President Weizman Says Goodbye Monday, July 10 2000
After Ezer Weizman tenders
his resignation as Israel's seventh president this
evening, July 10, 2000, history will decide whether
he is remembered for the ignominy of the scandal that
brought his downfall or for the historic role he played
in shaping the state of Israel.
Ever since the days he began his public career as
Air Force commander, Ezer - or Eizer, as his friends
call him - was a controversial figure. Weizman, the
ultimate sabra, held sway not only over the local
public but also over many of the region's and the
Many were caught up in the magnetism of his charisma;
others were wary of his volatile personality and often
irascible manner. Few remained indifferent to him.
The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition brings you glimpses
into some of the highlights of Ezer Weizman's long
public career, as the president bids farewell.
1924 -- Ezer Weizman is born in Tel Aviv,
nephew of Israel's first President Professor Chaim Weizman.
The family later moves to Haifa.
1942 -- Weizman joins the Royal Air Force, beginning
his military career as a fighter pilot. He was stationed
in France and in India
1946 - 1948 -- member of the IZL (pre-state underground
1948 -- after the proclamation of the State, Weizman
serves in the "Air Service," the predecessor
of the Israel Air Force.
1948 - 1949 -- During the War of Independence, Weizman
flies arms and supplies to outposts around the country.
1958 - 1966 -- Weizman spends eight years as commander
of the IAF.
1966 - 1969 -- Chief of Operations of the General Staff
the Six-Day War, and later Deputy Chief of Staff.
1969 -- retires from military service with the rank
of major general, and turns to politics.
1969 -- Minister of Transport in the second National
Unity government under Levi Eshkol.
1971 - 1972 -- Weizman is the chairman of the Herut
party's executive committee for a short time, but resigns
over a disagreement with Menachem Begin
1973 -- Weizman returns to the Herut party and remains
1977 -- Weizman is elected as a member of the 9th Knesset,
during which he serves as the Defense Minister in Menachem
Begin's first government. In this capacity until 1980,
Weizman plays an important role in the peace process
1980 -- Weizman resigns from the government, formally
over military budget cuts, but in fact because of his
dissatisfaction with progress in the peace process.
1980 to 1984 -- Weizman takes a break from political
life and engages in private business.
1984 -- establishes a new party called "Yahad"
which attained three seats in the elections to the 11th
Knesset. Yahad becomes part of the Labor Alignment,
and Weizman is appointed Minister without Portfolio
in the national unity government formed by Shimon Peres.
1985-- Weizman becomes Coordinator for Arab Affairs,
and in this capacity, he helps the Arab sector and continues
efforts to normalize relations with Egypt.
1986 -- Yahad officially joins the Labor Party.
1988 -- Labor Party joins the national unity government
with the Likud, and Weizman is appointed Minister of
Science and Technology.
1992 -- National unity government is disbanded. Weizman
resigns from the Knesset frustrated with the slow pace
of the peace process.
Weizman as President:
March 1993 -- Ezer Weizman elected Israel's seventh
president by the Knesset.
State visits: First state visit of an Israeli president
to Turkey, India, China; also visited Great Britian,
Germany, Czech Republic, South Africa, Egypt, Jordan.
March 1998 -- Ezer Weizman elected to a second presidential
term. For the first time, an acting president who ran
for a second term was faced by an opponent.
December 1999 - Investigative journalist Yoav Ya'acov
breaks story of Weizman-Seroussi gifts. Weizman becomes
first president to undergo police investigation.
May 25, 2000 - After Attorney-General publishes report
on Weizman, and dogged by public pressure, Weizman says
he will resign.
July 10, 2000 - Weizman officially presents his resignation
to Knesset Speaker.
Read more about Ezer Weizman
The Weizman legacy - May 24, 2000
Weizman redefines the role - February 14, 1997
President with a fine touch
The Knesset's official website
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs official website
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President Ezer Weizman.
Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post
The Weizman legacy
By Allison Kaplan Sommer
(January 14) -- Almost from the day
that he entered Beit Hanassi, Ezer Weizman made it clear
that his presidency was going to be different --
Whether it is sooner rather than later, whether or not
he will face criminal charges regarding the gifts he
received from businessman Edouard Seroussi, whether
his official reason for resignation will be the shadow
of the scandal or his fragile health, the feeling that
we are watching the beginning of the end of the presidency
of Ezer Weizman was undeniable this week.
As Weizman's attorneys gathered documents regarding
his transactions with Seroussi and delivered them to
State Attorney Edna Arbel, and as Beit Hanassi tried
to maintain the appearance of business as usual, it
increasingly seemed a question of when, not whether,
Weizman would step down.
Even as he put up a brave, soldierly front, traveling
the country, and singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary"
with British nuns at an Abu Ghosh convent, Weizman looked
frailer than ever. He and his aides were clearly preoccupied
by the specter of the revelations of the cash gifts,
the calls for his resignation both in the press and
from politicians, and the rampant speculation as to
who would be his successor.
Also emerging is discussion of the legacy that Weizman's
years as president will leave on the country and the
institution of the presidency. Political scientists
agree that Weizman will be leaving the office in a far
different condition than he found it - and some are
highly critical, if not outright condemnatory, of the
way the presidency has changed during his tenure.
"I think he's destroyed the presidency," declares
Hebrew University political scientist Reuven Hazan.
In Hazan's view, the Seroussi scandal is merely the
straw that broke the camel's back. The public, he believes,
has had enough of Ezer Weizman.
"I don't think that this scandal could bring down
a president in Israel, unless that president had already
systematically undermined his base of support by alienating
one group after another over time, by his behavior.
"He has alienated the Right with his political
positions and his supporters on the Left by his behavior.
I'm not just talking about this scandal.
"Even those who support his position on every issue
on which he has recently voiced an opinion - the peace
process, the Golan - are tired of the person himself
and think that he should go. And since it seems likely
that his replacement will be Shimon Peres, those who
support the peace process believe that if Weizman leaves,
they will have a president who will keep doing the same
thing more nicely and diplomatically."
ALMOST from the day that he entered
Beit Hanassi, Weizman made it clear that his presidency
was going to be different. He made numerous public statements
on political issues and openly criticized both the Rabin
and Netanyahu governments' handling of various matters.
His blunt style simultaneously won him affection and
admiration - and created enemies.
As a result, his reelection in 1998
was more politicized than any previous process of choosing
a president, involving much lobbying from the two political
camps to win support for Weizman and his challenger,
Following that turbulent election, 11 bills were submitted
to the Knesset, proposing changes in the way a president
is chosen and the length of the term he serves.
"He damaged the functions of the presidency,"
asserts Hazan. "The president in Israel was always
supposed to be above politics. He was supposed to be
a unifying factor, neither Right nor Left, religious
nor secular, Ashkenazi nor Sephardi.
"He was only supposed to be involved when politicians
can't make a crucial decision, but the public is united,
such as when the Knesset refused to have an inquiry
into the Sabra and Shatilla massacre but the public
wanted it, and president Yitzhak Navon stepped in, or
when president Chaim Herzog stepped in and pressed electoral
reform that brought about the direct election of the
"The president was supposed to be someone that
Israelis can identify with: the personification of an
'Israeli.' But today, President Weizman is no longer
a recipient of this legitimacy and the mandate of a
majority of the Israeli public."
Particularly at this juncture, replacing Weizman is
necessary, he adds.
"We are about to have crucial and hurtful decisions
thrust upon us - like a referendum on the Golan Heights
for which our politicians will be ready to rip each
other apart to win. The presidency as a unifying factor,
a way of keeping Israel and Israelis together, is of
utmost importance in these times."
UNDER the current system, the president has little power
on a daily basis, but his potential ability to steer
the direction of the country is significant.
If the prime minister finds himself in a situation in
which he is threatened by a possible no-confidence vote
in the Knesset, yet is confident of winning a solid
majority in a popular election, he can choose to disband
the Knesset and call for new elections. The only possible
barrier to such action would be the president, who could
refuse to give his approval; the Knesset would stay
in session even against the will of the prime minister.
prof. Sam Lehman-Wilzig, a Bar-Ilan University political
scientist, says that the Weizman experience may spark
renewed calls for a reassessment of the office.
