Rehavam Ze’evi remembered by IDF in state ceremony

Ze’evi was known for his support of the Greater Land of Israel and his hardline stance against the Palestinians.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A state ceremony for the late minister of tourism and former general (res.) Rehavam “Ghandi” Ze’evi was held Tuesday afternoon at the military cemetery on Mt. Herzl on the 18th Hebrew anniversary of his assassination by Palestinian terrorists.

Ze’evi served in pre-state days in the underground Palmach elite fighting group and then in the Israel Defense Forces through 1974.

He steadily rose through the ranks and established the elite anti-terror battalion Sayeret Kharuv in the 1960s. He served five years as commander of Israel’s Central Region. In his last command position in the IDF he served as the head of the General Staff Division.

He was famous for his love of the soldiers of the IDF, wearing a disc around his neck with the names of those missing in action, such as pilot Ron Arad and three tankists from the First Lebanon War.

He later added the name of jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to the medallion.

An ultra-hawk who believed that the Arabs who lived in Judea and Samaria constituted a continual threat to the State of Israel, Ze’evi founded the right-wing secular Moledet party in 1988. It advocated voluntary Arab transfer to other countries.

As a student of history, he would point to similar population transfers in decades past that were successful, like that which took place between India and Pakistan (of Hindus and Muslims), saying that this was the only way to make peace between Jews and Arabs.

Renowned for his love of the land, his support for the idea that the entire country belonged to the Jewish people never wavered.

Noting that the Arabs already had 22 states and the Jews just one, he stuck to his political ideals. He took his party out of a right-wing government when then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was pressured into talks with the Palestinians, who were part of the Jordanian delegation to the Madrid Conference in 1991.

He rejoined the government of Ariel Sharon as tourism minister 10 years later, when Moledet was one of the factions that made up the hardline National Union party.

But he butted heads with other coalition partners as he consistently called for tougher measures against Palestinian terrorism. He resigned when Sharon decided to pull the IDF out of most of Hebron even though it was a hotbed of anti-Israel activity.

On October 17, 2001, the 75-year-old Ze’evi was assassinated in a Jerusalem hotel by four Palestinian gunmen. They were from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organization, acting to avenge Israel’s assassination of their secretary-general, Abu Ali Mustafa, two months earlier.

Ze’evi left behind a widow and five children – four sons and a daughter.

Because of his controversial political opinions, the decision to have an official memorial day in Ze’evi’s honor was ratified by the Knesset only in 2005. Last year, the extreme left-wing Meretz party tried unsuccessfully to submit a bill to repeal it. It called for boycotting this year’s ceremony.