Rabin, Yitzhak

Rabin, Yitzhak
born March 1, 1922, Jerusalem
died Nov. 4, 1995, Tel Aviv–Yafo, Israel

First native-born prime minister of Israel.

He fought in the first Arab-Israeli War and became chief of staff in 1964. His strategies helped win the Six-Day War in 1967. After retiring from the army (1968), he served as ambassador to the U.S. (1968–73). As head of the Israel Labour Party, he twice served as prime minister (1974–77, 1992–95). During his first tenure, he secured a cease-fire with Syria in the Golan Heights and ordered the raid at Entebbe, Ugan. (see Entebbe raid). As defense minister (1984–90) he responded forcefully to the Palestinian first intifādah. In 1993 secret negotiations with the Palestinians yielded a political settlement that called for limited Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, for which he shared the 1994 Nobel Prize for Peace with Shimon Peres and Yāsir Arafāt. He was assassinated by a right-wing Jewish extremist.

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▪ 1996

      Israeli soldier, politician, and statesman (b. March 1, 1922, Jerusalem—d. Nov. 4, 1995, Tel Aviv, Israel), was for some five decades a central figure in shaping his country's history while serving as both a brilliant military strategist and a peace-seeking prime minister. In one of the more memorable moments in recent history, Rabin, at the urging of U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton, shook the hand of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat—once his avowed enemy—on the White House lawn in 1993 after they signed an accord on Palestinian self-rule. Rabin, Arafat, and Shimon Peres, then Israeli foreign minister, were awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize for Peace for their efforts to bring peace to the Middle East. As a young man Rabin had intended to become a farmer and graduated from Kadourie Agricultural School, Kfar Tabor. Instead, however, he joined (1941) the Palmach, the commando unit of the Jewish Defense Forces. He saw action during World War II and developed skills that made him an excellent military tactician. During Israel's war of independence (1948), Rabin directed Jerusalem's defense. He became army chief of staff in 1964 and, though Gen. Moshe Dayan received most of the publicity, planned the strategy that helped Israel win the Six-Day War (1967). Rabin served as ambassador to the U.S. (1968-73) and then, on his return home, entered politics. Elected to the Knesset (parliament) as a member of the Labour Party in December 1973, he became minister of labour in Prime Minister Golda Meir's Cabinet the following March. A month later she resigned, and in June he became Israel's first native-born prime minister. It was Rabin who ordered the 1976 raid that resulted in the rescue of over 100 hostages, most of them Israelis, being held by Palestinian terrorists at the airport at Entebbe, Uganda. During an election campaign in 1977, however, he was forced to resign when it was revealed that he and his wife had violated Israeli law by maintaining bank accounts in the U.S. Peres became the leader of the Labour Party. Rabin returned to government in 1984 and served as defense minister until 1990. He regained the party leadership from Peres in 1992, and after elections later that year, he again became prime minister. His government thereupon initiated secret talks that led to the historic agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Jewish activist as he was leaving a peace celebration rally at which he had spoken and had joined in singing the Hebrew song of peace.

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▪ prime minister of Israel
born March 1, 1922, Jerusalem, Palestine [now in Israel]
died November 4, 1995, Tel Aviv–Yafo, Israel
 Israeli statesman and soldier who, as prime minister of Israel (1974–77, 1992–95), led his country toward peace with its Palestinian and Arab neighbours. He was chief of staff of Israel's armed forces during the Six-Day War (June 1967). Along with Shimon Peres (Peres, Shimon), his foreign minister, and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman Yāsir ʿArafāt (Arafāt, Yāsirʿ), Rabin received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1994.

      Rabin graduated from Kadourie Agricultural School in Kfar Tabor and in 1941 joined the Palmach, the Jewish Defense Forces' commando unit. He participated in actions against the Vichy French in Syria and Lebanon. During the Israeli war of independence (1948), he directed the defense of Jerusalem and also fought the Egyptians in the Negev. He graduated (1953) from the British staff college, became chief of staff in January 1964, and conceived the strategies of swift mobilization of reserves and destruction of enemy aircraft on the ground that proved decisive in Israel's victory in the Six-Day War (Arab-Israeli wars).

      In 1968, on retirement from the army, Rabin became his country's ambassador to the United States, where he forged a close relationship with U.S. leaders and procured advanced American weapons systems for Israel. He drew fire from Israeli hard-liners because he advocated withdrawal from Arab territories occupied in the 1967 war as part of a general Middle East peace settlement.

      Returning to Israel in March 1973, Rabin became active in Israeli politics. He was elected to the Knesset (parliament) as a member of the Labour Party in December, joining Prime Minister Golda Meir's cabinet as minister of labour in March 1974. After Meir resigned in April 1974, Rabin assumed leadership of the party and became Israel's fifth (and first native-born) prime minister in June. As Israel's leader he acted as both dove and hawk—securing a cease-fire with Syria in the Golan Heights but ordering a bold raid at Entebbe (Entebbe raid), Uganda, in July 1976, in which Israeli and other hostages were rescued after their plane was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists.

      Rabin was forced to call a general election for May 1977, but in April, during the electoral campaign, he relinquished the prime ministership and stepped down as leader of the Labour Party after it was revealed that he and his wife had maintained bank accounts in the United States, in violation of Israeli law. He was replaced as party leader by Shimon Peres.

      Rabin served as defense minister in the Labour-Likud coalition governments from 1984 to 1990, responding forcefully to an uprising by Palestinians in the occupied territories. In February 1992, in a nationwide vote by Labour Party members, he regained leadership of the party from Peres. After the victory of his party in the general elections of June 1992, he again became prime minister.

 As prime minister, Rabin put a freeze on new Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. His government undertook secret negotiations with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) that culminated in the Israel-PLO accords (September 1993), in which Israel recognized the PLO and agreed to gradually implement limited self-rule for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In October 1994 Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan, after a series of secret meetings, signed a full peace treaty between their two countries.

      The territorial concessions aroused intense opposition among many Israelis, particularly settlers in the West Bank. While attending a peace rally in November 1995, Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist.

Additional Reading
Robert Slater, Rabin of Israel: Warrior for Peace (1996), is a biography.

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Universalium. 2010.

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