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Young & Kent: International Relations since 1945 2e

Menachem Begin

Menachem Begin (1913-92) was born in Poland and studied Law at the University of Warsaw. When Germany invaded Poland, he fled to Lithuania, but was arrested and held in Soviet prison camps (1940-1941). On his release he joined a Polish army formed in the USSR to fight the Nazis. By 1942 he was in Palestine, where he became a commander of the Irgun, an underground group seeking to oust the British from Palestine by force. In 1948, Begin transformed the Irgun into the Herut (Freedom) party in the Knesset. In 1952 he led the party’s protest against the reparations agreement with West Germany. On the eve of the Six Day War, he became a minister-without-portfolio in the national unity government. He left the government in 1970, however, when a majority in the government accepted the US sponsored idea of relinquishing territory for peace. In 1973, the Likud (Unity) party was formed with Begin as a leader. When Likud won the elections in 1977, Begin became Prime Minister. It was during this tenure that the peace treaty with Egypt was signed. In 1981, he was re-elected and a year later he authorised the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. In failing health and following the death of his wife, he stepped down in September 1983.