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Menachem Begin was prime minister of Israel from 1977 to 1983. He was the co-recipient of the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize.
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Begin is perhaps best known for negotiating a Middle East peace with Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat, in the Camp David Accords brokered by President Jimmy Carter. The terms of the treaty, signed on March 26, 1979, included Israel gaining full diplomatic recognition in return for ceding the Sinai Peninsula, which it had occupied since the 1967 war, to Egypt. For this,
Begin and Sadat shared the Nobel Peace Prize for 1978.
After the 1981 general election, Begin formed another coalition government. His territorial surrender had nothing to do, however, with his firm belief that the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was out of the question. An invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, ostensibly to break the military power of the Palestine Liberation Organization there, led to the deaths of numerous Palestinian civilians. In addition, the underlying motive of his defense minister, Ariel Sharon, was to install a right-wing pro-Israeli regime in Beirut. This turned world opinion against Israel.
That, and the death of his wife in November of that year when he was on a diplomatic trip to Washington, D.C., were likely factors in Begin stepping down in October 1983.
Menachem Begin had long been suffering from diabetes and heart disease. In addition, severe depression after his wife's death and guilt over the Lebanon events led him to live quietly after leaving public office, rarely leaving his Tel Aviv apartment except to visit his wife's grave. He suffered a massive heart attack on March 3, 1992, from which he could not recover, dying on March 9. He was survived by a son, two daughters and eight grandchildren.
Begin wrote two books during his life: The Revolt, about the struggle against the British from 1944 to 1948, and White Nights: The Story of a Prisoner in Russia.
In 2005, he was ranked fourth in an Israeli news poll to determine the 200 greatest Israelis.
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When Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel died in 1896, he left his fortune to create an annual series of prizes for the individuals who confer "the greatest benefit on mankind." The most prestigious of the awards is the Nobel Peace Prize. Historians believe Alfred Nobel wanted to award people who work for peace to compensate for his own role in inventing dynamite. Since its establishment, the prize has gone to many courageous individuals who have fought for peace and human rights around the world.
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