Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Second “Gandhi” Assassination

Rehavam Ze’evi was born on June 20, 1926 in Jerusalem. He joined the Palmach in 1942, and, after the nation’s creation in 1948, served in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) as a platoon commander. From 1964 to 1968, he was the Chief of the Department of Staff in the Israeli General Staff, and, in 1973, retired from the IDF with the rank of Major General, rejoining temporary to help fight the Yom Kippur War. His nickname “Gandhi” stems from an event in his youth where he shaved his head and entered the dining room wearing a towel around his waist, appearing similar to the famed Indian leader.

Like many retired Israeli generals, Ze’evi entered politics. He served as Prime Minister Rabin’s consultant on combatting terrorism, and a year later, Rabin tapped him as an advisor on intelligence. 
In 1988, Ze’evi formed the Moledet political party, advocating the very controversial notion of population transfer, removing the Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to neighboring Arab countries. 

In Israel’s parliamentary system, small parties sign coalition agreements with larger parties to help them attain a majority of seats in the Knesset. Ze’evi joined the Likud government of Yitzhak Shamir, but quit when Shamir attended the Madrid Conference in 1991. He did not join the more right-leaning Netanyahu government (1996-1999) either. When General Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister in February, 2001, Ze’evi, as head of the newly-formed National Union, joined the government and assumed the position of Tourism Minister. 

On October 17, 2001, two days after resigning from the Sharon government, Ze’evi was assassinated in a hotel in Jerusalem. He was buried in the Herzl Military cemetery, leaving a wife, Yael, and five children: Palmach, Sayar, Masada, Te’ela and Arava. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) took credit for the murder, as revenge for Israel’s killing its leader a few months earlier. The murderers escaped to Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters. After a siege by the IDF, the US brokered a plan to incarcerate the murderers in PA-controlled Jericho, guarded by US and British soldiers. Three years later the soldiers left their post claiming the PA was not adhering to its side of the deal. The Israeli military raided the prison and seized the five gunmen. The five were tried in Israeli courts. Their sentences range from life in prison to 30 years behind bars.


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