Yitzhak Rabin
Standing Tall
I was a young man who has now grown fully in years.” – Yitzhak Rabin
Rabin as a young general.

As he commanded forces in the Israeli Palmach citizen militia, during the intense battles surrounding Israel’s formation, Yitzhak Rabin would not have suspected that in the decades ahead he would rise stratospherically – from being an ordinary general, to a leader and statesman who would see through many more battles in many different arenas during the coming years.

His first came in 1967 when, as Defense Minister, he was handed the responsibility of ordering Israeli military action against heavy Egyptian/Arab opposition in what would come to be known as the Six-Day War. Although he was a lifelong soldier at heart, Rabin was torn by the brutal necessity of task. The costs of the war were expected to be so high, in fact, that Israeli landscapers had already reserved large parcels of land for graveyards in place of homes or settlements. Rabin finally decided on an overwhelming and decisive first strike against the encroaching enemy, which crippled the Egyptian air force and virtually stalled all offensive actions against Israel. The practically unopposed Israeli ground forces went on to capture several territories whose political implications Rabin immediately recognized as potential trouble. These included the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and the Golan Heights. All of these were highly strategic areas, and while Rabin kept paramount the security of Israel, he was pragmatic enough to know even then that they would eventually cause more trouble than help. Though triumphant in victory, Rabin’s deep reservations about war and its costs in human life would stay with him for many years, culminating decades later in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. The next decade was no easier for Rabin or Israel in the whole. In 1972 a group of Israeli athletes were held hostage by Palestinian gunmen at the Summer Olympic games in Munich, Germany ; subsequently, most of them were killed when an attempt to rescue them was botched. 1973 saw Israel caught off-guard by the Yom Kippur War, which caused the pain and harsh reality which had been minimized in 1967. Three years later in 1976, Rabin helped draw up and order the successful raid by Israeli commandos on a civilian airliner hijacked by Palestinians in Entebbe, Uganda. During this time he also encountered problems stemming from his stoic and notoriously blunt personality, which caused considerable friction in his dealings with American Jews who he felt were self-importantly meddling in Israel’s affairs. To Rabin, the attempts of powerful Jewish lobbying groups on Capitol Hill to favorably influence US policy was a profound irritation. Several times, public relations near-catastrophes occurred when Rabin uttered some carelessly unvarnished thought about his feelings that the American Jewish lobby was irrelevant and disconnected in regards to Israel. It was more a testament to his personality than anything else ; Israelis at home were for the most part amused by the outcry Rabin tended to provoke among Jews abroad. However, quieter and more radical elements within American Jewry saw less humor in these events. The seeds of antagonism against Rabin had been planted ; with the rise of right-wing extremists in the 1990s, it would take an ominous turn.

<Making History>

Yitzhak Rabin