"There may be a move to revise the law and make
it clearer what a president can or cannot do. That may
happen, either formally or informally, and some form
of committee is likely to be formed."
Lehman-Wilzig's view of the long-term effect of Weizman's
presidency on the status of the office, however, is
more forgiving than Hazan's.
think the institution of the presidency is ruined. We've
had seven presidents, and only this one has been touched
"And I don't think that the Seroussi affair is
something that the Israeli public views as horrendous,
especially if it becomes clear that this money was a
gift he failed to report properly and not some kind
of influence-peddling. I believe that in the historical
memory of the public, this will be a passing affair."
HE agrees, as do most observers, that if Weizman
resigns under the shadow of this affair, it will be
a sadly inappropriate ending to an illustrious career.
"I think that in the case of Ezer Weizman, one
has to distinguish between his impact on the office
of the presidency and his reputation as a public figure,"
says Hebrew University professor Yaron Ezrahi, a senior
fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute.
"I think the public by and
large had and still has much appreciation for Ezer Weizman
the person and his incredible record as a soldier and
a public personality, and as one of the rarest and purest
embodiments of the Israeli temperament - the air of
informality and colloquial language that are characteristic
"Ezer Weizman has been a rare and precious
phenomenon. But that same air of straight talk has not
been the most congenial to the decorum and the dignity
of the office of the presidency.
"This office requires a certain kind of style;
it is probably the most official and formal office in
Israel. When we took the most informal public personality
in Israel since Moshe Dayan and put him in the most
official and formal office of the state, it was an automatic
prescription for all kinds of shock waves."
Weizman will also leave the legacy of his touching visits
to wounded soldiers and bereaved families and an intimate
contact with citizens that was rare for a man holding
the highest office in the country.
"Given his contributions
- he undoubtedly belongs to the group of the most revered
soldiers in Israeli history, those who have turned toward
peace with our neighbors - Weizman belongs to that critical
moment, that turning point in our history," says
"In the long run, these credentials will
eclipse whatever improprieties and violations of cherished
public codes may be attributed to him."
Weizman redefines the role
The Jerusalem Post
Friday, February 14, 1997
When history looks back on Ezer Weizman's term as president,
it may well be this week's 'whistle stop' tour of the
73 bereaved families for which he will be most respected
By its sheer physical and emotional scope, the journey
across the length and breadth of the country to be with
the families of the fighters during the week of mourning,
was a unique event.
To the difficult task of sharing in grief, Weizman brings
a sensitivity born of personal loss - his son, Shauli,
who was wounded during the War of Attrition, later died
in a car accident - and an example of how it is possible
to overcome it.
Unlike most of his predecessors, and in the true tradition
of a military man, Weizman has taken pains to visit
almost all the IDF casualties in the hospitals and the
bereaved families in their homes since assuming office.
The alacrity with which he announced his decision to
visit the families, on learning of the helicopter disaster,
was therefore very much in keeping.
In May 1993, when Weizman assumed the presidency, there
were pundits who said that the presidency had started
with Weizmann - Chaim, Israel's first president - and
would end with Weizman - his nephew, Ezer.
Chaim Weizmann, a renowned scientist, had been the archetype
for many of his successors, with the notable exception
of Yitzhak Navon - an ivory-tower figure, who mainly
met the nation on formal occasions and whose strength
lay in putting across Israel's image to the politicians
of the world. Weizman the second is perceived as a forthright
and charming sabra.
With the adoption of the law for the direct election
of prime minister - which relieved the president of
the decision on whom to confer the formation of the
government - many felt that the presidency had assumed
a totally ceremonial nature. Strange then that the man
voted in as Israel's seventh president should be a volatile
former politician and air-force commander with a reputation
for putting his foot in his mouth and with little patience
for the niceties of protocol.
