Abba Eban

Abba Eban

Overview


Abba Eban was an Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i diplomat and politician.

In his career he was Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister
Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel
The Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel is the political head of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The position is one of the most important in the Israeli cabinet after Prime Minister and Defense Minister...

, Education Minister
Ministry of Education (Israel)
The Israeli Ministry of Education is the branch of government charged with overseeing public education institutions in Israel. The political head of the department is the Minster of Education, currently Gideon Sa'ar....

, Deputy Prime Minister, and ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations. He was also Vice President of the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

 and President of the Weizmann Institute of Science
Weizmann Institute of Science
The Weizmann Institute of Science , known as Machon Weizmann, is a university and research institute in Rehovot, Israel. It differs from other Israeli universities in that it offers only graduate and post-graduate studies in the sciences....

.

Born in Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

, South Africa, Eban moved to the United Kingdom at an early age.
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Quotations

History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.

Speech in London (16 December 1970); as quoted in The Times [London] (17 December 1970) and in Great Jewish Quotations (1996) by Alfred J. Kolatch, p. 115
Encyclopedia


Abba Eban was an Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i diplomat and politician.

In his career he was Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister
Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel
The Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel is the political head of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The position is one of the most important in the Israeli cabinet after Prime Minister and Defense Minister...

, Education Minister
Ministry of Education (Israel)
The Israeli Ministry of Education is the branch of government charged with overseeing public education institutions in Israel. The political head of the department is the Minster of Education, currently Gideon Sa'ar....

, Deputy Prime Minister, and ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations. He was also Vice President of the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

 and President of the Weizmann Institute of Science
Weizmann Institute of Science
The Weizmann Institute of Science , known as Machon Weizmann, is a university and research institute in Rehovot, Israel. It differs from other Israeli universities in that it offers only graduate and post-graduate studies in the sciences....

.

Early life


Born in Cape Town
Cape Town
Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality...

, South Africa, Eban moved to the United Kingdom at an early age. As a child, he recalled being sent to his grandfather's house every weekend to study the Hebrew language and Biblical literature. He lived for a period of time in Belfast.

He was educated at St Olave's Grammar School
St Olave's Grammar School
St Olave's and St Saviour's Grammar School is a super-selective boys' secondary school in Orpington, Greater London, England. The school is consistently one of the top achieving state schools in the UK and it was The Sunday Times State School of the Year in 2008...

, Bermondsey
Bermondsey
Bermondsey is an area in London on the south bank of the river Thames, and is part of the London Borough of Southwark. To the west lies Southwark, to the east Rotherhithe, and to the south, Walworth and Peckham.-Toponomy:...

, before studying Classics and Oriental languages at Queens' College, Cambridge
Queens' College, Cambridge
Queens' College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The college was founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou , and refounded in 1465 by Elizabeth Woodville...

, where he achieved a triple first. During his time at University and afterwards, Eban was highly involved in the Federation of Zionist Youth
Federation of Zionist Youth
The Federation of Zionist Youth is a Zionist Jewish youth movement. Founded in 1910, it is the oldest and has grown to become the largest Zionist youth movement in the United Kingdom. It is affiliated with Young Judaea in the USA and the Hebrew Scouts movement in Israel...

 and was editor of its ideological journal, The Young Zionist.

After graduating with high honours, he researched Arabic and Hebrew as a Fellow
Fellow
A fellow in the broadest sense is someone who is an equal or a comrade. The term fellow is also used to describe a person, particularly by those in the upper social classes. It is most often used in an academic context: a fellow is often part of an elite group of learned people who are awarded...

 of Pembroke College
Pembroke College, Cambridge
Pembroke College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The college has over seven hundred students and fellows, and is the third oldest college of the university. Physically, it is one of the university's larger colleges, with buildings from almost every century since its...

 from 1938–39. At the outbreak of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, he went to work for Chaim Weizmann
Chaim Weizmann
Chaim Azriel Weizmann, , was a Zionist leader, President of the Zionist Organization, and the first President of the State of Israel. He was elected on 1 February 1949, and served until his death in 1952....

 at the World Zionist Organization
World Zionist Organization
The World Zionist Organization , or WZO, was founded as the Zionist Organization , or ZO, in 1897 at the First Zionist Congress, held from August 29 to August 31 in Basel, Switzerland...

 in London from December 1939. He served in the British Army in Egypt and Mandate Palestine, becoming an intelligence officer in Jerusalem, where he coordinated and trained volunteers for resistance in the event of a German invasion, serving as a liaison officer for the Allies to the Jewish Yishuv
Yishuv
The Yishuv or Ha-Yishuv is the term referring to the body of Jewish residents in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel...

