Rabin, Yitzhak

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Editors: Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik
Date: 2007
Encyclopaedia Judaica
From: Encyclopaedia Judaica(Vol. 17. 2nd ed.)
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Biography
Pages: 3
Content Level: (Level 5)

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About this Person
Born: March 01, 1922 in Jerusalem, Israel
Died: November 04, 1995 in Tel Aviv, Israel
Nationality: Israeli
Occupation: Prime minister
Full Text: 
Page 34


RABIN, YITZHAK (1922–1995), military commander and politician, seventh chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, and prime minister in the years 1974–77 and 1992–95, member of the Eighth to Thirteenth Knessets. Rabin was born in Jerusalem. His mother was known as "Red Rosa." He graduated from the Kadoorie Agricultural School. He joined the *Palmaḥ in 1941, and participated in the Allied invasion of Syria that year. In 1944, as second in command of a Palmaḥ battalion, he participated in underground activities against the British Mandatory Government. On Black Saturday, June 29, 1946, he was arrested and imprisoned in the Rafa detention camp for six months. After his release he was appointed deputy to Yigal *Allon , who was commander of the Palmaḥ from 1945. In the early days of the *War of Independence , Rabin was appointed commander of the Harel Brigade on the Jerusalem front. Later in 1948 he was responsible, as Allon's second in command, for the occupation of Lydda and Ramleh, and the expulsion of their Arab inhabitants. He was next appointed chief of operations of the Southern Command until the armistice agreement with Egypt, and was a member of the Israeli delegation to the Rhodes armistice talks. However, he objected to the agreement reached, and left before it was signed. After the War of Independence Rabin was given various assignments, and graduated from the British Staff College in 1953. In the years 1956–59 he served as commander of the Northern Command, and in the years 1959–63 served as head of the Operations Branch in the General Staff, and deputy chief of staff. Rabin was appointed chief of staff in January 1964, and served for four years. As a heavy smoker on the eve of the outbreak of the *Six Day War he suffered from nicotine poisoning but recovered to lead the IDF in its major victory over the Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian forces. Immediately after the war he was awarded an honorary degree by the Hebrew University at a ceremony on Mount Scopus, and delivered an impressive acceptance speech, noted for its humane spirit. He retired from active military service in January 1968, and was appointed ambassador to the U.S. Upon his return to Israel in March 1973 he decided to enter politics, and was elected to the Eighth Knesset on the Alignment list, right after the *Yom Kippur War . He was appointed minister of labor in the short-lived government formed by Golda *Meir , and when Meir decided to resign following the publication of the Interim Report of the *Agranat Commission in April 1974, he won the first of numerous contests for the leadership of the *Israel Labor Party against Shimon *Peres . The fact that he had not been involved in any way in the Yom Kippur War was thePage 35  |  Top of Article main reason for his victory. Rabin formed a new government in June 1974. Even though his first premiership was generally viewed as mediocre, during his term as prime minister, with U.S. assistance, the IDF was rehabilitated, and the economy picked up, even though the rate of inflation rose. After disengagement agreements were signed with Egypt and Syria in January and May 1974 with the help of the "shuttle diplomacy" of Secretary of State Henry *Kissinger , an interim agreement was signed with Egypt in September 1975, together with a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. The Entebbe operation also took place in the course of his premiership. Towards the end of 1976 Rabin fired the ministers from the *National Religious Party , after they had abstained in a vote on a motion of no-confidence in the government, over the arrival of F-15 planes from the U.S. to Israel on a Friday afternoon, and the holding of a ceremony that allegedly resulted in the desecration of the Sabbath by those who participated in it. However, the historic coalition with the NRP was in trouble even before this event, due to a shift to the right by the young guard in the national religious camp. As a result of pressure by Attorney General Aharon *Barak , Rabin was forced to resign from the premiership in March 1977, following the revelation by journalist Dan *Margalit that his wife, Leah, continued to hold a bank account in Washington, D.C. from the time of his service as ambassador, contrary to the Israeli foreign exchange regulations. In the elections for the Ninth Knesset held in May 1977, Shimon *Peres led the Alignment and suffered a bitter defeat, in what came to be known as "the political upheaval." In 1979 Rabin published his memoirs, in which his bitterness against Peres emerged. Following the death of Yigal *Allon , Rabin decided to contend again for the leadership of the Labor Party against Peres, but at the Party Conference held in December 1980 he gained only 29% of the votes. In the National Unity Government that was in office from 1984 to 1990 Rabin served as minister of defense. In this capacity he got the IDF out of Lebanon, canceled the Lavi fighter project, and led Israel's fight against the first Intifada. Even though his policy in the territories was viewed as a "hard fist" policy, he realized soon after the outbreak of the Intifada that there could be no military solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. Prior to the elections to the Twelfth Knesset in 1988, he formulated a plan for holding elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This plan was adopted by the National Unity Government in May 1989 as part of the Shamir-Rabin peace initiative. Even though he favored the continued existence of the government led by Yitzhak *Shamir , he supported Peres' initiative to bring down the government in March 1990, following problems within the Likud in advancing the peace initiative. However, after Peres failed to form an alternative government, he called the ploy "the stinking ploy." In February 1992 he contested the leadership of the Labor Party with Peres for the third time, gaining over 40 percent of the votes to Peres' 34 percent (there were two additional contestants). In the Knesset he supported the adoption of the law for the direct election of the prime minister, but he won the elections to the Thirteenth Knesset under the old system. After forming a government with *Meretz and *Shas , he concentrated on changing Israel's economic priorities from massive support of the settlements in the territories to Israel's periphery, and on efforts to further the peace process. Though the Oslo process was initiated by Yossi *Beilin (who in the past Rabin had called "Peres' poodle") he gave the negotiations his backing in its latter stages, and on September 13, 1993, signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP) with PLO chairman Yasser *Arafat , which led to Israel's handing over to a "Palestinian entity" the city of Gaza and the Jericho area. This agreement was followed by two additional agreements, under which Israel handed over the Arab towns and cities in the territories to the Palestinians, and agreed to the establishment of a *Palestinian Authority. However, the talks with the Palestinians at this stage did not deal with the future of the Jewish settlements, Jerusalem, or the Palestinian refugees. Very close relations also developed at this time between Rabin and King *Hussein of Jordan, and a peace treaty was signed between Israel and Jordan in October 1994. Formal relations were also established with Morocco, Tunisia, and several Gulf states, and Israel participated in a succession of economic conferences held in various Arab capitals. Talks were also held with Syria, but despite Rabin's willingness to make substantial concessions, these talks led to naught. For his efforts toward regional peace, Rabin was the recipient, along with Peres and Arafat, of the Nobel Prize for Peace in December 1994.

