Barkat (Burstein), Reuven

views updated


BARKAT (Burstein), REUVEN (1906–1972), Israeli politician. Member of the Sixth and Seventh Knessets and speaker of the Knesset, 1969–72. Barkat was born in Tavrig (Taurage), Lithuania, where his father, Abraham Aaron Burstein, headed the local yeshivah. Barkat attended a Hebrew secondary school in Ponevezh (Panevezys). He was one of the founders of He-Ḥalutz ha-Ẓa'ir and chairman of Ha-Ivri ha-Ẓa'ir in Lithuania. He studied literature and law at the Sorbonne in Paris and was chairman of the Hebrew Students Union in the Diaspora. He immigrated to Ereẓ Israel in 1926 and immediately entered political life. In 1933–38 he was involved in the *Ha'avarah. Subsequently, in 1940–46 he was secretary general of the National Committee for the Jewish Soldier, directing cultural and welfare activities for the members of the Palestinian Jewish units of the British Army and subsequently of the Jewish Brigade. At the end of the war these activities also involved clandestine activity connected with the rescue of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust (see *Beriḥah). In 1946 Barkat joined the Political Department of the *Histadrut. In 1949 he was appointed head of its International Department, a position he held until 1960. He was also appointed chairman of the Arab Department of the Histadrut. In 1961 Barkat was appointed ambassador to Norway. He was soon offered the position of ambassador to the Soviet Union, but finally he declined the post to become secretary general of *Mapai. He held this position in the years 1962–66, when the party was torn by internal dissension over the "Lavon Affair" (see Pinḥas *Lavon). Barkat was first elected to the Sixth Knesset on the Alignment list, serving in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He was elected to the Seventh Knesset and chosen to become speaker, a position which he held until his sudden death on the last day of Passover 1972.


Koveẓ shel Re'uven Barkat: Divrei Iyyun ve-Diyun bi-B'ayot Parlamentarism, Teḥikah u-Mimshal (1977).

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]