Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman

Yale University Press
Free sample

An insider’s perspective on the life and influence of Israel’s first native-born prime minister, his bold peace initiatives, and his tragic assassination

More than two decades have passed since prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995, yet he remains an unusually intriguing and admired modern leader. A native-born Israeli, Rabin became an inextricable part of his nation’s pre-state history and subsequent evolution. This revealing account of his life, character, and contributions draws not only on original research but also on the author’s recollections as one of Rabin’s closest aides.
 
An awkward politician who became a statesman, a soldier who became a peacemaker, Rabin is best remembered for his valiant efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for the Oslo Accords. Itamar Rabinovich provides extraordinary new insights into Rabin’s relationships with powerful leaders including Bill Clinton, Jordan’s King Hussein, and Henry Kissinger, his desire for an Israeli-Syrian peace plan, and the political developments that shaped his tenure. The author also assesses the repercussions of Rabin’s murder: Netanyahu’s ensuing election and the rise of Israel’s radical right wing.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Yale University Press
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Published on
Mar 5, 2017
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780300228014
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Presidents & Heads of State
History / Middle East / Israel & Palestine
History / Modern / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A deeply reported biography of the scandal-plagued Israeli Prime Minister, showing that we cannot understand Israel--its history, present, and future--without first understanding the life and worldview of the man who leads it

Benjamin Netanyahu is embroiled in numerous scandals, all of his own making, and may soon be ousted from the office he has held longer than any prior Israeli Prime Minister outside of David Ben Gurion. But Bibi, as he is known by friend and foe alike, is no stranger to controversy. For many in Israel and elsewhere, he is an embarrassment, a threat to democracy, even a precursor to Donald Trump. He nevertheless continues to dominate Israeli public life--and he may yet survive his current crises, the most challenging of his career. How can we explain Netanyahu's rise, his hold on Israeli politics, and his outsized role on the world's stage?

In Bibi, the Haaretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer argues that we must view Netanyahu as representing the triumph of the underdogs in the Zionist enterprise. Born in 1949, one year after the state of Israel itself, Netanyahu came of age in a nation dominated by liberal, secular Zionists. Yet Netanyahu's grandfather and father bequeathed to him a brand of Zionism integrating Jewish nationalism and religious traditionalism, and he identified with the groups at the margins of Israeli society: right-wing Revisionists, orthodox, Mizrahi Jews, and small-time professionals living in the new towns and cities dotting the Israeli landscape. Netanyahu cultivated each faction individually and then fused them into a coalition that has frequently proven unstoppable in Israeli politics.

Netanyahu is also a child of America, where he spent many years as a young man, and where he learned the techniques of modern political campaigns as well as the necessity of controlling the media cycle. The product of the affluent East Coast Jewish community and the Reagan era, Netanyahu's politics and worldview were formed as much by American Cold War conservatism as by his family's hardline right-wing Zionism.

As Pfeffer demonstrates in this penetrating biography, Netanyahu's influence will endure even if his career soon comes to an end. The Israel he has helped make is a hybrid of ancient phobia and high-tech hope, tribalism and globalism--just like the man himself.

The definitive biography of the iron-willed leader, chain-smoking political operative, and tea-and-cake-serving grandmother who became the fourth prime minister of Israel
   
