Yitzhak Rabin – from solider to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Yitzhak Rabin was born in Jerusalem on March 1, 1922.Yitzhak's parents, Nehemiah and Rosa, were Third Aliyah (immigration wave) pioneers. Nehemiah Rubitzov, who had been born in a small Ukrainian town in 1886, lost his father when he was only a child and the youngster had to help support the family. When he was 18 years old he went to the United States, where he joined the Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion) Party and also changed his surname to Rabin. In 1917 he went to Palestine with Hagdud Ha’ivri (Jewish Legion) volunteers, determined to settle in Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel). Yitzhak's mother, Rosa Cohen, was born in 1890 in Mohilev in White Russia. Her father, a rabbi, was opposed to the Zionist movement. However, he sent Rosa to study at a Christian high school for girls in Homel, exposing her to a wider general education. From an early age she was drawn to revolutionary circles, and was socially and politically active. She arrived in Palestine in 1919 on the ship Rosslan, which is considered the bellwether of the Third Aliyah. She went first to a collective settlement (Kibbuz) on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and later to Jerusalem. There she met Nehemiah and the two married in 1921. When Yitzhak Rabin was a year old, the family moved first to Haifa and then to Tel Aviv. His sister Rachel was born in 1925. Rabin's parents were volunteer activists for most of their lives, and the home had a permanent atmosphere of commitment to public service. Rosa was active in the Haganah defense organization, in Mapai - the Eretz Israel Workers' Party - and was a Tel Aviv Municipal Council member. She died of an illness when Yitzhak was fifteen years old.
Yitzhak attended the School for Workers' Children in Tel Aviv for eight years. The school was established in 1924 by the Histadrut, the General Federation of Labor. It aimed to instill in the city's young people a love of the country and practically, to raise a generation to till the land. Pupils were taught to honor responsibility, sharing and solidarity, and to be actively involved in social issues. The writer Eliezer Smoli, who taught Yitzhak Rabin there, portrayed a year in the life of Rabin's class in his book Bnei Hayoreh (Sons of the First Rain) published in 1936.
After completing his studies at the School for Workers' Children, Rabin spent two years at the intermediary regional school of Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha. He then enrolled in the Kadoorie Agricultural School, at the foot of northern Mount Tabor. A number of Kadoorie alumni later became commanders in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and leaders of the new state. The school insisted on old-world principles of honor, trust and truth. This is what Yitzhak Rabin wrote about his days in Kadoorie.The school was surrounded by Arab villages, and the daily routine at school included defense training and guard duty. While at Kadoorie, Rabin joined the Haganah. There he met Yigal Allon, who later became his commander and a friend for many years.
First days in the army
Yitzhak Rabin soon became a full-time commander in the Palmach. When Palmach battalions were established at the beginning of 1945, he was appointed deputy commander of the First Battalion. During this period the Palmach developed its combat doctrine. The main principles were independent and original thinking, resourcefulness, and improvisation to meet prevailing circumstances. These were considered superior to a routine of strict discipline and hard training. As a guiding principle, the Palmach emphasized that the commander's authority must derive from personal example demonstrated to those under his command rather than from traditional hierarchy and chain of command.
At the end of 1945, the Palmach attempted to free 200 “illegal” held at the British detention camp of Atlit, south of Haifa. Rabin was the deputy commander of this operation and he led the assault force that broke into the camp. On June 29, 1946, a day that became known as Black Saturday, he and others, including his father, were arrested by the British, and sent to a detention camp. He was freed in November 1946. Yitzhak Rabin was at once appointed commander of the Palmach's Second Battalion, and in October 1947 he became the Palmach's chief operations officer.
Rabin and the war of independence
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to implement the Palestine Partition Plan to set up a Jewish and an Arab state in this territory which was then under British mandate. Dissenting Arabs began attacking the Yishuv (the pre-state Jewish community) to thwart the establishment of a Jewish state. They attacked Jewish settlements and towns and opened fire on Jewish vehicles on the roads. Poorly armed and ill equipped, the Jewish defense forces, especially the permanently mobilized arm of the Haganah, the Palmach, fought back as best they could. The fighting was hard and bitter and many lives were lost. Six thousand Jews fell during the full period of the fight for independence. That was one percent of the entire Yishuv. On May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv, David Ben Gurion proclaimed an independent State of Israel. The next day, the regular armies of the surrounding Arab states invaded the new born state and the full-blown War of Independence began.
start of the war, Jerusalem was cut off from the center of the country by enemy
positions. Yitzhak Rabin's first task was to safeguard convoys of food,
ammunition and medical supplies to the beleaguered city. In April 1948, the
Palmach Harel Brigade was established, with Rabin as commander. The fiercest
battles were on the central front, in the corridor leading to Jerusalem, and
within the city. Rabin played a major role in all of them, in which many of his
friends and comrades fell.
midst of the War of Independence, Rabin married Lea Schlossberg. They had two
children, Dalia and Yuval. Yitzhak Rabin decided his fate was with the Israeli
Defense Forces (IDF), and he remained in the armyn. 1963 Yitzhak Rabin was appointed commander of the IDF's
first course for battalion commanders and later as head of the general staff's
Operations Division. In May 1959 Rabin became chief of the Operations Branch,
the second highest position in the IDF, under Chief of Staff Chaim Laskov. It
was the first time he was faced with tackling the problems of every facet of the
defense forces from a strategic position.
in the Middle East had been rising steadily since the beginning of the 1960s.
