until 2007, when he became President. In
November 2008 he was presented with an honorary knighthood by Queen
Born in Wiszniewo, in Poland (now Belarus) in 1923, Peres moved with
his family to Mandatory Palestine in 1934. He held several diplomatic
and military positions during and directly after Israel's War of
Independence. His first high level government position was as Deputy
Director-General of Defense in 1952, and Director-General in 1953
through 1959. During his career, he has represented five political
parties in the Knesset: Mapai, Rafi, the Alignment, Labor and Kadima,
and has led Alignment and Labour. Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize
together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for the peace talks which
he participated in as Israeli Foreign Minister, producing the Oslo
Accords. Peres was nominated in early 2007 by Kadima to run in that
year's presidential election, being elected by the Knesset for the
presidency on 13 June 2007 and sworn into office as the first former
Prime Minister to be elected as President of Israel on 15 July 2007 for
a seven-year term.
Shimon Peres was born on 2 August 1923 in Wiszniewo, Poland (now
Višnieva, Belarus), to Yitzhak (1896-1962) and Sara (b. 1905 née
Meltzer) Perski. The family spoke Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian at home,
and Peres learned Polish at school. He now speaks English and French in
addition to Hebrew. His father was a lumber merchant, later branching
out into other commodities whilst his mother was a librarian. Peres has
a younger brother, Gershon.
Peres's grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Meltzer, a grandson of Rabbi Chaim
Volozhin, had a great impact on his life. In an interview, Peres said:
"As a child, I grew up in my grandfather’s home… I was educated by him…
my grandfather taught me Talmud. It was not as easy as it sounds. My
home was not an observant one. My parents were not Orthodox but I was
Haredi. At one point, I heard my parents listening to the radio on the
Sabbath and I smashed it."
In 1932, Peres' father immigrated to Palestine and settled in Tel
Aviv. The family followed him in 1934. He attended Balfour Elementary
School and High School, and Geula Gymnasium (High School for Commerce)
in Tel Aviv. At 15, he transferred to Ben Shemen agricultural school and
lived on Kibbutz Geva for several years. Peres was one of the founders
of Kibbutz Alumot. In 1941 he was elected Secretary of Hanoar Haoved
Vehalomed, a Labor Zionist youth movement, and in 1944 returned to
Alumot, where he worked as a dairy farmer, shepherd and kibbutz
David Ben-Gurion (centre) walking with Shimon Peres (left), 1969.
In 1945, Shimon Peres married Sonya (née Gelman), who has
preferred to remain outside the public eye throughout his political
career. They have three children: a daughter, Zvia Valdan, a linguist
and professor at Beit Berl Teachers Training College; and two sons, Yoni
(born 1952), director of Village Veterinary Center, a veterinary
hospital on the campus of Kfar Hayarok Agricultural School near Tel
Aviv, and Hemi, chairman of Pitango Venture Capital, one of Israel’s
largest venture capital funds. Peres has 8 grandchildren and two
great-grandchildren. Sonya Peres was unable to attend Shimon's
inauguration ceremony due to ill health. Peres is a first cousin of
actress Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perski).
Military and defense
Shimon Peres talks to Donald Rumsfeld. Israeli Ambassador to the
US David Ivry (center) joined them in the talks.In 1947, Peres joined
the Haganah, the predecessor of the Israel Defense Forces. David
Ben-Gurion made him responsible for personnel and arms purchases. In
1952, he was appointed Deputy Director General of the Ministry of
Defense, and in 1953, at the age of 29, became the youngest ever
Director General of the Ministry of Defense. He was involved in arms
purchases and establishing strategic alliances that were important for
the State of Israel. Owing to Peres' mediation, Israel acquired the
advanced Dassault Mirage III French jet fighter, established the Dimona
nuclear reactor and entered into a tri-national agreement with France
and the United Kingdom to initiate the 1956 Suez Crisis.
Shimon Peres andAriel Sharon
First steps in politics
Peres was first elected to the Knesset in the 1959 elections, as
a member of the Mapai party. He was given the role of Deputy Defense
Minister, which he fulfilled until 1965. Peres and Dayan left Mapai with
David Ben-Gurion to form a new party, Rafi which reconciled with Mapai
and joined the Alignment (a left-wing alliance) in 1968.
Political milestones in the 1970s
In 1969, Peres was appointed Minister of Immigrant Absorption and
in 1970 became Minister of Transportation and Communications. In 1974,
after a period as Information Minister, he was appointed Minister of
Defense in the Yitzhak Rabin government, having been Rabin's chief rival
for the post of Prime Minister after Golda Meir resigned in the
aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. During this time, Peres continued to
challenge Rabin for the chairmanship of the party, but in 1977, he again
lost to Rabin in the party elections.
Peres succeeded Rabin as party leader prior to the 1977 elections
when Rabin stepped down in the wake of a foreign currency scandal
involving his wife. As Rabin could not legally resign from the
transition government, he officially remained Prime Minister, while
Peres became the unofficial acting Prime Minister. Peres led the
Alignment to its first ever electoral defeat, when Likud under Menachem
Begin won sufficient seats to form a coalition that excluded the left.
