Menachem Wolfovich Begin (Hebrew: מְנַחֵם בְּגִין, polish: Mieczysław Biegun, August 16, 1913 – March 9, 1992) was an Israeli politician, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the first Likud Prime Minister of Israel. Prior to the organization's dissolution at the founding of the State of Israel, he was also head of the Zionist group Irgun.
Begin’s legacy is highly controversial and divisive. As the leader of Irgun, Begin played a central role in Jewish military resistance to the British Mandate of Palestine, but was strongly deplored and consequently sidelined by the mainstream Zionist leadership. Suffering eight consecutive defeats in the years preceding his premiership, Begin came to embody the opposition to the Ashkenazi Mapai-led Israeli establishment. His electoral victory in 1977 not only brought to an end three decades of Labor Party political hegemony, but also symbolised a new social realignment in which hitherto marginalized communities gained public recognition. However, the extent to which this symbolic change was translated into government policy remains highly debatable.
Begin’s first significant achievement as Prime Minister was to negotiate the Camp David Accords with President Sadat of Egypt, agreeing to withdraw Israel Defense Forces from the Sinai Peninsula and to return it to Egypt in 1978. In the years to follow, however, Begin’s government was to reclaim a nationalist agenda, promoting the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories.
As retaliation to attacks from the north, he authorized the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, igniting the 1982 Lebanon War. As Israeli military involvement in Lebanon deepened, and the Sabra and Shatila massacre shocked world public opinion. Begin grew increasingly isolated. losing his grip on IDF forces in Lebanon as the economy sputtered into hyperinflation. Mounting public pressure, exacerbated by the death of his wife Aliza in November 1982, increased his withdrawal from public life, until his resignation in September 1983.
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