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Yitzchak Rabin

Yitzchak Rabin

Yitzchak Rabin (1922-1995) served his native Israel as chief-of-staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Minister of Defense, Prime Minister from 1974 to 1977, and again from 1992 to his death in 1995.

Yitzchak Rabin was born in Jerusalem in 1922, the son of Russian-Zionist pioneers Rosa and Nechemia Rabin. At the age of 14, intent on becoming a farmer, he entered the Kadoorie Agricultural School at Kfar Tabor, graduating in 1940. Plans to go on to college work in irrigational engineering at the University of California were disrupted by World War II, however. Rabin joined the Palmach, the commando unit of the Jewish underground army, the Haganah, which later became the nucleus for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

In the beginning of his brilliant military career Rabin took part in several operations behind the lines against the Vichy French in Syria and Lebanon in 1941 on behalf of the British and in defense of Palestine. By 1944 he had reached the rank of deputy battalion commander in the Palmach. After the war Anglo-Jewish cooperation ended as British opposition to Jewish independence intensified. Rabin himself was involved in anti-British underground activity, and at one point in 1946 he was caught and sentenced to six months in a detention camp. He was released in early 1947 in time to participate in the final struggle over Palestine.

Promoted to deputy commander of the elite Palmach, Rabin fought with distinction against the invading Arab forces during Israel's war of independence in 1948. He played a role in the defense of Jerusalem, helping to keep open the vital supply road from Tel-Aviv and the coastal plain to the besieged city. In late 1948, now a colonel, he also fought on the southern front against Egypt. Then in the spring of 1949 Rabin served as military representative on the Israeli delegation to the Rhodes conference which resulted in a series of Arab-Israel armistice accords.

Having determined to pursue a military career, the post-1948 years saw Rabin advancing up the army hierarchy. He served successively as an armored brigade commander in the Negev, acting commander of the southern front (1949-1950), chief of tactical operations (1950-1952), head of the training branch (1954-1956), commanding officer of the northern front (1956-1959), and head of the manpower branch (1959-1960). During that period he was able to complete a year's study program at the British Staff College. Then from 1960 to 1963 Brigadier General Rabin filled two additional positions: deputy chief of staff and chief of the general staff branch. Finally, in January 1964 he was appointed chief-of-staff, remaining in that position until his retirement from the army in January 1968.

It was during his term of office as chief of staff that the 1967 Mid-East crisis occurred. Confronted by a military alliance of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the Israeli government authorized a preemptive war which began on June 6. Within six days the Israel Defense Forces, acting under Rabin's command and according to contingency plans drawn up under his instructions, had gained a spectacular victory. The Six Day War ended with Israel in control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and all of the West Bank territories of Judea and Samaria up to the Jordan River. And Rabin found himself a national hero.

This newly-acquired prestige led to his being appointed Israel's ambassador to Washington in March 1968. During his time in the United States Rabin was involved intensely in various Middle East peace efforts—none of which was successful—and deepening American-Israel relations, especially in terms of U.S. military assistance to Israel during the Johnson and the Nixon administrations.

In March 1973 Rabin left the United States and returned to Israel in order to enter politics, joining the dominant Labour Party. The national elections that year were interrupted in the fall by the surprise Egyptian-Syrian attack. In the wake of the Yom Kippur War, in which Rabin had no official or military role, the elections were finally held in December 1973. Although Labour's parliamentary strength declined, Rabin gained a seat in the Knesset and was appointed minister of labor in the new cabinet headed by Golda Meir. However, the government lasted only a month due to Meir's decision to resign, which led to formation of a new government and selection by the Labour/Alignment of a premier-designate. In April 1974 the party's central committee turned to Rabin, entrusting him with the task of putting together a viable coalition, which he succeeded in doing by late May. The Rabin government was approved by the Knesset on June 3, 1974, making Rabin the fifth, and youngest, premier; he was also the first native-born Israeli to achieve that high position.

