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Ezer Weizman

Ezer Weizman

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was the seventh President of Israel
President of Israel
The President of the State of Israel is the head of state of Israel. The position is largely an apolitical ceremonial figurehead role, with the real executive power lying in the hands of the Prime Minister. The current president is Shimon Peres who took office on 15 July 2007...

, first elected in 1993 and re-elected in 1998. Before the presidency, Weizman was commander of the Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

 and Minister of Defense.

Biography


Weizman was born in 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...

 as Ezer Weizmann on 15 June 1924. His father, Yechiel, was an agronomist. He grew up in Haifa
Haifa
Haifa is the largest city in northern Israel, and the third-largest city in the country, with a population of over 268,000. Another 300,000 people live in towns directly adjacent to the city including the cities of the Krayot, as well as, Tirat Carmel, Daliyat al-Karmel and Nesher...

, and attended the Hebrew Reali School
Hebrew Reali School
The Hebrew Reali School of Haifa , located in Haifa, Israel, is one of the country's oldest private schools.-History:...

.

He married Reuma Schwartz, sister of Ruth Dayan
Ruth Dayan
Ruth Dayan was married to the Israeli general and defense minister Moshe Dayan. She founded the Maskit fashion house and is active in many social causes.-Biography:...

, wife of Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan was an Israeli military leader and politician. The fourth Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces , he became a fighting symbol to the world of the new State of Israel...

, and they had two children, Shaul and Michal. Weizman was a nephew of Israel's first president, 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....

. He died of respiratory failure at his home in Caesarea on 24 April 2005, at the age of 80. He is not buried on Mt. Herzl
Mount Herzl
Mount Herzl , also Har HaZikaron , is the national cemetery of Israel on the west side of Jerusalem. It is named for Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern political Zionism. Herzl's tomb lies at the top of the hill. Yad Vashem, which commemorates the Holocaust, lies to the west of Mt. Herzl....

, where Israeli presidents and prime ministers are usually interred, but alongside his son and daughter-in-law in Or Akiva.

Military career


Weizman was a combat pilot
Aviator
An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...

. He received his training in the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 in which he enlisted in 1942 in order to fight the Nazis
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

. He served as a truck driver in the Western Desert campaigns in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

. In 1943, he joined the British Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 (RAF) and attended aviation school in Rhodesia
Rhodesia
Rhodesia , officially the Republic of Rhodesia from 1970, was an unrecognised state located in southern Africa that existed between 1965 and 1979 following its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965...

. He served with the RAF in India in early 1944. Weizman ended his service in the RAF as a sergeant pilot.

Between 1944 and 1946, he was a member of the Irgun
Irgun
The Irgun , or Irgun Zevai Leumi to give it its full title , was a Zionist paramilitary group that operated in Mandate Palestine between 1931 and 1948. It was an offshoot of the earlier and larger Jewish paramilitary organization haHaganah...

 underground in Mandatory Palestine. Between 1946 and 1947, he studied aeronautics in England.

Weizman was a pilot for the Haganah
Haganah
Haganah was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces.- Origins :...

 in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

. He was the commander of the Negev Air Squadron near Nir-Am. In May 1948, he learned to fly the Avia S-199
Avia S-199
|-See also:-External links: *** with more pictures and further information...

 at the České Budějovice
Ceské Budejovice
České Budějovice is a city in the Czech Republic. It is the largest city in the South Bohemian Region and is the political and commercial capital of the region and centre of the Roman Catholic Diocese of České Budějovice and of the University of South Bohemia and the Academy of Sciences...

 air base in Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 and participated in Israel's first fighter mission, a ground attack on an Egyptian column advancing toward Ad Halom
Ad Halom
Ad Halom is a site at the eastern entrance to the city of Ashdod, Israel.-Battle:Ad Halom refers to the northernmost point reached by the Egyptian army in Operation Pleshet, one of the battles of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War....

 near the Arab town of Isdud south of Tel Aviv. In a battle between Israeli and British RAF aircraft on 7 January 1949, he flew one of four Israeli Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...

 fighters that clashed with 14 British fighters following a reconnaissance flight from Egypt that infringed on Israel's southern border. Three planes were shot down by the IAF. Only one of the British aircraft was armed.