. In 1947, he translated from the original Arabic, Maze of Justice: Diary of a Country Prosecutor, a 1937 novel by Tawfiq al-Hakim.

Diplomacy


Eban moved back to London briefly to work in the Jewish Agency's Information Department, from which he was posted to New York, where the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 General Assembly was considering the "Palestine Question". In 1947, he was appointed as a liaison officer to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, where he was successful in attaining approval for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 segments—Resolution 181
1947 UN Partition Plan
The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was created by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine in 1947 to replace the British Mandate for Palestine with "Independent Arab and Jewish States" and a "Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem" administered by the United...

.

At this stage, he changed his name to the Hebrew word Abba (however it was seldom used informally), meaning "Father", as he could foresee himself as the father of the nation of Israel. Eban spent a decade at the United Nations, and also served as his country's ambassador to the United States at the same time. He was renowned for his oratorical skills. In the words of Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
Heinz Alfred "Henry" Kissinger is a German-born American academic, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman. He is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and...

:
I have never encountered anyone who matched his command of the English language. Sentences poured forth in mellifluous constructions complicated enough to test the listener’s intelligence and simultaneously leave him transfixed by the speaker's virtuosity.


His grasp of history and fluency in ten languages enhanced his speech making in the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, even to skeptical or hostile audiences. In 1952, Eban was elected Vice President of the UN General Assembly.

Politics


Eban left the United States in 1959 and returned to Israel, where he was elected to the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 (the Israeli parliament) as a member of Mapai
Mapai
Mapai was a left-wing political party in Israel, and was the dominant force in Israeli politics until its merger into the Israeli Labor Party in 1968...

. He served under David Ben-Gurion
David Ben-Gurion
' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

 as Minister of Education and Culture from 1960 to 1963, then as deputy to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol
Levi Eshkol
' served as the third Prime Minister of Israel from 1963 until his death from a heart attack in 1969. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister to die in office.-Biography:...

 until 1966. Through this period (1959–66), he also served as president of the Weizmann Institute
Weizmann Institute of Science
The Weizmann Institute of Science , known as Machon Weizmann, is a university and research institute in Rehovot, Israel. It differs from other Israeli universities in that it offers only graduate and post-graduate studies in the sciences....

 in Rehovot
Rehovot
Rehovot is a city in the Center District of Israel, about south of Tel Aviv. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics , at the end of 2009 the city had a total population of 112,700. Rehovot's official website estimates the population at 114,000.Rehovot was built on the site of Doron,...

.

From 1966 to 1974, Eban served as Israel's foreign minister
Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel
The Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel is the political head of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The position is one of the most important in the Israeli cabinet after Prime Minister and Defense Minister...

, defending the country's reputation after the Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

. Nonetheless, he was a strong supporter of trading parts of the territories occupied in the war in exchange for peace. He played an important part in the shaping of UN Security Council Resolution 242
United Nations Security Council Resolution 242
United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on November 22, 1967, in the aftermath of the Six Day War. It was adopted under Chapter VIof the United Nations Charter...

 in 1967, as well as Resolution 338
United Nations Security Council Resolution 338
The three-line United Nations Security Council Resolution 338, adopted on October 22, 1973, called for a ceasefire in the Yom Kippur War in accordance with a joint proposal by the United States and the Soviet Union. The resolution stipulated a cease fire to take effect within 12 hours of the...

 in 1973. Among his other high level contacts, Eban was received by Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI
Paul VI , born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from 21 June 1963 until his death on 6 August 1978. Succeeding Pope John XXIII, who had convened the Second Vatican Council, he decided to continue it...

 in 1969.

Eban was at times criticized for not voicing his opinions in Israel's internal debate. However, he was generally known to be on the "dovish" side of Israeli politics and was increasingly outspoken after leaving the cabinet. In 1977 and 1981 it was widely understood that Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres
GCMG is the ninth President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as the eighth Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a political career spanning over 66 years...

 intended to name Eban Foreign Minister, had the Labor Party won those elections. Eban was offered the chance to serve as minister without portfolio
Minister without Portfolio
A minister without portfolio is either a government minister with no specific responsibilities or a minister that does not head a particular ministry...

 in the 1984 national unity government, but chose to serve instead as Chair of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is a permanent Knesset committee which oversees key Foreign and Defense areas, including the drafting of legislation, supervision over related government ministries and the approval of their budgests...

 from 1984 to 1988.

