When Menachem Begin became Prime Minister of Israel in 1977, it represented one of the biggest political comebacks in Israel’s history.
The disciple of Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, the leader of the Revisionist Zionists, Begin had in the 1940s become leader of the “Irgun Zvai Le’umi” National Military Organization (known by the initials of its Hebrew name as “Etzel”), after immigrating to Palestine from Poland. Known for his charismatic speeches, he spent the beginning of his political career as head of the opposition to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
Shortly after Ben Gurion’s retirement in 1963 — as a result of various political scandals –– Begin’s rise began. He was a minister from 1967-1970 and then elected prime minister in 1977.
His tenure is remembered for first signing the Camp David Accords and then a peace treaty with Egypt. As part of the deal with Egypt, Begin agreed to return the entire Sinai, which the Jewish State had won in the 1967 Six-Day War. He also is remembered for backing Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
He died in Jerusalem in 1993.
(Next week: Who is Yitzhak Shamir?)