November 5, 1995
Web posted at: 12:30 a.m. EST (0530 GMT)
From Reporter Mark Leff
(CNN) -- Yitzhak Rabin began his public career as a soldier. He was the hard-line hero and leader of his country's victory in the Six Day War of 1967. He ended his career as a peacemaker, and to some of his own people, a villain.
And in between, there were some remarkable firsts. As Israeli Army chief of staff, his military victory led thousands of Palestinians to leave the land that Israelis occupied in 1967. The following year, he went to Washington as ambassador. Rabin then returned to Israel as a politician.
After the elections of 1974, he became the country's first native prime minister, as well as its youngest.
Under pressure from the United States, he negotiated one of several agreements returning part of the captured Sinai Peninsula to Egyptian control.
A scandal involving his wife's Washington bank account forced Rabin out of the race for re-election in 1977 and helped usher in more than a decade of Conservative Likud Party Rule.
As defense minister in the compromise government of the mid-80s, Rabin pulled Israeli forces out of most of Lebanon and applauded a visit to Morocco by his longtime Labor Party rival, Shimon Peres. "It is possible to talk directly between leaders of Israel and Arab countries," Rabin said.
After the Palestinian uprising known as the Intifada began in 1987 in the Israel-occupied territories, Rabin ordered Israeli troops to shoot, not to kill, but to "break demonstrators' bones." He also began looking for a political solution that would stop short of creating a Palestinian state.
By the election of mid-1992, the political tide in Israel had turned in Rabin's favor. Israeli voters returned Rabin to the prime minister's office. "I believe within six to nine months it will be possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinian delegation about the establishment of autonomy," Rabin said. (115K AIFF sound or 115K WAV sound)
The difficult negotiating process that followed led to the signing of an agreement in Washington 15 months later. It also led to the reluctant handshake with the man he had long called a terrorist, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. (465K QuickTime movie) Now, he was Rabin's Palestinian peace partner.
The agreement had its price: violence on both sides. But as Egypt observed the 20th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, Rabin, Arafat and Egypt's president were pushing on with negotiations.
There were also honors, including, for Rabin, a shared honor of winning the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.
There were more agreements on new links between Israel and Jordan that would lead to a formal peace upon Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank. "We should not let the land, flowing with milk and honey, become a land flowing with blood and tears. Don't let it happen," Rabin said.
And just a month ago, the world watched yet another signing ceremony in Washington, bringing Rabin closer to his goal of peace with a longtime adversary, but no closer to fulfilling a wish he had expressed a year ago: "That no one will photograph our handshakes. It will have become part of the routine of our lives."
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