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
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
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.