Sharett, Moshe (1894–1965)

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SHARETT, MOSHE (1894–1965)

Israel's first foreign minister and second prime minister. Born Moshe Shertok, he migrated with his family from Russia to Palestine in 1906. After attending school in Herzliyya and Tel Aviv, he entered the University of Istanbul to study law, but was drafted into the Turkish army at the outbreak of World War I. He graduated from the London School of Economics in 1924, then returned to Palestine as a journalist. In 1931 he became political secretary of the Jewish Agency Executive, where he began his long working relationship with David Ben-Gurion. In 1935 Sharett became director of the Jewish Agency's political department.

In 1947 Sharett was a representative of the Jewish Agency to the United Nations (UN) Special
Committee on Palestine, where he lobbied for UN support for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. In May 1948 he was named foreign minister in the Jewish provisional administration of the newly proclaimed State of Israel, and he held the post of foreign minister until 1956. In that capacity he introduced, in 1949, the principle of "nonidentification," which proposed that Israel pursue a diplomatic course of nonalignment. By 1951, however, the support of the Soviet Union for the Arab bloc made it clear that Israel's foreign policy would be aligned with the West.

When Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion resigned in December 1953, Sharett became prime minister, holding the post until 1955, when his cabinet was overturned by the withdrawal of the General Zionist Party. Ben-Gurion returned as prime minister after the November 1955 elections, and Sharett continued to serve as foreign minister. In 1956 tensions arose between them over a course of action regarding the Suez Canal Crisis, and Ben-Gurion asked for Sharett's resignation, replacing him with Golda Meir.

SEE ALSO Ben-Gurion, David; Meir, Golda; Suez Crisis.