Golda Meir was a world figure unlike any other. Born in tsarist Russia in 1898, she immigrated to America in 1906 and grew up in Milwaukee, where from her earliest years she displayed the political consciousness and organizational skills that would eventually catapult her into the inner circles of Israel's founding generation. Moving to mandatory Palestine in 1921 with her husband, the passionate socialist joined a kibbutz but soon left and was hired at a public works office by the man who would become the great love of her life. A series of public service jobs brought her to the attention of David Ben-Gurion, and her political career took off. Fund-raising in America in 1948, secretly meeting in Amman with King Abdullah right before Israel's declaration of independence, mobbed by thousands of Jews in a Moscow synagogue in 1948 as Israel's first representative to the USSR, serving as minister of labor and foreign minister in the 1950s and 1960s, Golda brought fiery oratory, plainspoken appeals, and shrewd deal-making to the cause to which she had dedicated her life—the welfare and security of the State of Israel and its inhabitants.
     As prime minister, Golda negotiated arms agreements with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and had dozens of clandestine meetings with Jordan's King Hussein in the unsuccessful pursuit of a land-for-peace agreement with Israel's neighbors. But her time in office ended in tragedy, when Israel was caught off guard by Egypt and Syria's surprise attack on Yom Kippur in 1973. Analyzing newly available documents from Israeli government archives, Francine Klagsbrun looks into whether Golda could have prevented that war and whether in its darkest days she contemplated using nuclear force. Resigning in the war's aftermath, she spent her final years keeping a hand in national affairs and bemusedly enjoying international acclaim. Klagsbrun's superbly researched and masterly recounted story of Israel's founding mother gives us a Golda for the ages.
In The Lingering Conflict Itamar Rabinovich, a former chief negotiator for Israel, provides unique and authoritative insight into the prospects for genuine peace in the Middle East. His presentation includes a detailed insider account of the peace processes of 1992–96 and a frank dissection of the more dispiriting record since then.

Rabinovich's firsthand experiences as a negotiator and as Israel's ambassador to the United States provide a valuable perspective from which to view the major players involved. Fresh analysis of ongoing situations in the region and the author's authoritative take on key figures such as Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu shed new light on the long and tumultuous history of Arab-Israeli relations. His book is a shrewd assessment of the past and current state of affairs in the Middle East, as well as a sober look at the prospects for a peaceful future.

While Rabinovich explains the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians—a classic dispute between two national movements claiming the same land— The Lingering Conflict also considers the broader political, cultural, and increasingly religious conflict between the Jewish state and Arab nationalism. He approaches the troubled region in an international context, offering provocative analysis of America's evolving role and evaluation of its diplomatic performance.

This book builds on the author's previous seminal work on geopolitics in the Middle East, particularly Waging Peace. As Rabinovich brings the Arab-Israeli conflict up to date, he widens the scope of his earlier insights into efforts to achieve normal, peaceful relations. And, of course, he takes full account of recent social and political tumult in the Middle East, discussing the Arab Spring uprisings—and the subsequent retaliation by dictators such as Syria's al-Asad and Libya's Qaddafi—in the context of Arab-Israeli relations.

A major casualty of the assassin's bullet that struck down Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was a prospective peace accord between Syria and Israel. For the first time, a negotiator who had unique access to Rabin, as well as detailed knowledge of Syrian history and politics, tells the inside story of the failed negotiations. His account provides a key to understanding not only U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East but also the larger Arab-Israeli peace process.

During the period from 1992 to 1996, Itamar Rabinovich was Israel's ambassador to Washington, and the chief negotiator with Syria. In this book, he looks back at the course of negotiations, terms of which were known to a surprisingly small group of American, Israeli, and Syrian officials. After Benjamin Netanyahu's election as Israel's prime minister in May 1996, a controversy developed. Even with Netanyahu's change of policy and harder line toward Damascus, Syria began claiming that both Rabin and his successor Peres had pledged full withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Rabinovich takes the reader through the maze of diplomatic subtleties to explain the differences between hypothetical discussion and actual commitment.


"To the students of past history and contemporary politics," he writes, "nothing is more beguiling than the myriad threads that run across the invisible line which separates the two." The threads of this story include details of Rabin's negotiations and their impact through two subsequent Israeli administrations in less than a year, the American and Egyptian roles, and the ongoing debate between Syria and Israel on the factual and legal bases for resuming talks.


The author portrays all sides and participants with remarkable flair and empathy, as only a privileged player in the events could do. In any assessment of future negotiations in the Middle East, Itamar Rabinovich's book will prove indispensable.

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