After the establishment of the State of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, Weizman joined the Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 and served as the Chief of Operations on the General Staff. In 1951 he attended the RAF Staff College, Andover
RAF Staff College, Andover
The RAF Staff College at RAF Andover was the first Royal Air Force staff college to be established. Its role was the training of officers in the administrative, staff and policy apects of air force matters.-Foundation:...

 in England. Upon his return he became commander of Ramat David
Ramat David Airbase
Ramat David Israeli Air Force Base is one of three principal airbases of the Israeli Air Force, located southeast of Haifa, close to kibbutz Ramat David and Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley...

.

He served as the commander of the Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

 between 1958 to 1966, and later served as deputy Chief of the General Staff
Ramatkal
The Chief of the General Staff, also known as the Commander-in-Chief of the Israel Defense Forces is the supreme commander and Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. At any given time, the Chief of Staff is the only active officer holding the IDF's highest rank, Rav Aluf , which is usually...

. He directed the early morning surprise air attacks against the Egyptian air bases, which resulted in giving the Israelis almost total air superiority over the Sinai
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

 battlefields.

Although he became the IDF's Deputy Chief of Staff in 1966, he retired from military service in 1969.

Political career


Upon retiring from the military, Weizman joined the right-wing Gahal
Gahal
Gahal , lit. Herut-Liberals Bloc) was the major right-wing political faction in Israel led by Menachem Begin from its founding in 1965 until it merged into Likud in 1973.-Background:...

 party. He served as Minister of Transportation in 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:...

's national unity government
National unity government
A national unity government, government of national unity, or national union government is a broad coalition government consisting of all parties in the legislature, usually formed during a time of war or other national emergency.- Canada :During World War I the Conservative government of Sir...

 until Gahal left the coalition in 1970. Weizman quit Gahal in 1972, but returned in 1976, by which time it had become Likud
Likud
Likud is the major center-right political party in Israel. It was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin in an alliance with several right-wing and liberal parties. Likud's victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country's political history, marking the first time the left had...

. In 1977, he became Defense Minister under Menachem Begin
Menachem Begin
' was a politician, founder of Likud and the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. Before independence, he was the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on 1 February 1944,...

. During his term, Israel launched the Litani Operation against the PLO
Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestine Liberation Organization is a political and paramilitary organization which was created in 1964. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by the United Nations and over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed...

 in south Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 and developed the IAI Lavi
IAI Lavi
The IAI Lavi was a combat aircraft developed in Israel in the 1980s. It was a multi-billion dollar fighter aircraft project that was disbanded when the Israeli government concluded it could not finance production on its own, could not achieve a consensus on the Lavi's cost-effectiveness and...

 fighter.

Over time, Weizman's views became more dovish. After the visit to Jerusalem of Egypt's president Anwar Sadat
Anwar Sadat
Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat was the third President of Egypt, serving from 15 October 1970 until his assassination by fundamentalist army officers on 6 October 1981...

 in 1977, Weizman developed a close friendship with him. These relations were a crucial factor in the talks that culminated in the 1978 Camp David accords, followed by a peace treaty with Egypt the following year.

In May 1980, Weizman quit the government
Eighteenth government of Israel
The eighteenth government of Israel was formed by Menachem Begin on 20 June 1977, following the May 1977 elections. It was the first government in Israeli political history led by a right-wing party, with the coalition consisting of Begin's Likud , the National Religious Party and Agudat...

. He considered establishing a new party with Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan was an Israeli military leader and politician. The fourth Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces , he became a fighting symbol to the world of the new State of Israel...

, which led to his ousting from Likud. For the next four years, he put politics on hold and entered the business world.

In 1984, he established a new party, Yachad, which won 3 seats in the 1984 elections
Israeli legislative election, 1984
Elections for the eleventh Knesset were held in Israel on 23 July 1984. Voter turnout was 78.8%. The results saw the Alignment return to being the largest party in the Knesset, a status it had lost in 1977...

