Quick Facts: Golda Meir

July 20, 2023
  • Born Golda Mabovitch in 1898, in Kiev in present-day Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire.
  • In 1906, family immigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the U.S., introduced to Zionism, the western colonial religious-nationalist movement to establish a Jewish state in Palestine.
  • In 1921, immigrated to Palestine, then governed by the British with a mandate from the new League of Nations. In Palestine, became involved with Mapai, which would later become the Israeli Labor party, rising in its ranks over the following decades and playing a significant role in Israel’s establishment in 1948.
  • Became minister of labor (1949-1956) and foreign minister (1956-1966) after Israel’s establishment and accompanying ethnic cleansing of three quarters of the Muslim and Christian population of Palestine to make way for a Jewish majority state.
  • As foreign minister, was involved in planning and coordinating Israel’s invasion of Egypt in 1956, in collusion with France and Great Britain, aimed at overthrowing Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and taking control of the Sinai Peninsula and Suez Canal. Following an international outcry and pressure from the U.S., the invading countries were forced to withdraw from Egyptian territory. 
  • Following the sudden death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in 1969, became prime minister after being elected new head of the Labor Party by the party’s central committee. Resigned from office in 1974 after being unable to form another coalition following the December 1973 election amid criticism of her government’s handling of the 1973 war.
  • Meir's rejection of diplomatic overtures from Egypt to make peace based on U.N. resolutions and a return of land occupied by Israel’s military during the 1967 war led to the 1973 war.  Only intervention by the U.S. government, including a massive military airlift of weapons and munitions, allowed Israel to avoid defeat. U.S. support for Israel in the war caused Arab members of OPEC to declare an oil embargo against the U.S., resulting in the 1973 oil crisis and major repercussions for the U.S. and world economies. 
  • Under Meir’s government (1969-1974), Israel’s settlement enterprise on occupied Palestinian land, which began under the previous government, became entrenched. When Meir took office, there were five small settlements. By the time she left power, there were upwards of 14, many established under false pretenses. Summing up the strategy of expanding Israel’s borders by building settlements on occupied Palestinian, Egyptian, and Syrian land in violation of international law, she explained: "The [extent of Israel’s borders] is where Jews live, not where there is a line on the map."
  • Meir instructed members of her government not to speak publicly about Israel’s theft of occupied land for settlements, so as not to attract international criticism of Israel’s illegal actions, telling cabinet ministers: “It was our habit that for anything that has to do with settlements, outposts, land expropriations and so on, we simply do [it] and do not talk [about it]... But the main thing, as much as possible, is to talk less.”
  • According to recently-released documents, Meir’s government poisoned Palestinian land in the town of Aqraba in the occupied West Bank in the early 1970s to force the Palestinian owners to leave so Israel could build a settlement in their place, using a crop duster to spray toxic chemicals. Prior to spraying the chemicals, soldiers from Israel’s occupying army burned crops and sabotaged and destroyed tools and vehicles belonging to Palestinian farmers in Aqraba.
  • Infamous for denying the existence of Palestinians and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians during Israel’s establishment, declaring: “It was not as if there was a Palestinian people in Palestine and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist."
  • Also known for racist views towards other people of Middle Eastern origin, including Jews. In 1964, she told the Zionist Federation of Great Britain: "We in Israel need immigrants from countries with a high standard, because the future of our social structure is worrying us. We have immigrants from Morocco, Libya, Iran, Egypt and other countries with a 16th century level. Shall we be able to elevate these immigrants to a suitable level of civilization?"