Yitzhak Rabin: A Profile of a Leader

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Above: Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands with King Hussein during the peace signing ceremony with Jordan. President Clinton in the center.

By Gideon

“Yitzhak Rabin was born on March 1, 1922 in Jerusalem. As a child in Tel Aviv during the ‘20s and early ‘30s, he experienced the immense changes that took place in the first Hebrew city, starting as a minor settlement to becoming the most populous city in the country. Major institutions were founded to provide organized leadership in establishing a Jewish homeland including: the National Council, Jewish Agency, Histadrut labor federation, Hagana and various political parties. Rabin studied at the School for Worker’s Children and learned from a young age to embrace the values of the Labor movement, such as love for the homeland and cultivation of its land, contribution to society, and equality of human beings.

At the beginning of this dramatic period in history, Rabin was a young pupil at the Kadoorie Agricultural School who dreamed of becoming a hydrological engineer but who ended up enlisting in the Palmach in 1941. As a soldier, Rabin filled a series of command positions that prepared him for the difficult missions he would face as a senior commander in the War of Independence (1948-49). Beginning with the rise to power of dictatorial regimes in Europe, World War II and the Holocaust, the decades end with the Cold War. For Israel it meant heightened tensions between Jews and Arabs, development of the Hagana, cooperation with the British in the war against the Nazis and the battles culminating in the establishment of the State of Israel and the defense of its right to exist.

Yitzhak Rabin played a dominant role in shaping the country’s military strength after the War of Independence. He took part in devising its military doctrine, and filled a series of senior command positions in the Israel Defense Force. In 1964, he was appointed Army Chief of Staff. Major challenges for the country included absorption of the huge wave of immigrants, uniting the diverse social and cultural groups, strengthening the economy, framing a democratic lifestyle and develop a modern army to protect a small country surrounded by enemies.

During 6 days in June of 1967 Israel became a regional power in the Middle East. Under the command of Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Yitzhak Rabin, the IDF defeated the armies of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria; occupied the Sinai Peninsula, West Bank and Golan Heights; and unified Jerusalem returning the Temple Mount to Israeli control. As a result of pre-emptive strikes and resulting victory, Israel increased the amount of territory controlled more than three times over. Living in this new territory were approximately one million Palestinian Arabs – against their will- creating complicated security and economic issues that remain to this day.

In 1968 Yitzhak Rabin was appointed to his first diplomatic post: Ambassador to the United States. The Yom Kippur War produced deep rift in the Israeli consciousness and led to a change of government. In 1974, Yitzhak Rabin had just recently completed a successful term as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and was elected to lead the country as the first “sabra” (Israeli-born) Prime Minister following the resignation of Golda Meir.

Rabin’s most notable accomplishments in his first term as Prime Minister were rehabilitation of the economy, narrowing of the social gaps and the agreement on separation of forces arrangements with Egypt and Syria, which constituted an important step toward a peace treaty. It is also during this period that Yitzhak Rabin made the decision to send commandos into Entebbe.

Yitzhak Rabin served as Defense Minister in the National Unity government from 1984 – 1988 under both Prime Ministers Shimon Peres (1984-86) and Yitzhak Shamir (1986-88). During this time, Rabin withdrew the IDF from Lebanon up to the security zone and was responsible for the strong-handed policy against the Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule.

While Rabin believed it was necessary to include a diplomatic-political framework in finding the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he was at first unwilling to acknowledge the Palestinian violence as a legitimate means for achieving political goals and refused to negotiate a settlement without a cessation of violence. After years of violent fighting at the borders, the Palestinians did not deter and Rabin began to realize the issues could only be solved across the negotiating table.

Yitzhak Rabin was elected by the Labor party to serve his second term as Prime Minister in 1992. Rabin understood the need to change Israel’s priorities. He believed that focusing on internal challenges was as crucial for the future of the State of Israel as was advancing the peace process. He initiated major infrastructure projects during his administration including investments in education, roads, railways, and the international airport, all of which greatly improved mobility for the flow of capital and labor.

Victory of the United States-led coalition over Iraq in the Gulf War and the fall of the Soviet bloc, and the continuing loss of lives of both Israel and the Palestinians in the Intifada, created a window of opportunity for progress in the Middle East peace process. The Madrid conference was the first phase, culminating in the Oslo Accord signed with the PLO paving the way to signing of a peace treaty with Jordan. In 1994 The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat.

However, Palestinian terror attacks during this period continued augmenting the already existing right-wing Israeli opposition to the peace process. The demonstrations grew more violent, and came to include personal incitement against Rabin. On November 4, 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an extremist right-winger at the end of a rally held in support of the peace process.” – www.friendsofrabin.org/life-of-yitzhak-rabin.html

Yitzhak Rabin’s quotes:

  • We’ll fight terror like there’s no peace, and make peace like there’s no terror
  • We  do not celebrate the death of our enemies.
  • It  is not worth the paper it is written on unless it is backed by the kind of force  that will make the other side consider the penalties too heavy to break the  agreement.

Related article: 

Yitzchak Rabin – Why I shook Arafat’s hand

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