Lipkin-Shahak, Amnon


Lipkin-Shahak, Amnon
(1944- )
   Born in Tel Aviv to an affluent seventh-generation Israeli family, at the age of 14, he entered a military boarding school in Haifa. A graduate of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Command and Staff College and the National Defense College, he joined the paratroop brigade in 1962 and served as a paratroop commander in the Six-Day War (1967). He was decorated for his role in extricating tanks and soldiers during the ill-fated operation against Palestine Liberation Organization fighters at Karameh in Jordan in 1968. He was again decorated for leading a squad that blew up the headquarters of a Palestinian terrorist faction in Beirut under heavy enemy fire in the spring of 1973. In the Yom Kippur War (1973), Lipkin-Shahak served as deputy commander of a paratroop brigade; he also participated in one of the bloodiest clashes in Israeli military history: the battle for the "Chinese farm" during the crossing of the Suez Canal.
   Lipkin-Shahak moved rapidly up the ranks of the IDF, becoming officer in command of the central command in 1983, director of military intelligence in 1986, deputy chief of staff under Ehud Barak in 1991, and chief of staff in 1995. His long-standing friendship with fellow career soldier Yitzhak Mordechai became strained in 1994 when Lipkin-Shahak, about to take over as IDF chief of staff, vetoed the appointment of Mordechai as his deputy. In a twist of fate, Lipkin-Shahak subsequently found himself serving under Mordechai when, in the summer of 1996, the latter was named minister of defense.
   Lipkin-Shahak formally retired from active military service on 24 December 1998; only days later, on 6 January 1999, he announced his candidacy for the post of prime minister as the head of the new Center Party. His campaign was premised on the themes of the need for national unity and for a return to honesty and integrity in Israeli political life; he was also highly critical of the political policies and personal behavior of the incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Though he initially scored very well in public opinion surveys, Lipkin-Shahak's campaign for prime minister rapidly lost steam, and he eventually relinquished to Mordechai his leadership of the Center Party and its nomination for prime minister.
   Lipkin-Shahak was elected to the Knesset for the first time, from the Center Party list, in 1999 and was appointed minister of tourism in the government formed by Barak. In June 2000, he also took on the transportation portfolio and held both positions until his resignation from the Knesset in March 2001. Although retired from party politics, Lipkin-Shahak remains actively engaged in political affairs; for example, he was a participant and signatory to the private Israeli-Palestinian Geneva Initiative of December 2003.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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