After only a month on top, Peres assumed the role of opposition leader.
Political milestones in the 1980s
After turning back a comeback bid by Rabin in 1980 Peres led his
party to another, narrower, loss in the 1981 elections.
In 1984, the Alignment won more seats than any other party but failed
to muster the majority of 61 mandates needed to form a left-wing
coalition. Therefore, the Alignment and Likud agreed on an unusual
"rotation" arrangement in which Peres would serve as Prime Minister and
the Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir would be Foreign Minister .
A highlight of this time in office was a trip to Morocco to confer
with King Hassan II.
In rotation with Shamir
After two years, Peres and Shamir traded places. In 1986 he
became foreign minister. In 1988, the Alignment led by Peres suffered
another narrow defeat. He agreed to renew the coalition with the Likud,
this time conceding the premiership to Shamir for the entire term. In
the national unity government of 1988-1990, Peres served as Vice Premier
and Minister of Finance. He and the Alignment finally left the
government in 1990, after "the dirty trick" - A failed bid to form a
narrow government based on a coalition of the Alignment, small leftist
factions and ultra-orthodox parties.
Yāsir ʿArafāt (left), Shimon Peres (centre), and Yitzhak Rabin
with their Nobel Prizes for Peace, 1994.
Political milestones in the 1990s
From 1990, Peres led the opposition in the Knesset, until, in
early 1992, he was defeated in the first primary elections of the new
Israeli Labor Party (which had been formed by the consolidation of the
Alignment into a single unitary party) by Yitzhak Rabin, whom he had
replaced fifteen years earlier.
Peres remained active in politics, however, serving as Rabin's
foreign minister from 1992 and without Rabin's knowledge, began illegal
secret negotiations with Yasser Arafat's PLO organization. When Rabin
found out, he let them continue. The negotiations led to the Oslo
Accords, which would win Peres, Rabin and Arafat the Nobel Peace Prize.
After Rabin's assassination in 1995, Peres again became Prime
Minister. During his term, Peres promoted the use of the Internet in
Israel and created the first website of an Israeli prime minister.
However, he was narrowly defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu in the first
direct elections for Prime Minister in 1996.
In 1997 he did not seek re-election as Labor Party leader and was
replaced by Ehud Barak. Barak rebuffed Peres's attempt to secure the
position of party president and upon forming a government in 1999
appointed Peres to the minor post of Minister of Regional Co-operation.
Peres played little role in the Barak government.
Political milestones in the 2000s
In 2000 Peres ran for a seven-year term as Israel's President, a
ceremonial head of state position, which usually authorizes the
selection of Prime Minister. Had he won, as was expected, he would have
been the first ex-Prime Minister to be elected President. He lost
however, to Likud candidate Moshe Katsav.
Following Ehud Barak's defeat by Ariel Sharon in the 2001 direct
election for Prime Minister, Peres made yet another comeback. He led
Labor into a national unity government with Sharon's Likud and secured
the post of Foreign Minister. The formal leadership of the party passed
to Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and in 2002 to Haifa mayor, Amram Mitzna. Peres
was much criticized on the left for clinging to his position as Foreign
Minister in a government that was not seen as advancing the peace
process, despite his own dovish stance. He left office only when Labor
resigned in advance of the 2003 elections. After the party under the
leadership of Mitzna suffered a crushing defeat, Peres again emerged as
interim leader. He led the party into coalition with Sharon once more at
the end of 2004 when the latter's support of "disengagement" from Gaza
presented a diplomatic program Labor could support.
Shimon Peres with Donald RumsfeldPeres won the chairmanship of the
Labor Party in 2005, in advance of the 2006 elections. As party leader,
Peres favored pushing off the elections for as long as possible. He
claimed that an early election would jeopardize both the September 2005
Gaza withdrawal plan and the standing of the party in a national unity
government with Sharon. However, the majority pushed for an earlier
date, as younger members of the party, among them Ophir Pines-Paz and
Isaac Herzog, overtook established leaders like Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and
Haim Ramon, in the party ballot to divide up government portfolios. It
turned out that elections could not be held in June, as planned, when a
scandal erupted over possible fraud in registering party members. The
investigation of this scandal delayed elections until 9 November 2005.
Irrespective of before or after the delay, Peres continually led in
the polls, defying predictions that rivals would overtake him. His
bitter exchanges with opponents began when former Prime Minister Barak
began backing the holding of primaries early that year, as Amir Peretz
and Haim Ramon, two staunch anti-Barak Knesset members vowed to support
Peres at any cost to defeat Barak. In a bizarre change of events, Peretz
soon declared his own candidacy, a move viewed by Peres as the greatest
Though Peres continued to trade nasty barbs with Barak in the
newspapers, his feud with Peretz soon superseded that, especially when
Barak pulled out of the race in early October. One of Peretz's main
charges against Peres was that he neglected socio-economic affairs as a
member of the Sharon government, and did not fulfill his statement that
Labor had joined the coalition with only the intent of seeing through
the Gaza Withdrawal. Peres lost the leadership election with 40% to
On 30 November 2005 Peres announced that he was leaving the Labor
Party to support Ariel Sharon and his new Kadima party. In the immediate
aftermath of Sharon's debilitating stroke there was speculation that
Peres might take over as leader of the party but most senior Kadima
leaders, however, were former members of Likud and indicated their
support for Ehud Olmert as Sharon's successor.
