Meir, Golda

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Meir, Golda

Golda Meir (māēr´), 1898–1978, Israeli political leader, b. Kiev, Russia, originally named Golda Mabovitch. Her family emigrated to the United States in 1906, settling in Milwaukee. She became a school teacher and early involved herself in the Zionist labor movement. In 1921 she and her husband, Morris Meyerson (the name was hebraized to Meir in 1956), emigrated to Palestine. She joined the Palestine labor movement and became (1936) head of the political department of the Histadrut (General Federation of Jewish Labor). After Israeli independence was achieved (1948), she served as minister to Moscow, minister of labor (1949–56), and foreign minister (1956–66). She became secretary-general of the Mapai party (later the Labor party) in 1966. On the death (1969) of Levi Eshkol, Meir became interim prime minister pending elections, but she retained her post after the elections were held (Oct., 1969). As prime minister she maintained a difficult coalition at home, while negotiating abroad with the hostile Arab nations and with the United States. In 1971 she managed to defeat a "no-confidence" vote in parliament engineered by opposition members on the grounds that she had made excessive concessions to Egypt in peace negotiations. Despite criticism, however, she retained tremendous personal popularity. In Oct., 1973, she rallied Israeli forces following a surprise combined Egyptian-Syrian offensive (see Arab-Israeli Wars). After the hostilities ceased, her government, particularly defense minister Moshe Dayan, was criticized for its unpreparedness. After two unsuccessful attempts to form a new coalition government, she resigned in Apr., 1974, and left office in May.

See her This Is Our Strength: Selected Papers, ed. by H. M. Christman (1962), and A Land of Our Own: An Oral Autobiography, ed. by M. Syrkin (1973); biographies by E. Agres (1969), P. Mann (1971), and R. Slater (1981).

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