Rabin, Yitzhak

(1922-95)
   Born in Jerusalem on 1 March 1922 to Russian immigrants (see ALIYA) in Palestine. He entered the prestigious Kadourie Agricultural School in Galilee in 1937, and after graduation in 1940, he moved to Kibbutz Ramat Yohanan. He joined the Hagana in May 1941 and subsequently served in the Palmah. Later, he was arrested in a massive sweep by British mandatory authorities, and he spent a brief period in a British prison. In October 1947, he was appointed deputy commander of the Palmah. A month before Israel declared its independence on 14 May 1948, he was put in charge of the Palmah's Harel Brigade and was assigned the task of eliminating Arab strongholds along the strategic Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road.
   Rabin's military career included a variety of positions in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during Israel's formative years, including head of the army's tactical operations division from 1950 to 1952, head of the training branch from 1954 to 1956, and commanding officer of the northern command from 1956 to 1959. As army chief of operations, he came into conflict with then deputy defense minister Shimon Peres over the question of who should determine the priorities in the acquisition and manufacture of arms. Rabin believed that the decision should be made by professional soldiers rather than by civilians in the Defense Ministry. The political rivalry with Peres developed into a bitter personal feud. Rabin was appointed chief of staff of the IDF in January 1964 and during his tenure focused on the restructuring of the army and acquiring more advanced weaponry. In the Six-Day War (1967), Rabin's army won a decisive victory over its Arab adversaries in six days, radically transforming the situation in the Middle East. In February 1968, he became Israel's ambassador to the United States, and in March 1973, he returned to Israel.
   After the Knesset election of December 1973, Rabin was invited by Golda Meir to join the new cabinet as defense minister because of Moshe Dayan's refusal to serve in the new government. When Dayan suddenly announced his willingness to join, Rabin became minister of labor. On 22 April 1974, Rabin was chosen by the Labor Party central committee to succeed Meir as prime minister, but Peres's strong showing in the vote earned him the post of defense minister, from which he tried to undermine Rabin's authority at almost every turn in the hope of replacing him. Rabin served as prime minister from June 1974 to May 1977, during which time he concentrated on rebuilding the IDF, to which the successful raid at the Entebbe airport (see OPERATION ENTEBBE) contributed by restoring the army's and nation's self-confidence. His government successfully negotiated a second disengagement of forces agreement with Egypt, brokered by the United States. Rabin's term as prime minister ended prematurely in 1977 after a cabinet dispute led to the scheduling of early elections. A month before the election, Rabin was forced to step down after admitting that his wife, Leah Rabin, had maintained an illegal bank account in the United States. Peres was designated to head the Israel Labor Party list in the election, but Labor was defeated at the polls.
   For the next four years, Rabin found himself in Peres's political shadow, and the relationship between the two was highly contentious. Rabin challenged Peres for the party's leadership at its national convention in December 1980 but lost. In 1984, Rabin became minister of defense in the Government of National Unity that was formed following the July 1984 election and remained in that position under both Peres and Yitzhak Shamir. He once again became minister of defense in the government established in December 1988. As defense minister in the early phases of the intifada, he was responsible for quelling the demonstrations and restoring order. He left the government with the other Labor ministers in the spring of 1990. Rabin failed in his challenge to Peres in the summer of 1990 for the leadership of the party.
   In early 1992 Rabin finally succeeded in ousting Peres as Labor Party chairman. Exploiting his reputation as "Mr. Security," Rabin led his party to victory in the election to the 13th Knesset. In the new government, he served as both prime minister and defense minister and appointed Peres as foreign minister. Though skeptical about dealing with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Rabin approved transforming the secret private discussions in Oslo between Israelis and Palestinians into formal negotiations culminating with the Israeli-PLO Declaration of Principles. Unlike his contacts with the PLO's Yasser Arafat, which remained cool and formal, Rabin's relationship with Jordan's King Hussein was warm and personal. During his tenure, important progress was also reported in achieving commercial and diplomatic contacts with Arab countries, including Syria. In 1994, Rabin received the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Peres and Arafat. At the conclusion of a mass peace rally in Tel Aviv on 4 November 1995, Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir. The social and political implications of his murder continue to be felt in Israel and throughout the Middle East.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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