Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Rabin, Yitzhak (1922–1995)

Israeli military hero, minister of labor (1974), minister of defense (1984–1990), and prime minister (1974–1977, 1992–1995). Born on 1 March 1922 in Jerusalem, Yitzhak Rabin graduated from high school in 1940, his last formal education. In 1941 he joined the elite Palmach military force. As a colonel, he commanded a brigade in battles around Jerusalem during the 1948 Israeli War for Independence. Remaining with the army, he was promoted to major general in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in December 1954. In December 1964 he was named IDF chief of staff and was promoted to lieutenant general. In June 1967, Arab saber rattling instigated by Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser led Rabin to urge the Israeli government to launch a preemptive military strike against Egypt. Striking first in the Six-Day War, Rabin's IDF achieved a stunning victory, capturing the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights before a cease-fire was negotiated. Retiring from the IDF as a lieutenant general in January 1968, Rabin served as ambassador to the United States during 1968–1973. In December 1973 he was elected to the Knesset representing the Labor Party and became Prime Minister Golda Meir's minister of labor for a brief time in early 1974. When Meir resigned, Rabin was elected to head of the Labor Party. He became Israeli prime minister on 2 June 1974.

As prime minister, Rabin supported U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy, which led to military disengagement and reduced tensions between Israel and Egypt in the Sinai. Rabin's government ordered the daring Entebbe Raid in June 1976 to free Jewish hostages in Uganda. A violation of banking laws by his wife led Rabin to resign the prime ministership on 7 April 1977. When Labor lost the national elections that same year, he returned to the Knesset.

In September 1984 a National Unity government was formed with Rabin as defense minister. Rabin oversaw the Israeli military withdrawal from most of Lebanon southward into a security zone and suppressed the 1987 Palestinian Intifada uprising. When that government fell in 1990, Rabin rejoined the Knesset opposition.

Labor's electoral victory in June 1992 made Rabin prime minister once again. In spite of personal reservations, he agreed to secret peace negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993 that led to the signing of the Oslo Accords, beginning a process that would presumably lead to Palestinian self-rule. For his efforts, Rabin won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize. His willingness to compromise and offer territorial concessions amid continued Palestinian terrorist actions brought him under increasing political attack from hard-line Israelis. On 4 November 1995, Jewish right-wing extremist Yigai Amir assassinated Rabin while he was attending a peace rally in Tel Aviv.

Thomas D. Veve


Further Reading
Kurzman, Dan. Soldier of Peace: The Life of Yitzhak Rabin, 1922–1995. New York: HarperCollins, 1998.; Rabin, Yitzhak. The Rabin Memoirs. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979.
 

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