Golda Meir's resignation (and the subsequent loss of power in 1977) probably had much to do with the Yom Kippur War (1973, aka the October War), when Egypt and Syria achieved surprise. The Agranat Commission of Inquiry had much to say about the failures that lead to this, but stopped short of the country's political leadership, saying "the general public will judge [the actions of the leadership]".

Apart from being famous as a democratically elected female prime minister (this was years before Margaret Thatcher), Meir gave a new word for cabinet: "kitchen". Her closest ministers would often gather in her kitchen, to discuss matters and drink chicken broth she made.

Today in Hebrew, the select sub-group of ministers who do all the stuff is often called the kitchenette.

Golda Meir (1898 - 1978)
Foreign Minister of Israel 1956 - 1966
Israeli Prime Minister 1969 - 1974

"Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!"

Goldie Mabovitz was born in Kiev, Russia in 1898. Her father was a carpenter. Times were hard, with occasional pogroms and very little money. So in 1905 her father emigrated to the U.S. and settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His family joined him there the next year.

As a teen, Golda joined the Labor Zionist Party (Poalei Zion). She graduated from teachers' college and taught in the public schools. When she was 19, she married Morris Meyerson. In 1921 the couple moved to Palestine, where they lived for a while in a kibbutz. Although Golda was happy there, kibbutz life proved to be difficult for Morris. Also, Golda was becoming increasingly involved in political and social activities that kept her away from home. In 1924 they moved to Tel Aviv with their two young children, Sarah and Menachem. That year, Golda became an official of the Histadrut Trade Union and also served as a manager in the union's construction corporation, Solel Boneh.

In 1928, she was elected to the Women's Labor Council of Hechalutz. She served as its secretary from 1932 to 1934, working as an emissary to the United States. In 1939, still working with the Labor Movement, she attended the Zionist Congress in Geneva to help ensure protection of European Jews.

By 1946, she was separated from her husband (some sources say divorced). When the British authorities in Palestine imprisoned most of the Jewish community's senior leaders, she became head of the Jewish Agency's political department, which made her the chief Jewish liaison with the British. In that capacity, using her iron will and her grandmotherly image, she raised money (which mostly came from the United States) to help pay for the Israeli War of Independence and organized the immigration of many European Jews to Palestine.

She held this post until 1948, when she was part of the council which signed the proclamation that established the State of Israel. She became a member of the provisional government, serving as an ambassador to the Soviet Union and secretly meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan in an unsuccessful attempt to convince him not to attack the newly-formed Israel.

The next year, 1949, she was elected to the Knesset as a Mapai member. She served as Minister of Labor and National Insurance until 1956. It was a demanding position, due to social unrest and a high unemployment rate caused by the massive influx of immigrants from Europe, but she found the job rewarding.

In 1956, she changed her name from Meyerson to the more Hebrew Meir, and became Israel's Foreign Minister. In this role, she became involved with the secret planning of the Israeli-British-French attack on Egypt after the nationalization of the Suez Canal. She was also instrumental in offering Israeli aid to emerging independent countries in Africa. She held the post of Foreign Minister until 1966, after which she served for two years as the Labor Party's secretary-general.

When Prime Minister Levi Eshkol died suddenly in 1969, Meir became the first (and so far only) female Prime Minister of Israel, and the third female Prime Minister in the history of the world (after Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka and Indira Gandhi of India.

Golda Meir's term as Prime Minister was plagued by dissension within the administration over what to do with the Arab territories that Israel had taken during the Six-Day War in 1967. Meir and her Defense Minister, Moshe Dayan, favored continuing the expansion of settlements in the occupied territories. Other, more moderate, members of the administration were willing to return the Sinai to Egypt, the Golan Heights to Syria, and the West Bank to Jordan as part of a peace settlement.

In 1973, Egypt and Syria launched massive coordinated assaults on Israel. Israel was unprepared for the attacks, and a great many Israeli soldiers died. Without American aid, Israel would certainly have suffered even greater casualties in the Yom Kippur War. Disputes broke out over the blame for Israel's unpreparedness for the attacks. There were demands for new leadership, and divisions deepened within the Labor party.

Meir could not get her cabinet to reach an agreement on policies. In 1974, exhausted by the bickering and by her ill health (she had been suffering from leukemia since 1966), Meir resigned and handed over the job of Prime Minister to Itzhak Rabin.

After her resignation, Golda Meir withdrew from political and public life. She died of viral hepatitis in Jerusalem in 1978.


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