1922 - 1995
Prime Minister of Israel 1974-1977 and 1992-1995
Yitzhak Rabin - IDF Chief of Staff, diplomat and the fifth Prime Minister of the State of Israel - was born in Jerusalem in 1922, the son of an ardently labor-Zionist family.
Rabin completed his schooling at the Kadoorie Agricultural High School with distinction and then joined the Palmach - the elite strike force of the Haganah underground defense organization.
He distinguished himself as a military leader early on, during his seven years of service in the Palmach. After the disbandment of this force with the establishment of the State of Israel, Rabin embarked on a military career in the IDF which spanned two decades.
Rising to the rank of Major-General at the age of 32, Rabin established the IDF training doctrine and the leadership style which became known by the command "follow me." In 1962 he was appointed Chief of the General Staff and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. He developed the IDF fighting doctrine - based on movement and surprise - which was employed during the 1967 Six-Day War, when the achievement of air supremacy and massive deployment of armor led to the famous military victory. In January 1968, after 26 years in uniform, Rabin retired from the IDF.
He was appointed Ambassador to the United States in 1968. During his five years in Washington, he strove to consolidate bilateral ties and played a major role in promoting "strategic cooperation" with the United States, which led to massive American military aid to Israel. Rabin returned to Israel in 1973, before the Yom Kippur War. He became an active member of the Labor party; was elected a Member of Knesset in the general elections of December 1973; and was appointed Minister of Labor in the government formed by Golda Meir in March 1974. This government resigned shortly thereafter, and on June 2, 1974, the Knesset voted confidence in the new government formed by Yitzhak Rabin.
Yitzhak Rabin, the first native-born Prime Minister, displayed a leadership style which was candid, direct and at times unadorned to the point of bluntness. He not only had to face the need to rehabilitate the IDF, solve social problems and improve the country's economy, but also to rebuild public confidence in both the military and the civilian leadership. This task was complicated by domestic scandals, growing industrial unrest and personal rivalry within the government. In 1975, Rabin concluded the Interim Agreement with Egypt, which led to Israeli withdrawal from the Suez Canal in return for free passage of Israeli shipping through the canal. As a result of this agreement, the first Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Government of Israel and the United States, ensuring American support for Israeli interests in the international arena and renewed American aid.
In July 1976, the government headed by Yitzhak Rabin ordered the "Entebbe Operation" for the rescue of Air France passengers hijacked by terrorists to Uganda. In this daring operation, thousands of miles from home, the hostages were released and flown to safety in Israel. The commander of the operation, Lt.-Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed in the fighting at Entebbe airport.
A no-confidence vote toppled Rabin's government, sparking new elections. He was nominated to lead Labor in the elections, but disclosure of his wife's bank account in the USA - an infringement on foreign currency regulations - prompted Rabin to resign from the party leadership prior to the 1977 elections, which swept opposition leader Menachem Begin into office.
During the next two decades, Rabin served as a member of Knesset. For six years (1984-1990), he was Minister of Defense in two national unity governments, engineering security arrangements on the Israeli-Lebanese border that allowed Israeli troops to withdraw to a narrow security zone. Rabin also guided the country's initial response to the intifada. From March 1990 until June 1992, Rabin served again as an opposition Member of Knesset.
In February 1992 the Labor Party held its first primaries: Rabin was selected Chairman of the Labor Party and, after the election victory in June 1992, began his second tenure as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
Rabin's second term as Prime Minister was marked by two historic events - the Oslo Agreements with the Palestinians and the Treaty of Peace with Jordan . Working closely with Shimon Peres, the Foreign Minister and his longtime rival, he masterminded negotiations on the Declaration of Principles signed with the PLO at the White House in September 1993. This won Rabin, Peres and Arafat the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize and opened negotiations with the Palestinians on autonomy in Gaza and some areas of Judea and Samaria and on the establishment of a Palestinian Authority. Then, in October 1994, a Treaty of Peace was signed with the Kingdom of Jordan. This encouraged the development of ties with additional Arab countries in North Africa and the Persian Gulf.
On November 4, 1995, on leaving a mass rally for peace held under the slogan "Yes to Peace, No to Violence," Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish right-wing extremist. Age 73 at his death, he was laid to rest before a shocked and grieving nation, in a state funeral on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, attended by leaders from around the world.
Remarks by Late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
at Tel-Aviv Peace Rally
November 4, 1995
On leaving a mass rally for peace held under the slogan "Yes to Peace, No to Violence," Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish right-wing extremist. Age 73 at his death, he was laid to rest before a shocked and grieving nation, in a state funeral on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, attended by leaders from around the world.
These were his last words:
Permit me to say that I am deeply moved. I wish to thank each and every one of you, who have come here today to take a stand against violence and for peace. This government, which I am privileged to head, together with my friend Shimon Peres, decided to give peace a chance -- a peace that will solve most of Israel's problems.
I was a military man for 27 years. I fought so long as there was no chance for peace. I believe that there is now a chance for peace, a great chance. We must take advantage of it for the sake of those standing here, and for those who are not here -- and they are many.
I have always believed that the majority of the people want peace and are ready to take risks for peace. In coming here today, you demonstrate, together with many others who did not come, that the people truly desire peace and oppose violence. Violence erodes the basis of Israeli democracy. It must be condemned and isolated. This is not the way of the State of Israel. In a democracy there can be differences, but the final decision will be taken in democratic elections, as the 1992 elections which gave us the mandate to do what we are doing, and to continue on this course.
I want to say that I am proud of the fact that representatives of the countries with whom we are living in peace are present with us here, and will continue to be here: Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco, which opened the road to peace for us. I want to thank the President of Egypt, the King of Jordan, and the King of Morocco, represented here today, for their partnership with us in our march towards peace.
But, more than anything, in the more than three years of this Government's existence, the Israeli people has proven that it is possible to make peace, that peace opens the door to a better economy and society; that peace is not just a prayer. Peace is first of all in our prayers, but it is also the aspiration of the Jewish people, a genuine aspiration for peace.
There are enemies of peace who are trying to hurt us, in order to torpedo the peace process. I want to say bluntly, that we have found a partner for peace among the Palestinians as well: the PLO, which was an enemy, and has ceased to engage in terrorism. Without partners for peace, there can be no peace. We will demand that they do their part for peace, just as we will do our part for peace, in order to solve the most complicated, prolonged, and emotionally charged aspect of the Israeli-Arab conflict: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
This is a course which is fraught with difficulties and pain. For Israel, there is no path that is without pain. But the path of peace is preferable to the path of war. I say this to you as one who was a military man, someone who is today Minister of Defense and sees the pain of the families of the IDF soldiers. For them, for our children, in my case for our grandchildren, I want this government to exhaust every opening, every possibility, to promote and achieve a comprehensive peace. Even with Syria, is will be possible to make peace.
This rally must send a message to the Israeli people, to the Jewish people around the world, to the many people in the Arab world, and indeed to the entire world, that the Israeli people want peace, support peace. For this, I thank you.
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