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Ezer Weizman

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Ezer Weizman

Ezer Weizman (עזר ויצמן) (June 15, 1924April 24, 2005) was the seventh President of the State of Israel (1993-2000). He was a nephew of Chaim Weizmann, Israel's first president.

Contents

Military career

Ezer Weizman was a combat pilot. He received his training in the British Army which he joined in 1942 in order to help the British overcome the Nazis. He served as a truck driver in the Western Desert campaigns (Egypt and Libya), and in 1943 he joined the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and attended aviation school in Rhodesia. He served with the RAF in India in early 1944. During 1944-1946 he was a member of the Etzel (Irgun Zva'i Le'umi) in Israel. Between 1946 and 1947 he studied aeronautics in England. During the 1948 Israeli War of Independence he served as a pilot for the Haganah, and is acknowledged as being the "father" of the development of the Israeli Air Force (IAF). He was the commander of the Negev Air Squadron near Nir-Am. In May 1948, he learned to fly Avia S-199 airplanes (a Messerschmitt 109G airframe, underpowered with a Jumo 211F bomber engine) in Czechoslovakia to bolster the fledging Israeli air corps, and he flew in Israel's first fighter mission, a ground attack on an Egyptian column advancing toward Tel Aviv near the Arab town of Isdud (near Ashdod, south of 'Ad Halom' bridge). In the famous combats between Israeli and British RAF aircraft on January 7, 1949, he was a pilot in a group of 4 Israeli Spitfire fighters, who clashed with 14 British Spitfire and Tempest aircraft, after an earlier flight of British Spitfires infringed Israel's southern border for reconnaissance and 3 got shot down by the IAF. Weizman damaged a British Tempest but did not shoot it down (several British fighters were shot down by other pilots).

After the establishment of the state of Israel, Weizman joined the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF or "Zahal") and served as the Chief of Operations on the General Staff.

Weizman learned how to fly warplanes such as Czech versions of the Messerschmitt and the Supermarine Spitfire. At his death he owned an active warplane - the Black Spitfire - which is preserved in flight condition in the Israeli Air Force Museum in Hatzerim, Beer Sheva.

In 1951 he attended the RAF Command and Staff College in England. Upon his return he became commander of the first Israeli air force unit flying Gloster Meteor jets.

He served as the commander of the Israeli Air Force between 1958 to 1966, and later served as deputy of the General Chief of Staff. Major General Weizman earned high credit for his contribution as the Chief of Operations of the IDF in Israel's overwhelming victory over Arab forces during the Six Day War of June 1967. 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 battlefields.

Although he became the IDF's Deputy Chief of Staff in 1966, he retired from military service in 1969 after he understood he would not be appointed as Chief of Staff, the highest military position.

Political career

After his retirement from the army he joined Gahal party ("Gush Herut Liberalim"; this later became the Likud) and served as Minister of Transportation in Levi Eshkol's national unity government until Gahal left the coalition in 1970. He lead Gahal-Herut up to 1972 and then left the party. He returned to Herut on 1976 and in 1977 served as Defence Minister in Menachem Begin's government. During his time, Israel launched Litani Operation against PLO terrorists in south Lebanon and initiated the development of the IAI Lavi fighter. Weizman was one of the promotors of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty with Anwar Sadat. In this time he became dovish.

In May 1980 he quit the government. He considered establishing a new party with Moshe Dayan and as a result was expelled from Herut. Between 1980-1984 Weizman turned to business.

In 1984 Weizman established a new party called "Yachad", which won 3 seats in the 11th Assembly of the Knesset. Weizman and Yachad joined a national unity government in which Shimon Peres and Itzhak Shamir served as prime ministers in rotation. In October, 1986, Weizman's Yachad joined the Israeli Labor Party after Mapam and Yossi Sarid left it.

Presidential term

He started his term on May 13, 1993. Throughout his life, famous for an outspoken, informal manner, regardless of his rank or position, which rarely failed to endear him once met face to face, even to sworn adversaries. Known to frequent local Cafes and play Backgammon with locals.

"He spoke to us eye to eye, as an equal" (Neighbor).


As president, some of his public remarks earned him a lot of critics, but didn't significantly damage his public support. Among notorious quotes (some of their punch was lost in translation from hebrew..):

  • "[Together] we ate a few good things, and drank a few good things..." (In his Eulogy of Yitzhak Rabin during the funeral)
  • "Honey, have you ever seen a man knitting socks?" (on a phone conversation to Alice Miller, a female soldier who launched a successful high court appeal against the Israeli Air Force, compelling it to open its pilot's course to women in 1994)
  • "I like a man who wants to be a man, and a woman who wants to be a woman" (Regarding Homosexuals)
  • "Now you'll be able to aim better". (Jocularly, while visiting a wounded soldier, who lost an eye)

During Weizman's term, Israel suffered from terrorist attacks by Hizbullah and Hamas. Weizman visited all the bereaved families and victims of terror attacks. He scrupulously visited all families of soliders killed on duty, called on hospitals and cheered the wounded.

Israel has a parliamentary system, where the Prime Minister is the leader of an elected government. The President holds a largely ceremonial role, has no executive powers (save for pardoning prisoners) and is expected to remain aloof of political affiliations and represent the entire nation. (Also see Israeli politics). However Weizman, unlike his predecessors, frequently flaunted this norm and expressed his opinions. In an attempt to encourage the peace process with the Palestinians, in 1996 Weizman invited Yasser Arafat to a private visit in his house in Caesaria. Weizman supported withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria, and was criticized for that by the right wing parties.

At the end of 1999, newspapers published that Weizman received large amounts of money from businessmen, without reporting it to the proper authorities (the government legal adviser). Although the investigating authorities decided not to prosecute, public criticism following this forced Weizman to resign from office.

Weizman's resignation took effect on July 13, 2000.

Personal info

Born in Tel Aviv. Married to Reuma Schawtz. Had 2 children: Saul and Michal. Saul was badly injured in the Suez Canal at the War of Attrition, and in 1991 he was killed with his wife in a car accident. They were buried in Or Akiva.

Death

Weizman died at the age of 80, on April 24, 2005, after the ending of Passover night, in his home in Caesaria. He was buried close to his son and daughter-in-law in Or Akiva.

Reference

Generals of Israel, ed. Moshe Ben Shaul, Hadar Publishing, Tel-Aviv, 1968.

External links

fr:Ezer Weizman he:עזר ויצמן id:Ezer Weizman nl:Ezer Weizman no:Ezer Weizman pl:Ezer Weizman fi:Ezer Weizman

Template:Israelpres

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