Ze’ev Benjamin “Benny” Begin, son of the late Prime Minister Menahem Begin, was born in Jerusalem in 1943. He earned his B.Sc. and M.Sc. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his Ph.D. in Geology from Colorado State University in the USA. Begin served in the Armored Corps from 1960-3 and during 1975-6 volunteered for a lengthy period of military service.
As a geologist, Dr. Begin worked at the Geological Survey of Israel (1965-88), where he headed the Environmental Geology and Hydrology Division, and the Mapping, Marine Geology and Computer Center Division. He was also the coordinator of studies on the siting of the nuclear power plant in Israel. Since 1989, he has served as the head of the Research Institute of the College of Judea and Samaria (now Ariel University).
Begin was first elected to the Knesset in 1988. Begin ran in the Likud leadership election in 1993 to succeed Yitzhak Shamir as party leader but was defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu. Under Netanyahu’s government (1996–1999), Begin served as Science Minister until 1997 when he resigned in protest against the Hebron Agreement.
He subsequently led hardliners out of the Likud with the hope of reviving the Herut political party founded by his father. With full support from Shamir, Herut – The National Movement departed from the Likud and joined other right-wing parties to form the National Union, an alliance opposing the Oslo Accords. Owing to the National Union’s poor showing in the 1999 elections, Begin resigned his seat and quit politics. He resumed his career in science and education and was appointed Director of the Geological Survey of Israel.
Begin announced his return to politics and the Likud party in 2008, as well as his intention to seek a place on the Likud list for the 2009 elections. He returned to the Knesset with Likud winning 27 seats. Netanyahu had promised Begin a ministerial position if Likud won the election and honored that promise by appointing Begin a Minister without Portfolio in the new government.
Begin did not run in the 2013 elections, but returned to politics in the 2015 elections running in the 11th place on the Likud list, the spot reserved for a candidate appointed by party leader Netanyahu. Following the elections, he was appointed Minister without Portfolio in the new government. His term with the government lasted only eleven days. After Prime Minister Netanyahu convinced Gilad Erdan to join the government as Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, Begin was forced to resign as Likud’s coalition agreement limited the party to 13 ministers.
Begin announced his retirement from politics in July 2022 due to his age.
Photo used with permission of the Knesset.