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Yitzhak Rabin

Yitzhak Rabin - Israeli Defence Force (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.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2003 19:53 IST

Yitzhak Rabin - Israeli Defence Force (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.

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

First Published: Jun 26, 2003 19:23 IST