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Meir Vilner ( , born Ber Kovner on 23 October 1918, died 5 June 2003) was an Israelimarker communist politician and Jewish leader of the Communist Party of Israel , which consisted primarily of Israeli Arabs. He was the youngest and longest surviving signatory of the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948.

Born in Vilniusmarker, Polandmarker (now Lithuaniamarker), Vilner's political life began as the leader of the socialist- Zionist group Hashomer Hatzair (Young Guard). However, he soon grew disenchanted by what he viewed as a tendency in Zionist groups to dream of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, rather than change their current situation - thus he started working for the banned Polish Communist Party - now under the pseudonym Meir Vilner - until 1938, when he fled Poland to the British Mandate of Palestine. Most of his family perished in the Holocaust.

Vilner then studied history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalemmarker.

In what would soon become Israel, Vilner was disenchanted with the politics, claiming that the hatred directed at Jews in Vilna was now directed at the Arabs. He joined the Palestine Communist Party, which accepted Arab and Jewish membership, but supported partition. Vilner criticized both the Britishmarker and Israelimarker government, but justified signing the Israeli Declaration of Independence on the grounds that this would eliminate another British colony.

In 1949, he was elected to the Knessetmarker as a member of Maki. He resigned from the Knesset in December 1959, six weeks after the 1959 elections, but was re-elected in 1961. However, he resigned again two months after the 1961 elections.

In 1965 Vilner and several other Maki members broke away from the party to form Rakah following disagreements about the Soviet Unionmarker's increasingly anti-Israeli stance (Vilner was on the USSR's side), and was elected to the Knesset on the new party's list in the 1965 elections.

Shortly after the Six-Day War in 1967 (which Rakah had opposed), a member of the right-wing party Gahal stabbed Vilner. He recovered.

Rakah became part of Hadash before the 1977 elections, and Vilner remained an MK until 1990 when he resigned as part of a seat rotation agreement, making him the third longest serving after Toubi and Shimon Peres.

He was married to Esther Vilenska, another Israeli communist politician but divorced later, after having two sons together. His cousin Abba Kovner was a well-known Israeli poet.


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