Israel built its National Water Carrier, bringing water from the Sea of Galilee
and the Jordan River to the Negev, despite Arab attempts to divert the Jordan
May 1967, President Nasser escalated the tension by massing troops in the Sinai,
which contravened the 1957 agreements. He expelled the United Nations forces
that since 1957 had been based in Sinai as a buffer between the Egyptian and
Israeli armies. They also guaranteed freedom of navigation to Eilat, Israel's
sole southern harbor on the Red Sea. Now Nasser declared a full blockade of the
Strait of Tiran and a ban on all ships flying the Israeli flag or bringing
strategic cargoes to Eilat.
June 5, 1967, virtually all the Air Force's combat planes took to the air in a
massive assault on Arab air forces. Taken by surprise, most of their planes were
caught on the ground and destroyed. With total air superiority, the armored and
infantry forces had a clear road to invade the Sinai. The Egyptian army was
defeated within days and pulled back to the Suez Canal.
Ambassador to the United States
Rabin left the IDF at the beginning of 1968, after 27 years of service. He was
appointed as Ambassador to the United States of America, a post he held for five
years. The two main topics that preoccupied him during his tenure were fostering
solid U.S.-Israeli ties, and opening a peace process with Arab states.
returned from Washington in 1973, Yitzhak Rabin joined the Labor Party. In the
election he won a place as number 20 on its Labor list for the Eighth Knesset
(Israeli Parliament). The Yom Kippur War broke out in October 1973 with a
surprise attack launched jointly by Egypt and Syria.
conducted stubborn and exhausting negotiations over post-war interim agreements
with Egypt and Syria, which were mediated by U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Henry
Kissinger in his famous shuttle diplomacy.
Shimon Peres was elected as the Labor Party candidate for the premiership in the elections of May 17, 1977. These elections brought about the historic 'turnaround.' The Labor Party, which had led the state from its beginnings, was routed by the charismatic new leader of the Likud, Menachem Begin.
1984, a national unity government was formed and Yitzhak Rabin was appointed
minister of defence. He held the post for six years, until the collapse of the
second national unity government in 1990. One of his major tasks was to
disengage the IDF from a war of attrition in Lebanon where it had become stuck
since the 1982 invasion – the Shalom Hagalil Operation (Peace for the Galilee
the end of 1987, the Intifada erupted. This Palestinian popular uprising in the
occupied territories caught Israel completely by surprise and rapidly escalated
to alarming proportions. As the Intifada captured huge international interest,
Israel's military and political leaders were slow to comprehend its magnitude
After its repeated failure to regain power, the Labor Party put Yitzhak Rabin at the helm again. In the 1992 election campaign, Rabin swept up mass support and the slogan "Israel is waiting for Rabin" became the winning one. He became prime minister, and established a coalition government with Meretz (liberal-left), and with Shas (a Mizrahi, ultra-Orthodox, but somewhat dovish party). He himself kept the defense portfolio. Now in office, he immediately moved a peace agreement with the Palestinians to the top of his list of priorities.
perennial rivalry between Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres over the leadership of
the Labor Party, which had lasted since 1974, now came to an end. The two
finally came together to cooperate fully in the peace process. Rabin's reluctant
journey to accepting the PLO as a
partner for peace was a prolonged and painful process. He finally realized that
it is with an enemy one negotiates peace, and Israel had no other partner for an
agreement except the PLO.
The 1994 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat. All three politicians had played a large role in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East and were rewarded for their efforts since the Oslo Agreement. In his speech at the award ceremony, Rabin described his own development from war hero to peace hero (to Rabin's Nobel Peace Prize speech).
Following the signing of the Declaration of Principles, extremists opposed to the peace process began a campaign of terrorist attacks. Yitzhak Rabin vowed to pursue the peace process as if there was no terrorism while fighting terrorism as if there was no peace process. On May 4, 1994 Rabin signed The Gaza-Jericho Agreement, which granted the Palestinians autonomy in Gaza and Jericho. The IDF left Jericho and the Gaza Strip, but continued to defend the Jewish settlements left in the territories. On September 13, 1995, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo B Agreement, which expanded West Bank areas under control of the new Palestinian Authority. A comprehensive treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed in October 1994, the culmination of this new Middle East peace process.
Rabin's peace policy received broad support from the people of Israel, but it
enraged many sectors who opposed compromise with the PLO and territorial
concessions. These included Jewish settlers in the West Bank, Gaza and to a
lesser extent in the Golan, the religious extreme right, and many Likud Party
night of Saturday November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin traveled to the
Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv where tens of thousands of Israeli peace
supporters massed to assure him of their enthusiastic support. He spoke at the
Rabin's last speech). They
rallied with wild enthusiasm under banners that proclaimed "Yes to Peace -
No to Violence."
from: The Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies - Translator: Uriel Masad,