Ze'evi, Reḥavam

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ZE'EVI, REḤAVAM ("Gandhi "; 1926–2001), Israeli military commander and politician, member of the Twelfth to Fifteenth Knessets. Born in Jerusalem, Ze'evi went to the regional school at Givat ha-Sheloshah. From 1936 to 1944 he was active in the Ha-Maḥanot ha-Olim youth movement, and in 1944 joined the *Palmaḥ, where he got the nickname "Gandhi," for his emaciated appearance. In the War of Independence he was the intelligence officer of the Yiftaḥ brigade. In later years he served as operations officer on the Northern Front, intelligence officer in the Southern Command, and commander of the Golani regiment. In the early 1960s he attended the Command and Staff College of the U.S. Army. In 1964 Ze'evi received the rank of major general, and served as commander of the Central Command, and in 1968 was appointed head of the Operations Branch. A week before the Yom Kippur War he retired from the IDF, but returned to active service during the war in the Operations Branch. During his military career he gained a reputation for his flamboyancy and directness.

In 1974 Ze'evi was appointed adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak *Rabin and in 1975–77 as the prime minister's advisor on intelligence matters. In 1981 he was appointed director of the Land of Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, serving in this capacity for 10 years, during which he developed the museum but was also criticized for his management of it.

In 1985 Ze'evi started to speak publicly of the need to encourage a voluntary transfer of the Palestinian population from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Prior to the elections to the Twelfth Knesset in 1988 he established a political party called Moledet. Moledet gained two seats in the Twelfth Knesset, three in the Thirteenth, two in the Fourteenth. In the elections to the Fifteenth Knesset Moledet ran as part of the National Union list.

After the breakup of the National Unity Government in 1990, Ze'evi joined the government as minister without portfolio and member of the Security Cabinet in February 1991, causing an uproar within the Likud, since some of its leading members felt that his views were too extreme. However, less than a year later he left the government, against the background of Prime Minister Yitzhak *Shamir's decision to participate in the Madrid Conference on Peace in the Middle East.

In the course of the Thirteenth Knesset he was one of the strongest opponents of the Oslo Accords in the Knesset, but he strongly condemned Rabin's assassination. He was also one of the mourners of former Major General and MK Mattityahu Peled, despite Peled's left-wing views and his membership in a mixed Jewish-Arab party. In general Ze'evi remained attached to all his former colleagues – including Rabin and Peled – with whom he had served in the Palmaḥ. However, in the Thirteenth Knesset he hit the headlines primarily due to his quarrels with the other two members of his party, one of whom he called "a clown," and the other a "ufo," and bitter verbal exchanges with some of the Arab Knesset Members. Ze'evi did not join the government formed by Binyamin *Netanyahu in 1996, supporting the government from the outside. As a member of the National Union he joined the government formed by Ariel *Sharon in March 2001 and was given the Tourism portfolio. In the periods when he was not a member of the government, he served on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and on the House Committee. He was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in the Hyatt Hotel in Jerusalem on October 17, 2001. Though Ze'evi's political positions were condemned by many, he was held even by his opponents in high esteem for his integrity and decency. After his murder, his son Palmaḥ contended for the leadership of Moledet, but Rabbi Binyamin (Benny) *Elon was elected.

Ze'evi edited and brought to print a translated series of historical travel books published between 1982 and 1995 by the Ministry of Defense. He also edited, by himself and with others, numerous books relating to geographical locations in Ereẓ Israel, and military issues.


M. Sheshar, Siḥot im Reḥavam Ze'evi (2001); I. Katz, Aluf Rehav'am Ze'evi 19262001: Devarim le-Zikhro (2001).

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]