Rabin's stay in power only lasted until 1977 and was a troubled one from the outset. In the Knesset his fragile three-party coalition had only the barest majority—a single seat—meaning it could fall at any moment. Domestically, the Yom Kippur War's aftermath caused demoralization and created structural problems in the economy under the weight of the defense burden. Diplomatically the years 1974-1977 coincided with Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy and efforts at pressuring Israel, thereby straining the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Nor did it help that sharp interpersonal rivalries within the cabinet further weakened the government's effectiveness. Finally, early in 1977 a coalition crisis led to the government's downfall. In the subsequent elections Labour and the Alignment were turned out of office; although re-elected to the Knesset, Rabin was soon replaced as party head by his arch-rival, Shimon Peres.

Nevertheless, upon formation of the National Unity government in September 1984, based on a unique power-sharing system of rotation between the Alignment and the Likud, Yitzchak Rabin was the agreed-upon candidate for the post of defense minister. Chosen to serve for the full four-year period, Rabin succeeded in improving his working relations with Prime Minister Peres and in gaining broad public confidence. He concentrated his efforts specifically on extricating the Israel Defense Forces from southern Lebanon, on reorganization plans for the defense forces, and on strengthening strategic cooperation with the United States.

Rabin's strong response to Palestinian insurrections gained him enough political support to make another bid to be prime minister in 1992. His victory came on promises of ending the conflict with the Palestinians. Secret talks with Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat led to a conference in Oslo, Norway where an agreement was reached in 1993. In 1994, Rabin led negotiations with Jordan's King Hussein which led to peace between those two countries. In December 1994, Rabin was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, along with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chariman Yasser Arafat. On November 4, 1995, as he was departing a peace rally in Tel Aviv, Rabin was assassinated by a 27-year-old Jewish law student, Yigal Amir.

Further Reading

Robert Slater's Rabin of Israel (1993) is the most complete treatment of Rabin's life. A more personal perspective is offered in Rabin: Our Life, His Legacy (1997) by Leah Rabin, his wife. Rabin's own autobiography, The Rabin Memoirs (1979) and his book Yitzhak Rabin Talks with Leaders and Heads of State (1984) are the best sources of additional material. See also Bernard Reich, Israel: Land of Tradition and Conflict (1985). □

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Rabin, Yitzhak

Rabin, Yitzhak 1922-1995

BIBLIOGRAPHY

At a time when Israels global economic and political prominence was on the rise, the nations prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was tragically gunned down. The three shots fired into Rabins back on the night of November 4, 1995, also pierced through a newly emerging Israel. As Israel began to forge significant political bonds with its Arab neighbors after years of territorial conflict, an Israeli law student, Yigal Amir, assassinated Rabin out of religious conviction. Rabins premature death left questions as to whether or not his objectives for a peaceful, economically strong Israel would be fully realized. This article discusses Rabins political and societal contributions to Israel, his relationship with Palestine, and the impact of his untimely death on Israeli politics and its relations with Palestine.

During Rabins early years, Israel struggled for national independence. Rabin was born in Jerusalem on March 1, 1922. A little over twenty years later, Rabin fought in the 1948 War of Independence, from which the Jewish population in Palestine could claim Israel as an official state. In 1968, Israel successfully fought against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan during the Six Day War, in which it gained control of the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights.

Not long after, Rabin entered politics with minimal political experience. In 1974, the incumbent prime minister, Golda Meir of the Israeli Labor Party, stepped down after vociferous public calls for her resignation after Israels failure in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Israel suffered a large number of casualties and the loss of limited territory in the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and Syria during this war. Since Rabin was free from blame, he won the election for prime minister and took the oath of office on June 3, 1974. He faced numerous challenges as a political leader during a tumultuous time in Middle East history.

As prime minister from 1974 to 1977, Rabin contributed greatly to Israel in both the domestic and international arenas. He strategically forged a closer relationship with the White House and the U.S. State Department, a process that began during his tenure as Israeli Ambassador to the United States. This relationship was made evident when Richard Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit Israel. The visit was also a way for Nixon to resurrect his falling public stature during the Watergate trials, according to Rabins memoirs. This bond became significant as Rabin sought and garnered U.S. support for arms sales to Israel. Rabin also succeeded in finalizing a 1975 interim agreement with Egypt, in which Israel agreed to pull back from the Sinai Peninsula.

