Eliezer Kaplan was an Israeli financial leader and politician, member of the First and Second Knessets. Born in Minsk in White Russia, as a child he studied in a ḥeder and later on in a Russian gymnasium. Kaplan received a diploma in construction engineering from the Higher School for Technology in Moscow in 1917. In 1915 he joined the Socialist Zionists, and in 1918 Ẓe'irei Zion, becoming a member of its Central Committee and representing it on the Zionist Central Committee. In the course of World War I Kaplan was active in helping Jewish refugees and at the end of the war was a member of the Jewish delegation from Russia that participated in the *Comité des Délégations Juives, which represented the Jewish people at the peace negotiations at Versailles in 1919. In 1920 Kaplan was one of the initiators of the union between part of Ẓe'irei Zion and Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓair, that came to be known as Ha-Hitaḥadut ha-Olamit, and whose program was "pioneering and labor in Eretz Yisrael and popular socialism." He represented the Hitaḥadut at the London Zionist Conference in 1920 and was elected to the Zionist Executive.
Kaplan immigrated to Palestine in 1920, but was immediately sent to run the office of Ẓe'irei Zion–Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir in Berlin. He returned to Palestine in 1923 and served as a member of the executive of the Public Works Department in the *Histadrut, that was later renamed Solel Boneh, and became a member of the Histadrut Executive. In 1923–25 he ran the technical department in the Tel Aviv municipality, and in 1925–33 was a member of the Tel Aviv Council. He was also a member of the Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir Central Committee, and was one of the initiators of the union between Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir with Aḥdut ha-Avodah in 1930, and the foundation of *Mapai, becoming a member of its Central Committee. Within Mapai he was considered a moderate. In 1933–48 Kaplan served as the treasurer of the *Jewish Agency and was a member of its Executive; in 1943–48 he also served as head of its Settlement Department. As treasurer he managed to attain loans abroad and made great efforts to introduce strict supervision over expenditure. He was among the initiators and implementers of all the major Zionist economic enterprises of the period. In those years he supported Chaim *Weizmann on the issue of moderation in the struggle against the British authorities, and opposed David *Ben-Gurion's activist line. During the transitional period toward the establishment of the State of Israel, he directed the financial affairs of Minhelet ha-Am (the People's Administration) and was appointed minister of finance in the Interim Government after the establishment of the State. Kaplan laid the foundations for the financial and fiscal policy of the State of Israel, and helped shape its policy toward the various branches of the economy, being particularly interested in the development of agriculture. In 1949 he obtained the first loan from the U.S. Ex-Im Bank. He also contributed to the organization of the Israel Bonds drive in the U.S. Kaplan served as minister of finance until June 1952, and resigned as a result of poor health, serving as deputy prime minister until his death in July. He published several books on the economy of Israel.
J. Shapira (ed.), Eliezer Kaplan – Ḥazon u-Ma'as (1973).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.