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BEGIN, MENACHEM (1913-1992).

Israeli statesman, born in Russia. He received a nationalist-religious education and studied law in Warsaw. As a teenager, he became a devoted follower of Jabotinsky and an active member of the Betar, or Revisionist Zionist, youth movement. In 1939, on the eve of World War II, he was commander of Betar in Poland. In 1940, he was arrested by the Soviet secret police for his Zionist activities and sent to a Russian jail. Freed in 1942, he made his way to Palestine. A gifted orator, writer, and organizer, he became the commander of the Irgun Z’vai L’umi (IZL) in 1943, and led this underground organization in its fight against British rule. The IZL sought to sabotage British installations and speed up the termination of the British Mandate, without causing unnecessary loss of life.

After the establishment of Israel, Begin and his followers founded the Herut party (See Revisionist Zionism), a right-wing, strongly nationalist faction which he led in the Knesset for three decades. On the eve of the Six-Day War in 1967 he joined the National Unity Government as a minister without portfolio but left the cabinet in 1970 over a disagreement on foreign policy with Premier Golda Meir. In 1973, he became the leader of the Likud bloc which, led by Herut, opposed the Labor alignment. In May 1977, after almost 30 years in the opposition, Begin became Israel’s first non-socialist prime minister. He was the first Israeli chief of state to make peace with an Arab leader when he invited Egyptian President Sadat to Jerusalem in November 1977. He subsequently participated in the Camp David talks with President Carter, which led to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1983, disappointed over the outcome of the Lebanon War, he resigned as prime minister and went into retirement. Until his death in 1992, he stayed away from public life.

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