Shohat, Avraham Beiga

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SHOHAT, AVRAHAM BEIGA (1936– ), Israeli politician, member of the Knesset since the Eleventh Knesset. Born in Tel Aviv, he served in the idf as a paratrooper in 1956–57. He was a member of kibbuz Naḥal Oz. In 1957–61 he studied construction engineering at the Technion in Haifa, serving as chairman of the Students Council there. In 1961–63 Shohat was a member of a team headed by Arie Lova *Eliav that planned the town of Arad in the Negev. In 1963–67 he was the regional director of Solel-Boneh in Arad and the Dead Sea area, and in 1967–89 he was head of the Arad Local Council. For part of this period he served as deputy chairman of the Local Government Center and as chairman of its Development Town Committee.

In 1985 Shohat ran the *Israel Labor Party census. He entered the Eleventh Knesset in May 1988, instead of mk Aharon Harel, who resigned. He was chosen to head the Labor Party election staff in the elections to the Twelfth Knesset later that year. In the Twelfth Knesset he served first as chairman of the Economics Committee and then as the chairman of the Finance Committee until February 1991. He then drew up the Labor Party economic platform for the elections to the Thirteenth Knesset, which defined those areas in which the government should be involved in the economy. In this platform the Labor Party for the first time accepted the need to privatize a portion of the government-owned corporations.

In the primaries for the Labor Party leadership held in February 1992, Shohat supported Yitzhak *Rabin, and in the government formed by Rabin after the elections, he was appointed minister of finance. In the period that he served as minister of finance, the rate of growth of the economy accelerated and unemployment fell. This was largely due to progress in the peace process, an end to most aspects of the Arab boycott, the establishment of diplomatic relations with both China and India, and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with many states that had broken off relations after the Six-Day War or Yom Kippur War. However, there was a serious deterioration in Israel's trade deficit, and the rate of inflation started to rise in 1995. At the end of 1994, Shohat planned to introduce a tax on stock-market earnings, but owing to pressure from business circles, he withdrew the plan.

In the Fourteenth Knesset, when Labor returned to opposition, Shohat served as the Labor coordinator in the Finance Committee. After the election of Ehud *Barak as prime minister and after election to the Fifteenth Knesset in 1999, Shohat was once again appointed minister of finance. Following Shas's resignation from the government, Shohat also served as minister of national infrastructures. In his dual capacity as minister of finance and national infrastructures, Shohat managed to gain support against staunch opposition from senior Finance Ministry officials for the idea of resolving Israel's chronic water shortages by starting to plan desalination plants along the Mediterranean. Shohat was not chosen to serve as one of Labor's ministers in the government formed by Ariel *Sharon in 2001, nor was he chosen to serve as a minister when Labor joined Sharon's second Government in 2005.

In the Sixteenth Knesset he served as chairman of the Joint Committee for the Defense Budget.

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]