Menachem Begin (1913-1992) was born in Poland and joined the Beitar youth movement as a young man. In 1938 he was appointed commissioner of Beitar in Poland. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, he fled to an area that had been occupied by the USSR. In 1940, his Zionist activities were forbidden and he was sentenced to eight years in prison. He was released in 1941, after agreeing to join Anders' Army, a unit made up of Polish prisoners who agreed to fight on behalf of the USSR. It was as a soldier in Anders' Army that Begin reached Palestine in 1943. He deserted, going underground, and soon became the commander of the Etzel underground resistance movement. In this capacity Begin engaged in both political and military activity. Wanted by the British, he was forced to live in hiding. After the United Nations partition decision in 1947, he agreed to join forces with the national organizations and include Etzel activists in the ranks of the IDF. In 1948 he was involved in the establishment of the Herut party, which he led in all its election campaigns. Begin's public career was characterized by sharp ups and downs. In 1952, after his influence ebbed following poor results in the 1951 elections, Begin led a fierce struggle against German reparation payments and spoke at many heated demonstrations.
Menachem Begin became known as a gifted orator, incisive polemicist and charismatic leader. He managed to lead Herut throughout the 1960s, despite challengers that arose from among the younger generation. Begin succeeded in expanding support for the party and its nationalist, economic, and social platform by forging a series of alliances with liberal and right wing parties. In 1967, in the days preceding the Six-Day War, Begin joined the government as a minister without portfolio, a position he held even after the 1969 elections. In 1970 however, he resigned in protest over the ceasefire agreement that had ended the War of Attrition. Begin's political power was consolidated by the 1973 "fiasco" and the weakened national leadership of the latter 1970s. Begin's Likud party won the 1977 elections and Begin formed the government. This event became known as "the revolution" (Ha'mahapach). For the first time since the establishment of the state, a government had been formed by someone other than the Labor party in its various iterations.
During Begin's term of office as prime minister, Egyptian president Anwar Saadat visited Israel and a peace agreement between the two countries was reached. According to this agreement, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and evacuated all Israel citizens from the region. In 1981, the Likud was once again victorious in the elections. In 1982, Begin's government launched a military campaign in Lebanon, which evolved into a protracted and complicated war. In 1983, an ailing and exhausted Begin announced his retirement. Menachem Begin passed away on March 9, 1992.