Yatom, Dani (1945–)

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YATOM, DANI (1945–)

Israeli military figure. Born in Israel in 1945, Dani Yatom started his military career in 1963. Between 1966 and 1973 he was in the Sayeret Matkal, a special unit attached to the Israel Defense Force (IDF) general staff. On 8 May 1972 he took part in the storming of a Sabena Airlines plane that had been taken over by Palestinian terrorists at

the Tel Aviv Airport. At his side were Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. From 1983 to 1985, Yatom served as advisor to Defense Minister Moshe Arens. Two years later, he was appointed head of the planning department of the IDF general staff. In December 1990, Yatom became commander-in-chief of the central military region of Israel, replacing General Yitzhak Mordechai. By 1992 he had risen to become chief of the central command, military secretary to the prime and defense ministers in Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's cabinet. There, he rapidly became Rabin's closest confidant and most trusted counselor.

In February 1994 Yatom temporarily assumed command of the central military region, replacing General Tamari, who was killed in a helicopter accident. Among Yatom's biggest challenges in this position was dealing with the massacre of twenty-nine Muslims by a Jewish settler in Hebron. On the following 12 April, Yatom was replaced by General Ilan Biran, and he resumed his duties with the prime minister. In December 1994, Yatom became a member of the Israeli delegation, which, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, went to Washington, D.C., to participate in parleys with Syrian representatives. On 2 June 1996 Yatom became head of Mossad, replacing Shabtai Shavit. In February 1998 a series of failures in his service forced him to resign this post.

In July 1999 Yatom became security adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Considered as the éminence grise of the new prime minister, Yatom's particular mission was to restart the Israeli-Syrian negotiations, which had been stalled since April 1996. In November 1999, Yatom—as Barak's chief of staff—traveled to Paris to meet Jordan's King Abdullah and discuss Israel's issues with Syria. In July and October 2000, Yatom took part in the Middle East peace summits at Camp David with Barak and Yasser Arafat, and presided over by U.S. president Bill Clinton. Although President Clinton's October summit objectives included a cease-fire and a plan to eventually return to the peace discussions that had broken down that July, Yatom conceded that that the situation was very complicated and the talks were going very slowly—and soon after talks broke down again. A discreet personage, Yatom has been considered as a perfectionist, someone well acquainted with the subtleties of power.

SEE ALSO Arens, Moshe;Barak, Ehud;Israel Defense Force;Lipkin-Shahak, Amnon;Mordechai, Yitzhak;Mossad;Netanyahu, Benjamin;Sayeret.