RABIN, Yithzak

Israeli military and politician born in 1922 in Jerusalem to a father of Ukranian descent and a mother of Russian descent, who were central figures in the Jewish workers movement in Palestine. After his studies at the Keddouri Agricultural School he joined the Palmah, the elite unit of the Hagannah, in 1940.

In 1941, Rabin became part of a commando unit mobilized by the British army during its invasion of Syria and in 1945 he commanded the first battalion of the Palmah. During the 1948 War he fought on the Jerusalem and Negev fronts. A member of the Israeli delegation which negotiated the armistice agreement with Egypt in Rhodes in 1949, he continued to serve in the army and became Chief of Staff in 1964.

Rabin commanded the Israeli army during the Six Day War and played, together with Moshe Dayan, Defence Minister, the leading role in that conflict. In 1968 he was appointed Ambassador to the United States.

Upon his return in 1973 he entered political life and was elected at the head of the Labour Party. He became Prime Minister in June 1974 and served for three years before resigning in 1977 as a result of the discovery that his wife had a bank account in the United States, at that time illegal under Israeli law.

He came back to political power from 1984 to 1990 as Defence Minister in the first National Unity Government with the Likud. He who had approved Ariel Sharon’s methods during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, led the withdrawal of Tsahal in 1985 from what begins to look increasingly like an Israeli Vietnam. With the beginning of the Intifada in 1987, the soldier in him was stronger than the politician and he gave the army instructions to open fire on the stone-throwing and molotov cocktail-using demonstrators. However, pragmatic and realist Rabin later on declared that he had come to the conclusion that power alone could not solve the Palestinian problem.

In 1992 he succeeded Shimon Peres at the head of the Labour Party and won the general elections in June of the same year. He was appointed Prime Minister and Defence Minister of the new government led by the Labour Party. In September 1993, he signed with Yasser Arafat the historical « Declaration of Principles » (see « Oslo peace process ») intended to be the corner stone for peace in the Middle East and exchanged with him letters of mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO.

Whereas the implementation of the Israeli-Palestinian Agreements face some delays – according to him, « there are no sacred dates » – negotiations led by his government with Jordan ended in October 1994 with the signing of a peace treaty between the two countries. In December, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat.

In Israel, in connection with his negotiations with the Palestinians, Rabin had to cope with skepticism and opposition from all quarters, not only from the political class – Likud and ultra-nationalist religious right wing – but also from a growing slice of the Israeli population. The violence of the opposition showed by some movements towards the Prime Minister reached its highest point with calls to murder him by some rabbis. Rabin was assassinated on the 4th of November 1995 in Tel-Aviv by Yigal Amir, an extreme right wing activist.