Ben-Aharon, Yitzhak

(formerly Nussbaum)
   Israel Labor Party cofounder and ideologist; early His-tadrut leader. He was born Yitzhak Nussbaum in the Suczawa district of Bokovina in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (present-day Romania). He joined Hashomer Hatzair at 14, studied political science at Berlin University, and returned home to become Hashomer leader in 1925. He immigrated to Palestine in 1928, where he became one of the founders of Kibbutz Givat Haim in 1933. In 1935, he was sent by Hehalutz to Germany to help rescue as many Jews as possible, but he was arrested and expelled by the Nazis. In 1938-39, he was secretary of Mapai. In 1940, he volunteered for service with the British army, was captured in Greece, and spent four years as a prisoner of war. Released in 1945 and demobilized from the British army, he became one of the leaders of Ahdut Haavoda and of Mapam. Ben-Aharon was a signatory of Israel's Declaration of Independence. He represented Mapam in the first and second Knessets, Ah-dut Haavoda from the third to the fifth Knessets, and Maarach (see ALIGNMENT [MAARACH]) in the seventh and eighth Knessets. From 1956 to 1962, he served as minister of transport, and from 1969 to 1973, he was secretary general of the Histadrut. As head of the Histadrut, he admitted Arab workers for the first time and lambasted Golda Meir and her government for allegedly abandoning their socialist roots. Analysts have attributed the Israel Labor Party's 1968 unification to the malaise identified in his seminal 1963 essay "The Courage to Confront the Coming Calamity." Following the Yom Kippur War (1973), Ben-Aharon called for a unilateral withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967. He retired from active politics in 1977 and was the subject of a documentary film, No Regrets, in 1991. In 1995, he was awarded the Israel Prize. In November 2005, at the age of 98, he endorsed the candidacy of Histadrut leader Amir Peretz in the Israel Labor Party leadership competition against Shimon Peres.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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