Weizman, Ezer (1924–)
WEIZMAN, EZER (1924–)
Israeli military and political figure, eleventh president of Israel (1993–2000). Born in 1924 in Haifa into one of the most illustrious Jewish families, Ezer Weizman was the nephew of Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann. In 1942 he enlisted in the (British) Royal Air Force, where he became a pilot, and in 1946–1947 studied aeronautics in Britain. He was one of the founders of the Israeli Air Force (IAF); in 1950 was named its chief of operations, and in 1956 its commander. In 1966 be became the Israel Defense Force (IDF) head of operations and deputy chief of staff.
In 1969 Weisman resigned from the IDF to start on a political career, joining Herut Party. He served as leader of the GAHAL bloc and as minister of transportation in the National Unity government. He resigned in 1970 to go into private business, but continued to be active in Herut, for a short time serving as president of its executive committee. In 1977 when Herut, GAHAL and other right-center groups formed the Likud bloc, he was campaign manager; and after its victory he became defense minister in the government of Herut leader Menachem Begin. He supervised the invasion of Lebanon in 1978 and later that year, was a moderating influence at the Camp David peace talks. However, his increasing support of a moderate view caused conflict with Likud, and in 1980 he resigned from the cabinet. The following November, he was expelled from Herut for having voted against the policies of the Begin government in the Knesset.
In 1984 Weizman formed his own centrist party, Yahad, which backed the electoral campaign of the Labor Party and won three Knesset seats in the election. He was then appointed minister without portfolio in the National Unity government. In January 1985 he was appointed coordinator of Arab affairs. In 1986 he and his party Yahad joined the Labor Party; and when it joined the National Unity government with Likud in 1988, he served as minister of science and technology. In January 1989 he came out openly for direct dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), provoking outrage in the government. Accused of secret meetings with the PLO, in 1990 he resigned his seat in the Knesset; but in 1993, as Labor Party candidate, he was elected pesident of the State of Israel, taking office on 14 May.
In 1996, in an attempt to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Weizer invited Yasir Arafat to his own home, causing outrage in Israeli political circles. Nevertheless, he was reelected to the presidency in 1998. In 2000, however, he was alleged to have received large sums of money as bribes in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and although no formal charges were brought against him, the scandal forced him to resign. He left office on 10 July 2000.