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Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of Israel
Moshe Shertok was born in what is now Kherson, Ukraine, on October 15, 1894. His famaily moved to Palestine in 1906, and to Jaffa in 1910, and was one of the founding families of what is now Tel Aviv. He was a member of the first graduating class of Herzliya Hebrew High School, the first Hebrew high school in Palestine. He began the study of law at the University of Kushta (now Istanbul University) in 1913, but his studies were interrupted by World War I, during which he served as an interpreter in the Turkish Army (he was fluent in both Arabic and Turkish). After the war he worked as an Arab affairs and land purchase agent for the Palestine Jewish Community's Representative Council. In 1920, he joined Achdut Ha'avoda (Unity of Labor), which later became Mapai (Israel Worker's Party), the leading political party in the yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine). He finished his education at the London School of Economics (1922-1924), and worked for Davar, the daily paper of the Histadrut-General Federation of Labor, from 1925 to 1931.
Sharett joined the political section of the Jewish Agency in 1931. As Head of the Political Department from 1933 to 1948, he was the chief negotiator for the yishuv with the British Palestinian (Mandatory) Authority, and in that capacity established the British Army's Jewish Brigade in 1944, which in turn helped tens of thousands of Jews illegally enter Palestine. He was subsequently one of the signatories of Israel's Declaration of Establishment in 1947.
Israel gained its independence in 1949, and Sharett was elected to the Knesset and became the country's first Foreign Minister that same year. As Foreign Minister, he established diplomatic relations with dozens of nations, got Israel into the United Nations, and signed a reparations agreement with West Germany in 1952. In December of 1953, he was elected to replace David Ben-Gurion, who was retiring, as Prime Minister; he took office on January 26, 1954. Despite Sharett's best efforts to maintain peace, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intensified during his term, and Ben-Gurion decided to "unretire" and return to power. Sharett resigned as Prime Minister on November 3, 1955, but kept his position as Foreign Minister and his seat in the Knesset until 1956.
After leaving office, Sharett retired from Israeli politics and served as chairman of Beit Berl College, Director-General of the Am Oved (Working Nation) publishing house, and represented the Labor Party in the Socialist International. In 1960, he was elected Chairman of both the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. He died in Jerusalem on July 7, 1965.
Moshe Sharett's portrait is on the 20 Shekel note.
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This page was last updated on October 15, 2017.