Levi Eshkol (lā´vē ĕsh´kôl), 1895–1969, Israeli statesman, third prime minister of Israel, b. Ukraine; originally named Levi Shkolnik. In World War I he served in the Jewish Legion, which supported the British forces in Palestine. A leader in the Histradrut (General Federation of Jewish Labor) and the Mapai party, he served as Israel's minister of finance from 1952 to 1963, when he became prime minister. In 1965 he was challenged from within the Mapai party by David Ben-Gurion in a dispute over government policy. The party supported Eshkol, at which time Ben-Gurion and his followers, including Moshe Dayan, split from Mapai to form the Rafi party. Just prior to the Six-Day War (June, 1967), amid pressure for a more militant posture toward the Arab countries, Eshkol expanded the base of his coalition cabinet by including two new parties, Rafi and the right-wing Gahal; Rafi was represented by Moshe Dayan, who took over the ministry of defense. Eshkol died in office in 1969.
See his state papers, ed. by H. M. Christman (1969); biography by T. C. F. Prittie (1969).