. The party joined a national unity government in which 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...

 and Yitzhak Shamir
Yitzhak Shamir
' is a former Israeli politician, the seventh Prime Minister of Israel, in 1983–84 and 1986–92.-Biography:Icchak Jeziernicky was born in Ruzhany , Russian Empire . He studied at a Hebrew High School in Białystok, Poland. As a youth he joined Betar, the Revisionist Zionist youth movement...

 served as prime ministers in rotation. In October 1986, Yachad merged with the Alignment
Alignment (political party)
The Alignment was an alliance of the major left-wing parties in Israel between the 1960s and 1990s. It was established in 1965 as an alliance of Mapai and Ahdut HaAvoda but was dissolved three years later when the two parties and Rafi formally merged into the Israeli Labor Party...

, after Mapam
Mapam
Mapam was a political party in Israel and is one of the ancestors of the modern-day Meretz party.-History:Mapam was formed by a January 1948 merger of the Hashomer Hatzair Workers Party and Ahdut HaAvoda Poale Zion Movement. The party was originally Marxist-Zionist in its outlook and represented...

 and Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid is a left-wing Israeli news commentator and former politician. He served as a member of the Knesset for the Alignment, Ratz and Meretz between 1974 and 2006...

 left. Between 1984 and 1990, Weizman was Minister for Arab Affairs and then Minister of Science and Technology. In 1992, the Alignment became the Israeli Labor Party.

Presidency


On 24 March 1993, the Knesset elected Weizman, by a majority of 66 to 53 (against Dov Shilansky
Dov Shilansky
Dov Shilansky was an Israeli politician and Speaker of the Knesset from 1988 to 1992.-Biography:Dov Shilansky was born in Šiauliai, Lithuania. He survived the Holocaust and joined the Irgun, operating in Rome and Germany. He made aliyah in 1948, arriving in Israel on the Altalena, and served as a...

, the Likud
Likud
Likud is the major center-right political party in Israel. It was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin in an alliance with several right-wing and liberal parties. Likud's victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country's political history, marking the first time the left had...

 candidate), to serve as the next President of Israel. He assumed office as President on 13 May 1993.

In 1996, in an attempt to promote the peace process
Peace process
Peace process may refer to:* in general:** Peacebuilding** Conflict resolution* specifically:** Northern Ireland peace process, efforts from c.1993 to end "the Troubles"...

, Weizman invited Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat
Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini , popularly known as Yasser Arafat or by his kunya Abu Ammar , was a Palestinian leader and a Laureate of the Nobel Prize. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization , President of the Palestinian National Authority...

 for a private visit to his home in Caesarea. In 1999, he met with the DFLP
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist, secular political and military organization. It is also frequently referred to as the Democratic Front, or al-Jabha al-Dimuqratiyah...

 leader Nayef Hawatmeh
Nayef Hawatmeh
Nayef Hawatmeh , Jordanian-Palestinian Christian politician. His name can be transliterated from the Arabic in many ways; variants include Naif Hawatma, Niaf Hawathme, etc....

, declaring "I am even prepared to meet with the devil if it helps [to bring peace]." He openly supported withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, drawing criticism from the right wing parties.

At the end of 1999, newspapers published allegations that Weizman had accepted large sums of money from businessmen before becoming president, without reporting this to the proper authorities. Although a decision was reached not to prosecute him, since the statute of limitations had expired, he was forced to resign due to public pressure. Weizman's resignation took effect on 13 July 2000.

Honours and awards

  • 1996: Collar of the Order of the White Lion
    Order of the White Lion
    The Order of the White Lion is the highest order of the Czech Republic. It continues a Czechoslovak order of the same name created in 1922 as an award for foreigners....

  • 1999: Grand Cross with Sash of the Order of the Star of Romania
    Order of the Star of Romania
    The Order of the Star of Romania is Romania's highest civil order. It is awarded by the President of Romania...



In 2005, he was voted the 9th-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.

Published works

  • On Eagles' Wings: The Personal Story of the Leading Commander of the Israeli Air Force (1975)
  • The Battle for Peace (1981)
  • Ruth, Sof (2002) (Hebrew)

External links



Further reading

  • Weizman, Ezer, On Eagles' Wings: The Personal Story of the Leading Commander of the Israeli Air Force. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1976 ISBN 0-02-625790-4
  • Generals of Israel, ed. Moshe Ben Shaul, Hadar Publishing, Tel-Aviv, 1968