Ezer Weizman, an air force general, industrialist and politician, was
elected Israel's seventh President by the Knesset (Israel's parliament) for
a five-year term (commencing 13 May 1993). Born in Tel Aviv in 1924 and
raised in Haifa, Weizman is the second president in his family, following in
the footsteps of his uncle, Chaim Weizman, the renowned scientist and
Zionist leader who was Israel's first President (1949-1952).
Weizman's extensive military career began when he joined Great Britain's
Royal Air Force during World War II, serving in Egypt and India. After the
war, he served in the Air Service, the predecessor of the Israel Air Force
(IAF), and was one of the founders of the IAF when it was formed as an
integral part of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1949. In 1956 Weizman
was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the IAF, and ten years later (1966) he
became Head of the IDF Operations Branch and Deputy Chief-of-Staff
responsible for the IAF. In this capacity he was the architect of Israel's
decisive victory over Egypt's air force during the 1967 Six Day War. He
retired from the IDF in 1969 after more than two decades of distinguished
service in this country's defense.
Weizman's political career was launched in 1969 with his appointment as
Minister of Transport for Gahal (the Likud party's predecessor) in Levi
Eshkol's second national unity government. When Gahal left the government a
year later, Weizman became Chairman of the Herut party's (a component of
Gahal) Executive Committee (1971-72). In 1977 he ran the Likud's victorious
election campaign for the Ninth Knesset.
A high point of Weizman's public service came during his tenure as Minister
of Defense (1977-80) when he was instrumental in the process leading to the
peace treaty with Egypt, fostering close personal relations with Egyptian
leaders and playing a pivotal role in the Camp David negotiations.
Differences of opinion with the government over ways and means of achieving
peace in the region caused Weizman to resign his cabinet post in 1980. He
was subsequently ousted from Herut. From 1980 to 1984, he was occupied
mainly in business activities.
In 1984 Weizman founded a political party, Yahad, which ran on a dovish
platform in the elections to the Eleventh Knesset, gaining three seats. In
the national unity government formed after these elections, Weizman served
as Minister without Portfolio and as a member of the inner cabinet. In 1985
he was apointed Coordinator of Arab Affairs, a position which enabled him to
promote his long-time interest in assisting Israel's Arab sector. In the
1988 elections, he ran Labor's campaign and subsequently became Minister of
Science and Development in the new national unity government, serving in
this position until March 1990. In February 1992, Weizman resigned from the
Knesset over what he regarded as lack of pogress in the Arab-Israeli peace
Israel's seventh President brings to the office impressive achievements and
wide-ranging personal contacts in the Western, as well as in the Arab world.
No stranger to problems and challenges, Weizman draws upon decades of
political experience during which he shifted party affiliations to
accommodate his changing views, gradually replacing hawkish beliefs with a
dovish orientation. On accepting the Presidency, which carries with it
responsibility for fostering national unity and promoting moral values,
Weizman said he regards the job as "the most complicated and difficult one I
have ever assumed."
Ezer Weizman was re-elected to a second term in May 1998, and resigned from the Presidency in July 2000.