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Shimon Peres (b. 1923) Polish-born Israeli statesman, Prime Minister 1984–6 and 1995–6; President since 2007

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Six-Day War

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Yitzhak Rabin

(1922—1995) Israeli statesman and military leader, Prime Minister 1974–7 and 1992–5.

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(b. 1 Mar. 1922, d. 4 Nov. 1995).

Israeli general; Prime Minister 1974–7, 1992–5

Early career

Born in Jerusalem, the son of Russian immigrants, he joined the elite professionals of the Haganah Jewish defence force, the Palmah Brigade, and was its commander 1943–8. As army Chief of Operations (1959–64), he had a difficult relationship with the then Deputy Defence Minister, Peres, with whose career his became inextricably linked. As army Chief of Staff since 1964, he led the military during the spectacularly successful Six Day War in 1967. Israeli ambassador to Washington from 1968, he returned to Israel in 1973 and joined parliament for the Labour Party. He became Minister for Employment under Meir in March 1974. In the following month Rabin beat his political rival, Peres, to become leader of the Labour Party after Meir's resignation.

 During his first term as Prime Minister, Rabin was unable to reduce the corruption scandals that had plagued the party in the years before. Following the revelation, on the eve of the 1977 general elections, that his wife held an illegal foreign bank account, he was forced to resign. Shortly thereafter, the Labour Party had to concede power for the first time to Begin's Likud Bloc. He was succeeded as leader of the Labour Party by Peres, whom he continued to oppose within the party. As Minister of Defence (1984–90), he supervised the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Lebanon, but was also responsible for the army's brutal attempts to suppress the Intifadah uprising ‘with might, power and beatings’ from 1987. The Israeli inability to overcome the Intifadah convinced him that Israel could never rely on its army to preserve peace in the long run.

Second term (1992–95)

Taking the party leadership from Peres again in 1992, he became Prime Minister on 13 July 1992, with Peres as his Foreign Secretary. Strongly encouraged by the latter, the erstwhile military hardliner began to work for regional peace. After recognizing the PLO in the Oslo Accords, he signed the Gaza-Jericho Agreement, in which the first Palestinian areas were given autonomy status. This served as a prelude to further negotiations for Palestinian autonomy, while it also paved the way for a peace treaty with King Hussein of Jordan on 26 October 1994. Together with Arafat and Peres, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 10 December 1994. He was murdered by an Israeli extremist after addressing a peace rally of over 100,000 supporters. While always more cautious and reserved than his party rival, Peres, his credibility as the former leader of the Six Day War was vital in convincing many Israelis that their security would not be put at risk by a peace treaty with the PLO.

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