However, rightwing circles in Israel objected to Rabin's peace initiatives, and willingness to give up control over parts of Ereḥ Israel. Demonstrations against him became increasingly vicious and threatening, but despite warnings by the General Security Services, Rabin refused to wear a bulletproof vest. On November 4, 1995, at the end of a mass demonstration in Kikar Malkhei Yisrael in Tel Aviv, which he addressed, Rabin was shot in the back by Yigal Amir, a Jewish rightwing fanatic, who acted on his own, with only his brother being privy to his plans. Rabin's coffin was placed at the entrance of the Knesset, and his funeral was attended by numerous heads of state and prime ministers, including King Hussein of Jordan and President Hosni *Mubarak of Egypt, who had never previously set foot in Israel. It was President Bill Clinton who coined the term "Shalom Ḥaver" ("farewell, friend") that continues to appear on stickers on many cars in Israel to the present day. The assassination was a major failure for the GSS, which changed its entire strategy of protecting VIPs in Israel. Ten years after his assassination the people of Israel were still divided over Rabin's heritage.

Rabin's daughter DALIA RABIN-PELOSSOF entered the Fifteenth Knesset on the Center Party list, and joined the One Israel (Labor) parliamentary group in May 2001. She did not run in the elections to the Sixteenth Knesset.

Among his books are The Rabin Memoirs (1979) and a collection of his peace speeches Ne'umei ha-Shalom shel Rosh ha-Memshalah Yiẓhak Rabin (1995).


Z. Galili, Yiẓhak Rabin 19221995 (Heb., 1996); D.P. Horowitz (ed.), Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy ofPage 36  |  Top of Article Yitzhak Rabin (1996); A. Kapelyuk, Rabin: Reẓaḥ Politi be-Ezrat ha-Shem (1996); M. Na'or, Yiẓḥak Rabin: Ha-Ish, ha-Mefaked, ha-Medina'i, ha-Maẓbi, ha-Shalom (1996); R. Slater, Rabin of Israel: Warrior for Peace (1996); L. Rabin, Our Life, His Legacy (1997); M. Karpin, Murder in the Name of God: The Plot to Kill Yitzhak Rabin (1998); D. Kurzman, Soldier of Peace: The Life of Yitzhak Rabin (1998); Y. Pery (ed.), The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin (2000); E. Inbar, Rabin and Israel's National Security (2001); A. Dalal, Ma'arekhet ha-Emunot shel Yiẓḥak Rabin Kelappei ha-Aravim ve-ha-Sikhsukh ha-Yisra'eli (2003).

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]

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Gale Document Number: GALE|CX2587516277