WEIZMAN, Ezer

Born in 1924 in Tel-Aviv, Ezer Weizman is the nephew of Haïm Weizman, the first President of Israel. He served as an officer in the RAF during the Second World War and in 1948 he joined the Israeli Air Force. He was Chief of Israel’s Defence Forces (IDF) from 1966 to 1969 after which he began his political career as Minister of Transport.

Chairman of Herut ‘s (main component of the Likud at the time of its creation in 1973) Executive Committee in 1970, he was then appointed Minister of Defence by Menahem Begin in 1977. Because of fundamental differences with Begin over his vision of peace, he resigned and was excluded from the Likud in 1980.

In 1984, he founded his own party, Yahad (« Together »), and participated in the Labour/Likud government as Minister without Portfolio. He then notably worked on dossiers such as the Israeli redeployment in Lebanon and the integration of the Israeli Arabs in the Israeli society.

After he dissolved Yahad, he joined Labour in 1988 and became Minister of Science and Development until Labour left the government in 1990.

On 13 May 1993, he was elected President of Israel – which according to the constitution is a formal position – and welcomed in September 1993 the Declaration of Principles (see « Oslo peace process »).

Known as a « dove » until his accession to the supreme magistracy, he has since made various « hawkish » remarks. For example: following the bomb attacks in Israel in 1994, he suggested that the peace process should be suspended. He is known for his honesty and does not hesitate to reveal his views, as well as for his ombudsman type qualities. His ability to unite the Israeli people was seen in the aftermath of Rabin’s assassination.

Ezer Weizman was reelected for a second mandate as President of Israel in March 1998 but announced in May 2000 his resignation following a financial scandal (illicit financing of his electoral campaign). In a stunning vote on July 31, the Knesset elected Moshe Katsav, the first ever Likud candidate for the Presidency, to succeed him. Shimon Peres, who was expected to win, was surprisingly defeated, getting 57 votes while 63 were given to Mr. Katsav.