Born in January 1944, in Tel Aviv, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak began his military career in 1962. During the 1967 War, he served as assistant commander of the Parachute Brigade, and he participated in a special unit (sayeret), in which he would remain for six years. In 1972, he was part of a commando unit—along with Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, and Dani Yatom—that neutralized Palestinian terrorists who had taken over a Sabena airplane at the Tel Aviv airport with one hundred passengers aboard. In April 1973, Lipkin-Shahak participated, along with Ehud Barak, in an operation in Beirut in which three Palestinian leaders were killed. Rumors abounded that the commandos' initial objective was the elimination of Yasir Arafat or Ali Hasan al-Salama, both of whom were absent on the night of the raid.
In 1976, Lipkin-Shahak was promoted to the rank of colonel and became director of the "deployment" section for parachute troops at the general staff of the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Two years later, as brigadier general, he was given command of an armored division. In 1982, in the context of the "Peace in Galilee" operation in Lebanon, Lipkin-Shahak was in charge of operations in the zones of Beirut and the Shuf. From October 1983 to February 1986, he was in command of the central military region of Israel, and was promoted to the rank of major general during his tenure. He became director of military intelligence in March 1986, succeeding Ehud Barak. Four years later, when Barak became chief of staff of the IDF, Lipkin-Shahak became his assistant. Between 1993 and 1994, Lipkin-Shahak was part of an Israeli delegation that participated in peace negotiations with the Palestinians, as well as with the Syrians. On 1 January 1995, Lipkin-Shahak became chief of staff of the IDF. As such, he supervised the "Grapes of Wrath" operation, launched against the Hizbullah in April 1996, and participated in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the withdrawal of the IDF from the Palestinian territories. On 9 July 1998, Lipkin-Shahak resigned from the army, replaced as chief of staff by General Shaʿul Mofaz. In late December, after the Knesset announcement of upcoming elections, Lipkin-Shahak declared himself a "centrist" candidate for the post of prime minister, running against Benjamin Netanyahu, whose policies he denounced as "dangerous." In January 1999, he withdrew his candidacy and joined with Roni Milo, Dan Meridor, and Yitzhak Mordechai to form the new Center Party in time for the May elections.
When the Center Party won six seats in the Knesset, Lipkin-Shahak became a deputy. Shortly thereafter, in July, he was named tourism minister in the government of Ehud Barak. On 5 March 2001, after the electoral defeat of Barak by his Likud adversary, Ariel Sharon, Lipkin-Shahak retired from politics. In 2002 he became the honorary president of the Israel Humanitarian Foundation.
SEE ALSO Arab-Israel War (1967);Arab-Israel War (1982);Arafat, Yasir;Barak, Ehud;Center Party;Grapes of Wrath Operation;Likud;Meridor, Dan;Milo, Roni;Mordechai, Yitzhak;Netanyahu, Benjamin;Sayeret;Sharon, Ariel;Yatom, Dani.