Gur (Gorban), Mordecai

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GUR (Gorban), MORDECAI (Motta ; 1930–1995), Tenth Israeli chief of staff and politician; member of the Tenth to Thirteenth Knessets. Gur was born and grew up in Jerusalem. He joined the Haganah at an early age and held various positions of command. During the War of Independence he served in the ninth motorized special services battalion of the Negev Brigade of the Palmah. After the War of Independence, he served for two years in *Naḥal, later joining the paratroops and commanding numerous reprisal operations. In 1955 he was commended for his part in an operation across the border with Egypt in Khan Yunis, in the course of which he was wounded. During the 1956 Sinai Campaign he commanded an airborne Naḥal unit and in 1957 became deputy commander of the paratroops. In 1959–60 Gur studied at a military academy in Paris, and in 1961 was appointed commander of the Golani Brigade. In 1963 he was appointed to a senior post on the General Staff, and in 1966, after a year as commander of the Staff College, took charge of a brigade of airborne infantry. During the Six-Day War, Gur commanded the paratrooper brigade that captured the Old City of Jerusalem, and after the war was appointed commander of the forces in the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula. In 1969 he was promoted to the rank of major general, and was appointed commander of the Northern Command, and in 1972–73 served as military attaché in Washington. After the Yom Kippur War, he was once again appointed commander of the Northern Command. In 1974, he succeeded Lieutenant General David *Elazar as chief of staff, serving in this capacity until 1978. As chief of staff he was responsible for the 1976 Entebbe Operation, in which the idf freed Israeli and Jewish hostages hijacked to Uganda by terrorists, and for the 1978 Litani Operation, in which the idf attacked Palestinian terrorist bases in Southern Lebanon. When Egyptian president Anwar *Sadat declared his intention to visit Jerusalem in November 1977, Gur reacted with suspicion.

After retiring from the idf Gur, who had taken Oriental Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, attended Harvard Business School for a year, in 1979. He returned to Israel after being appointed director of the Histadrut-owned industrial enterprise of Koor Mechanics, a position he held until 1984. In these years he also became active in the *Israel Labor Party. In 1981 Gur was elected to the Tenth Knesset on the Alignment ticket. Reelected to the Eleventh Knesset he served as minister of health in the National Unity Government in 1984–86, when Shimon *Peres was prime minister. He resigned in 1986, refusing to serve under Yitẓḥak *Shamir of the Likud after the rotation in the premiership. After his resignation from the government he continued to serve in the Knesset, but also became chairman of the Board of Directors of Solel Boneh, the Histadrut-owned construction company. He rejoined the government half a year before the elections to the Twelfth Knesset in 1988 as minister without portfolio. In the National Unity Government formed after the elections Gur continued to serve as minister without portfolio. In the course of these years Gur frequently met with Palestinian personalities in the West Bank, and even made an attempt to meet with plo leader Yasser *Arafat. When Arafat expressed willingness to recognize Security Council Resolution 242 towards the end of 1988, Gur was inclined to admit that a certain change had taken place in the Palestinian position, but the following year he was disappointed by the positions of the Palestinians and adopted a more hawkish approach to the conflict with the Palestinians within the Labor Party.

Gur had planned to contend in the leadership contest in the Labor Party in 1992, and did not hide his ambition to be prime minister, but he finally withdrew when he was diagnosed with cancer. In the contest he supported Yitzhak *Rabin, and in the government formed by Rabin after the elections to the Thirteenth Knesset was appointed deputy minister of defense, with Rabin serving as minister. In July 1995, less than four months before the assassination of Rabin, when a turn for the worse occurred in his illness, he took his own life.

His Azeet, Paratrooper Dog became a successful series of children's books and he also wrote The Battle for Jerusalem (Har ha-Bayit be-Yadeinu, 1974) on the Six-Day War.


Z. Ofer (ed.), Rosh ha-Mateh ha-KelaliMotta Gur (1998).

[Misha Louvish /

Rohan Saxen and

Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]