Born in Israel 1948, Yossi Beilin is precisely as old as the State of Israel. Member of the Labour Party and considered as a « dove », he played an important role in the Middle-East Peace Process, which has come to a halt since the erruption of the Second Intifada. Having occupied ministerial posts in the governments of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, he is one of the most experienced left-wing Israeli politicians.

Yossi Beilin began his career as a journalist before receiving his PhD in Political Science from Tel Aviv University. Spokesman for the Labour Party from 1977 to 1984, he became Government Secretary from 1984 to 1986. After that, he became, for two years, Director-General for Political Affairs in the Foreign Ministry. Elected to the Knesset in 1988, he served as Deputy Minister of Finance from 1988 to 1990 in a government led by Shimon Peres.

His ties with Shimon Peres allowed him, in spite of the mistrust of Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, to secretly initiate the Israeli-Palestinian talks in Oslo, which eventually led to the « Oslo Declaration » and to a real start of the Peace Process. He headed the Israeli delegation to the multilateral peace process working groups from 1992-95. In July 1995, he was appointed Minister of Economics and Social Development.

It was Beilin who publicly sparked the debate on the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon and he was the first in the Labour Party to call for the unilateral withdrawal, which finally took place in May 2000. In April 2000, in a speech in Haifa University, he was also the first Israeli official to call for a rethinking of Israel’s attitude towards Iran. In addition, Beilin was a negotiator at the Taba talks with the Palestinians in January 2001 (see MEDEA Special File: What did really happen in Camp David?).

Beilin became Minister of Justice in 1999 under Ehud Barak, until Ariel Sharon’s election victory in 2001, which put him out of government. Following that date, Mr. Beilin initiated, together with former Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, the secret negotiations which lasted for two and a half years and which resulted in the Geneva Accords. The initiative, supported by Swiss diplomats and officially launched in Geneva on the 1st of December 2003, offers an alternative peace plan with agreement on final status in order to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.