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POLAND 16 Aug 2013 Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin born 100 years ago

Menachem Begin combined his skills as a soldier, lawyer and politician to become the first Likud Prime Minister of Israel a

August 16, 2013 - NULL

POLAND 16 Aug 2013 Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin born 100 years ago

Menachem Begin combined his skills as a soldier, lawyer and politician to become the first Likud Prime Minister of Israel and possibly the most intriguing revolutionary of the last century. Surviving an attack ordered by the then Israeli prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, he was branded a terrorist by the Jewish Agency and the British Army. However, he also appears in popular polls as one of the ten greatest Israelis of all time. Begin negotiated the first ever Israel peace agreement with an Arab country and won

POLAND 16 Aug 2013 Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin born 100 years ago

Menachem Begin combined his skills as a soldier, lawyer and politician to become the first Likud Prime Minister of Israel and possibly the most intriguing revolutionary of the last century. Surviving an attack ordered by the then Israeli prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, he was branded a terrorist by the Jewish Agency and the British Army. However, he also appears in popular polls as one of the ten greatest Israelis of all time. Begin negotiated the first ever Israel peace agreement with an Arab country and won a Nobel Peace Prize, an achievement few of today's Middle Eastern premiers could boast.

Born in what is today Belarus, Begin spent most of his youth in Poland where he trained as a lawyer. After a year spent as a Soviet prisoner in Siberia, Begin was conscripted into the Polish Army. Greatly influenced by the Jabotinsky-brand of Zionism, he played a central role in fighting and forcing the British out of Palestine and Palestinians out of the villages around Jerusalem. His methods were disapproved, particularly after the massacre at Deir Yassin, and he was sidelined by the mainstream Zionist leadership for decades.

Begin was nothing if not resilient and despite the setback of eight consecutive electoral defeats in the years preceding his premiership, Begin came to embody the only credible non-Socialist opposition willing to take on Israel's Ashkenazi establishment. His first significant achievement as prime minister was to negotiate the Camp David Accords with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, agreeing to return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in return for recognition of Israel, and thus became the first Israeli prime minister to establish peace with an Arab state.

However, his second term in office saw Begin promote the expansion of Jewish-only settlements in the Israeli Occupied Territories, the bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor and the invasion of southern Lebanon, which quickly escalated into full-fledged war. Remembered as a man of action, commemorations and celebrations will be held in Vitebsk in Belarus this May and June and the Begin family will unveil a statue in Brest on 16 August. (WRITTEN BY NEWSAHEAD CORRESPONDENT LAWRENCE SMALLMAN APR 2013)

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RELATED READING:

Begin biography (Nobel Prize website) http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1978/begin-bio.html

Limmud to mark Begin's 100th birthday anniversary (Jerusalem Post 13 Jan 2013) http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Limmud-to-mark-Begins-100th-birthday-anniversary

The Deir Yassin Massacre (Counterpunch 13 May 2004) http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/05/13/the-deir-yassin-massacre/

Date written/update: 2013-08-16