Tsaban, Ya'ir

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TSABAN, YA'IR (1930– ), Israeli socialist politician and publicist, member of the Tenth to Thirteenth Knessets. Tsaban was born in Jerusalem to parents who had emigrated from Poland in the 1920s. After completing high school, in 1948 he joined the Palmaḥ. He participated in the burial of the Arab victims of the Dir-Yassin massacre committed by the iẒl in April 1948. In December 1948 he was one of the founders of kibbutz Ẓor'a, near Beit-Shemesh, which he left four years later.

In the War of Independence Tsaban fought in the Sixth Palmaḥ Brigade, participating in the unsuccessful attempt to conquer the Latrun area on the way to Jerusalem. During a course for company commanders he first met Moshe *Sneh, who became his mentor. In 1952–54 he trained as a teacher at a kibbutz seminary, and started working as a teacher and youth instructor. In this period he became active in *Mapam. In January 1953 he left Mapam with Sneh, and for the next 27 years was active in various radical left-wing groups. He was a member of the Israel Communist Party (Maki) from 1954 to 1973, participating in various Communist youth delegations abroad. He also initiated opposition by the young guards of various political parties in Israel to the Statute of Limitations for Nazi Crimes, and to the establishment of relations with the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1969–72 Tsaban studied philosophy at Bar-Ilan and Tel Aviv universities. After Sneh's death in 1972, he served briefly as chairman of Maki's Political Bureau. He was later a member of Moked, and Maḥaneh Sheli. Over the years he represented Maki, Moked, and Maḥaneh Sheli in the Israel Executive of the World Jewish Congress, and in the Histadrut Executive Committee. In 1980 he returned to Mapam and was elected as its political secretary.

Tsaban was elected to the Tenth Knesset in 1981 within the framework of the Alignment between the *Israel Labor Party and Mapam. In 1984–92 he was a member of the Mapam parliamentary group in the Knesset, heading the list in the elections to the Twelfth Knesset. In 1992–96 he was a member of the Meretz parliamentary group, which Mapam had joined. In the governments formed by Yitzhak *Rabin and Shimon *Peres in the course of the Thirteenth Knesset, he served as minister of immigration absorption, and was a member of the Ministerial Committees on Absorption, and Political and Security Issues. In the Knesset he concentrated on social and humanitarian issues, initiating and supporting legislation affecting workers' rights and social welfare. He consistently supported peace initiatives with the Palestinians, and fought against religious coercion, and for the recognition of the non-Orthodox streams in Judaism. On several occasions in this period he appealed to the High Court of Justice on issues relating to the religious parties and personalities, and won.

In the Knesset he was noted for his diligence and graciousness.

After leaving the Knesset he was active in the meetings that led to the signing of the Geneva Initiative on December 1, 2003, and continued to campaign, together with others, for a variety of ideological and humanitarian causes. Since 1996 he has served as chairman of the College for Judaism as a Culture, and as chairman of the academic council of the Lavon Institute for Research on the Labor Movement, and has taught courses in public policy at Tel Aviv University. In 2000 he initiated the Encyclopedia of Jewish Culture in the Era of Modernization and Secularization and is a member of its editorial board.

Since 2002 he has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Agency.

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]