About Avraham Burg, 13th Speaker of the Kneset, אברהם בורג
Avraham "Avrum" Burg (Hebrew: אברהם בורג, born January 19, 1955) is an Israeli author; he was formerly a member of the Knesset, a chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and a Speaker of the Knesset.
Burg was born and raised in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood. His father was Dr. Yosef Burg, a German-born Israeli politician and long-time government minister for the National Religious Party. His mother Rivka (née Slonim), was born in Hebron and survived the Arab massacre in 1929.
In the Israel Defense Forces, Burg served as a lieutenant in the paratroopers brigade. He graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a degree in the social sciences.
Burg is married to Yael and lived in Nataf, a rural community on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Burg and his wife have six children. Burg has lived in France since 2004, acquiring French citizenship and working in business.
Burg was an activist in left-wing organizations and the Peace Now movement. He was injured in the grenade attack on a Peace Now demonstration in Jerusalem in February 1983, which killed Emil Grunzweig. In 1985, he served as advisor on Diaspora affairs to Prime Minister Shimon Peres. In 1988, he was elected to the Knesset as a member of the Alignment.
In 1992, when the Alignment merged with the Labor Party, he was reelected to Knesset. In 1995, he was appointed Chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, and resigned from the Knesset. As head of the Jewish Agency, he worked to recover Jewish property lost during the Holocaust, and in the transfer of ca. half a million predominantly Jewish citizens from the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet Union) to Israel.
In 1999, Burg returned to domestic politics, and was elected to the Knesset on Ehud Barak's One Israel list (an alliance of Labor, Meimad and Gesher). Burg was elected Speaker of the Knesset, a position he held until early 2003. In his capacity as speaker of the Knesset he served as interim President of Israel for 20 days, from 12 July until 1 August 2000 when the presidency was vacant following Ezer Weizman's resignation. Following Barak's defeat in the 2001 election for Prime Minister and his subsequent resignation, Burg ran for the Labor Party leadership, but lost. Nevertheless, he retained his seat in the Knesset in the 2003 elections.
In October 2003, Burg caused a sensation when he published an article in the British newspaper The Guardian named 'The end of Zionism' calling for a quick withdrawal from the Palestinian Territories.
Also in 2003, Burg published an article in Yedioth Ahronoth in which he declared, "Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism."
Retirement from political life
In 2004, Burg resigned from the Knesset and public life. Since then, he has lectured at international events and served on the board of directors of Vita Pri Hagalil.
In an interview in Haaretz in June 2007, Burg suggested amending the Law of Return and stated that "to define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. A Jewish state is explosive. It's dynamite." In response to public criticism of the interview, however, he published a retraction, recommending that Israel be defined not as a "Jewish State" but as a "State of the Jews."
In April 2008, Burg signed a letter of support for the recently created J Street American pro-peace lobby group. On November 14, 2008, he joined a new left-wing movement intending to support the Meretz-Yachad party in the 2009 national elections.
In April 2009, Burg participated in the Doha Debates at Georgetown University in Washington DC, where he debated for the motion "this house believes that it is time for the USA to get tough on Israel" with fellow speaker Michael Scheuer, former Chief of the CIA Bin Laden Issue Station. Speakers against the motion were Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. Burg and Scheuer won the vote on the debate, with 63% of the audience voting for the motion.
- Brit Am: A Covenant of the People, Proposed Policy Guidelines for the National Institutions of the Jewish People, (1995), Jewish Agency for Israel
- God is Back (2006) (Hebrew)
- Defeating Hitler (2007) Yedioth Ahronoth (Hebrew)
- The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise From its Ashes (2008) MacMillan.com, (English)
Knesset 12 - 13: 21.11.1988 - 5.7.1995 (Kn. 13, Partial tenure)
Knesset 15 - 16: 7.6.1999 - 28.6.2004 (Kn. 16, Partial tenure)
Knesset Presidium: Knesset 15, Speaker of the Knesset
- 1985-1988 Served as advisor on Diaspora Affairs to Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
- Chairman, Jewish Agency for Israel 1995-1999. During this time under Burg leadership, there were significant changes in the structure and role of the National Institutions, which began to operate in several new areas such as the restitution of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust, and the battle for religious pluralism and tolerance among the Jewish People.
Avraham Burg, 13th Speaker of the Kneset, אברהם בורג's Timeline
January 19, 1955