Rabin exhibited more skill in his second term as prime minister, from 1992 until his assassination in 1995. Israel and Palestine remained in conflict over the establishment of Israel as a separate state. Yet Rabin and Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP), which aimed to terminate Israels occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The Jewish and Arab leaders later signed the Oslo II agreement, in which Israel agreed to withdraw from seven West Bank towns and the Palestinians agreed to hold elections. The historically significant cooperation between the two leaders created opportunities for political and economic ties with the rest of the Middle East and nonregional states.

The Arab-Israeli tensions resulted in divisions within Israel itself. Rabin sought to resolve Israels conflicts with its Arab neighbors, especially Palestine, through political negotiation. However, some Jewish citizens such as Amir felt betrayed by the Oslo II accords. Amir saw the agreement as handing over land given to the Jews by God to Palestine. He felt that what he perceived as betrayal could only be rectified through murdering Rabin.

A focus on the free market contributed to Israels economic growth. Israels economic policy shifted away from socialist ideology towards a liberal economic policy, and in the early 1990s Israel experienced an annual growth rate of over 5.5 percent. At the same time, unemployment dropped below 7 percent. Israels economic stability attracted more foreign investment.

Ultimately, Rabins premature death had a long-lasting effect on Israels relationship with the rest of the Middle East. Many years later, Israel still struggles with questions of its identity, democratic order, the future of occupied territories, and the chance for peace with Palestine.

SEE ALSO Arab-Israeli War of 1967; Arafat, Yasir; Meir, Golda; Nobel Peace Prize

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Horovitz, David. 1996. Shalom, Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin. New York: New Market Press.

Kurzman, Dan. 1998. Soldier of Peace: The Life of Yitzhak Rabin. New York: HarperCollins.

Peri, Yoram, ed. 2000. The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Rabin, Yitzhak. 1979. The Rabin Memoirs. Boston: Little, Brown.

Sarita D. Jackson

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Rabin, Yitzhak

Yitzhak Rabin (yĬtskhäk´ räbēn´), 1922–95, Israeli general and statesman, b. Jerusalem, the first native-born prime minister of Israel (1974–77, 1992–95). His extensive military experience began in 1940 when he joined the Haganah (Jewish militia) and thereafter fought in the British army. He rose in rank from brigade commander in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War to chief of staff in 1964 and was credited with Israel's military success in the Six Day War (1967). After serving as envoy to Washington (1968–73), Rabin was elected as a Labor representative to the Knesset (Israeli parliament). In Mar., 1974, he joined Golda Meir's cabinet as labor minister; after her resignation in May, Rabin succeeded her as prime minister. One of his most formidable challenges was the 1976 Entebbe raid, in which he authorized the operation of Israeli commandos in the rescue of more than 100 Jews held hostage there. Rabin resigned as prime minister in 1977 prior to Labor's loss at the polls. He was succeeded as party leader by Shimon Peres. As defense minister (1984–90) in the Labor-Likud coalition government, Rabin ordered a harsh crackdown in the West Bank in the late 1980s in an effort to end the Arab uprising there (see Intifada). Rabin ousted Peres as Labor party leader in 1992 and led Labor to victory in the national elections, becoming prime minister and defense minister. Rabin played a key role in peace negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and in 1993 he endorsed a historic peace agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), providing for mutual recognition and a transition to Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Rabin, along with Peres and PLO leader Yasir Arafat, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. In 1994, Rabin signed a peace treaty with Jordan, and a 1995 agreement with the PLO expanded Palestinian self-rule. He was assassinated Nov. 4, 1995, by an Israeli law student with links to right-wing extremist groups.

See I. Rabinovich, Waging Peace (1999).

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Rabin, Yitzhak

Rabin, Yitzhak (1922–95) Israeli statesman, prime minister (1974–77, 1992–95). As chief of staff (1964–68), he directed Israeli operations in the Six-Day War (1967). Rabin was ambassador to the USA (1968–73) before becoming prime minister. As minister of defence (1984–90), he directed operations against the Palestinian Intifada and, having regained leadership of the Labour Party from Shimon Peres, became prime minister for the second time. In 1993, Rabin signed the Israeli-Palestinian Accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), promising progress towards Palestinian autonomy in the occupied territories. On November 4, 1995, an Israeli extremist assassinated Rabin.

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