Labor reportedly tried to woo Peres back to the fold.] Peres
announced, however, that he supported Olmert and would remain with
Kadima. Media reports suggested that Ehud Olmert offered Peres the
second slot on the Kadima list, but inferior cabinet positions to the
ones that were reportedly offered to Tzipi Livni. Peres had previously
announced his intention not to run in the March elections. Following
Kadima's win in the election, Peres was given the role of Vice Prime
Minister and Minister for the Development of the Negev, Galilee and
President of Israel
Shimon Peres in December 2007 reflecting on his legacy and
whether he will seek a second term.
Peres with Condoleezza Rice at the Presidency hall in Jerusalem in 2007
Wikinews has related news: Shimon Peres discusses the future of Israel
On 13 June 2007, Peres was elected President of the State of Israel by
the Knesset. 58 of 120 members of the Knesset voted for him in the first
round (whereas 38 voted for Reuven Rivlin, and 21 for Colette Avital).
His opponents then backed Peres in the second round and 86 members of
the Knesset voted in his favor, while 23 objected. He resigned from his
role as a Member of the Knesset the same day, having been a member since
November 1959 (except for a three month period in early 2006), the
longest serving in Israeli political history. Peres was sworn in as
President on 15 July, 2007.
Shimon Peres meeting with Barack Obama in the Oval OfficeIn November
2008 Peres received an honorary knighthood of the Order of St. Michael
and St. George from Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace in London.
Peres was at one time considered something of a hawk. He was a
protégé of Ben-Gurion and Dayan and an early supporter of the West Bank
settlers during the 1970s. However, after becoming the leader of his
party his stance evolved. More recently he has been seen as a dove, and
a strong supporter of the notion of peace through economic cooperation.
While still opposed, like all mainstream Israeli leaders in the 1970s
and early 1980s, to talks with the PLO, he distanced himself from
settlers and spoke of the need for "territorial compromise" over the
West Bank and Gaza. For a time he hoped that King Hussein of Jordan
could be Israel's Arab negotiating partner rather than Yasser Arafat.
Peres met secretly with Hussein in London in 1987 and reached a
framework agreement with him, but this was rejected by Israel's then
Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir. Shortly afterward the First Intifada
erupted, and whatever plausibility King Hussein had as a potential
Israeli partner in resolving the fate of the West Bank evaporated.
Subsequently, Peres gradually moved closer to support for talks with the
PLO, although he avoided making an outright commitment to this policy
Peres was perhaps more closely associated with the Oslo Accords than
any other Israeli politician (Rabin included) with the possible
exception of his own protégé, Yossi Beilin. He has remained an adamant
supporter of the Oslo Accords and the Palestinian Authority since their
inception despite the First Intifada and the al-Aqsa Intifada (Second
Intifada). However, Peres supported Ariel Sharon's military policy of
operating the Israeli Defence Forces to thwart suicide bombings.
Often, Peres acts as the informal "spokesman" of Israel (even when he
is in the opposition) since he earned high prestige and respect among
the international public opinion and diplomatic circles. Peres advocates
Israel's security policy (military counter terror operations and the
Israeli West Bank barrier) against international criticism and
de-legitimation efforts from pro-Palestinian circles.
Peres' foreign policy outlook is markedly realist. For example, to
placate Turkey, a Muslim country in the region with a history of being
friendly towards Israel, Peres is reported to have explicitly denied the
Armenian genocide. Calling Armenian allegations of genocide
"meaningless," Peres further stated, "We reject attempts to create a
similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing
similar to the Holocaust occurred. It is a tragedy what the Armenians
went through but not a genocide." The Israeli Foreign Ministry, in
addressing the controversy these remarks had created, later suggested
that Peres had been misquoted, and that he "absolutely did not say, as
the Turkish news agency alleged, 'What the Armenians underwent was a
tragedy, not a genocide.'"
On the issue of the nuclear program of Iran and the existential
threat this poses for Israel, Peres stated, "I am not in favor of a
military attack on Iran, but we must quickly and decisively establish a
strong, aggressive coalition of nations that will impose painful
economic sanctions on Iran." He added, "Iran's efforts to achieve
nuclear weapons should keep the entire world from sleeping soundly." In
the same speech, Peres compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
and his call to "wipe Israel off the map" to the genocidal threats to
European Jewry made by Adolf Hitler in the years prior to the Holocaust.
In an interview with Army Radio on 8 May 2006 he remarked that "the
president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the
see also: United Nations member states -