His comment that Palestinians "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" (i.e., for peace), made after the Geneva peace talks in December 1973, is often quoted.

Later life



In 1988, after three decades in the Knesset, he lost his seat over internal splits in the Labour Party. He devoted the rest of his life to writing and teaching, including serving as a visiting academic at Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

, Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 and George Washington University. He also narrated television documentaries including Heritage: Civilization and the Jews (PBS, 1984), for which he was host, Israel, A Nation Is Born (1992), and On the Brink of Peace (PBS, 1997).

Eban died in 2002 and was buried in Kfar Shmaryahu
Kfar Shmaryahu
Kfar Shmaryahu is a local council in Israel, within the Tel Aviv District. The council was founded in 1937, during the Fifth Aliyah to Israel.Kfar Shmaryahu is ranked very highly on the Israeli socio-economic scale...

, north of Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv , officially Tel Aviv-Yafo , is the second most populous city in Israel, with a population of 404,400 on a land area of . The city is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline in west-central Israel. It is the largest and most populous city in the metropolitan area of Gush Dan, with...

. He was survived, immediately, by his wife and their two children.

Family


Eban's brother-in-law was the late Chaim Herzog
Chaim Herzog
Chaim Herzog served as the sixth President of Israel , following a distinguished career in both the British Army and the Israel Defense Forces .-Early life:...

, the sixth president of Israel. Herzog's son Isaac Herzog is a minister in Israel's Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

.

Eban's cousin, Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks
Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE , is a British neurologist and psychologist residing in New York City. He is a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University, where he also holds the position of Columbia Artist...

, is a neurologist and author and his son, Eli Eban
Eli Eban
Eli Eban is an Israeli-American clarinetist and son of the venerable late Israeli diplomat Abba Eban.-Education:Eli Eban was born in New York and received his early musical training in Israel, studying the clarinet with Richard Lesser and Yona Ettlinger...

, is a renowned clarinetist who teaches at Indiana University
Indiana University
Indiana University is a multi-campus public university system in the state of Indiana, United States. Indiana University has a combined student body of more than 100,000 students, including approximately 42,000 students enrolled at the Indiana University Bloomington campus and approximately 37,000...

. Eli has two children, Yael and Omri Eban. His nephew, Jonathan Lynn
Jonathan Lynn
Jonathan Lynn is an English actor, comedy writer and director. He is best known for being the co-writer of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.-Personal life:...

, is a filmmaker and script writer known for satirical BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 shows Yes Minister
Yes Minister
Yes Minister is a satirical British sitcom written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn that was first transmitted by BBC Television between 1980–1982 and 1984, split over three seven-episode series. The sequel, Yes, Prime Minister, ran from 1986 to 1988. In total there were 38 episodes—of which all but...

and Yes, Prime Minister. Lynn recounts that the plot of an episode of Yes, Prime Minister ("A Victory for Democracy
A Victory for Democracy
“A Victory for Democracy” is the sixth episode of the BBC comedy series Yes, Prime Minister and was first broadcast 13 February 1986.- Plot :...

"), which involved the British Prime Minister bypassing his own Arab-centric bureaucracy by taking the Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i ambassador's advice, was based on an actual incident narrated to him by Eban.

Awards


In 2001, Eban was awarded the Israel Prize
Israel Prize
The Israel Prize is an award handed out by the State of Israel and is largely regarded as the state's highest honor. It is presented annually, on Israeli Independence Day, in a state ceremony in Jerusalem, in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Knesset chairperson, and the...

 for lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the State.

In 2005, he was voted the 52nd-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet
Ynet
Ynet is the most popular Israeli news and general content website. It is owned by the same conglomerate that operates Yediot Ahronot, the country's secondleading daily newspaper...

to determine whom the general public considered the 200 Greatest Israelis.

Sources

  • The Commentator; "In Memoriam"; Volume 67, Issue 5; 25 November 2002
  • Biography at The Department for Jewish Zionist Education

External links



See also

  • List of Israel Prize recipients