Menachem Begin

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Menachem Begin 1940
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Menachem Begin (August 16, 1913March 9, 1992) was an Israeli politician and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Before independence, he was the leader of the Zionist terrorist gang Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish terrorist 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 attacks against the British government in Palestine in the waning years of the mandate, leading the more militant faction within Zionism.

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. His 1977 electoral victory and premiership ended three decades of Labour Party political dominance.

Begin’s most significant achievement as prime minister was the signing of 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, which was captured from Egypt in the Six-Day War. Later, Begin’s government promoted the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank 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 shocked world public opinion,[1] Begin grew increasingly isolated.[2] 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.


  1. Gwertzman, Bernard. Christian Militiamen Accused of a Massacre in Beirut Camps; U.S. Says the Toll is at Least 300. The New York Times. 19 September 1982.
  2. Thompson, Ian. Primo Levi: A Life. 2004, page 436.
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