In many ways, the story of the four giants of Israeli politics—David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin—is the story of Israel’s birth, trials, tribulations, and triumphs.
Each faced major challenges in the years before Israeli independence was declared in May 1948. As prime ministers they had significant, yet completely different, roles in the formation and development of the state. And they were not always in agreement. In this four-part series, Ralph Nurnberger, a professor of international relations at Georgetown University, explores these leaders’ stories and their historical impact.
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Feb. 11 David Ben Gurion
Ben Gurion, Israel’s primary founder, bore the brunt of the early days of independence. As the country repelled military attacks from neighbors and absorbed thousands of WWII refugees, he was responsible for building the infrastructure of a new nation.
Feb. 18 Golda Meir
Meir had to deal with the attacks on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, then faced her biggest challenge one year later when Egypt and Syria simultaneously attacked the country on Yom Kippur.
Feb. 25 Menachem Begin
Begin strongly backed expansion of Israel and was ideologically opposed to territorial compromises, but sat down with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat at Camp David to cede land for peace.
Mar. 3 Yitzhak Rabin
During the first of two nonconsecutive terms as prime minister, the renowned general of the 1967 Six-Day War coordinated the raid on the Entebbe airport in Uganda in 1976. On Sept. 13, 1993, he shook hands with President Bill Clinton and PLO leader Yasser Arafat, which set the stage for negotiations—and ultimately led to his assassination in 1995.