And indeed, Weizman soon proved that words were not
his strong point. There was his inaugural address in
the Knesset which he rattled off like a military Order
of the Day, and there was his mundane eulogy for Yitzhak
Rabin at the state funeral, a missed historical opportunity.
On a different level, there were his unforgettable remarks
about women ('meidele... I don't see men knitting socks,'
in the case of a young woman who wanted to be a pilot).
There was the furor he succeeded in creating about the
gays ('I like men who are men and women who are women').
And at the same time, he was kicking up the dust with
remarks to the government. It started most notably with
his call on Labor, the party that had voted him in,
to 'stop and think' about the peace process after the
terrorist bombings a year ago. Many asked if Weizman
was returning to his Likud affiliations.
And when the Likud-led government failed to move on
the Hebron deal, there again was Weizman, this time
reassuming the role of an architect of the Camp David
And when Netanyahu failed to meet Yasser Arafat, it
was Weizman who invited the PLO leader to Caesarea.
And it was Weizman who succeeded in twisting the prime
minister's arm as Netanyahu stood by his side to say
the Prime Minister's Office would decide on a date to
meet with Arafat.
Two trends were clearly emerging. First, Weizman was
putting issues on the agenda and to a large extent he
had become a vox populi. With his direct manner and
his willingness to leap into any place, conversation
or situation, he had become the mouthpiece of the man
on the street, making them feel 'one of the boys.'
The presidency was becoming, as he likes to say, 'the
one official institution which people get up in the
morning and do not hate.'
Secondly, and as a corollary, Weizman appeared to be
building up a power base of his own. The presidency
began emerging as a kind of check-and-balance with the
power of the prime minister, even though the presidential
role was divested of executive teeth.
'I am staying in the country,' Weizman declared shortly
after taking up office, apparently in reference to the
globe-trotting propensity of sixth president Chaim Herzog.
'Since then, Weizman has taken a few
trips abroad and these have made a significant economic,
and perhaps also diplomatic, impact. But it is on the
home field where Weizman has scored his greatest victory
- to prove that the post of an Israeli president is
President with a fine touch
Allan E. Shapiro
The Jerusalem Post
Friday, January 28, 1994
CONGRATULATING Ezer Weizman on his election as president
last June, the prime minister remarked that the near
future would, in all likelihood, see grave decisions
that would seriously divide popular opinion.
The function of the presidency, he continued, was to
assure these decisions were accepted and national unity
preserved, despite the divisions.
This was probably the first high-level intimation of
the beginning of the process that was to lead, a few
months later, to the Oslo Declaration of Principles
with the PLO.
Replying, Weizman quipped that he had a better idea
what he wouldn't be allowed to do as president than
what he would be allowed. He well understood, he said,
that he couldn't just pick up the phone and call Syrian
President Assad, although, he continued to the accompaniment
of general laughter, he would be glad to do so, if asked.
This week, at the start of his state visit to Turkey,
he came close to doing just that. Speaking at a state
dinner, he declared that at the Geneva summit, Hafez
Assad had "failed to understand the expectations
of the Israeli public." He called on the Syrian
president "to make a bold decision and meet Israelis,
to get to know our prime minister and foreign minister."
Weizman's allusion to public opinion in Israel should
be taken together with his implied acceptance of the
idea of a popular referendum on a settlement with Syria.
This latter statement was severely criticized by former
prime minister Yitzhak Shamir in a TV interview. Shamir
claimed that Weizman had exceeded the traditional role
of the president by taking a position on a controversial
issue. Actually, Weizman has demonstrated a fine sense
of discrimination in dealing with sensitive topics.
In his appeal to Assad, the subject of the Golan Heights
was not even mentioned. His remarks about a referendum
did not affirm that it was the only, or even the most
desirable, option available.
However, they were both significant expressions of the
presidential role in the political arena. Abroad, particularly
in Syria, as well as in Egypt, where Weizman enjoys
wide respect and even admiration, his statements, taken
together, will provide a necessary caveat on the importance
of winning popular support in Israel for a settlement
on the Golan.
IN THE United States, Weizman's utterances will add
credibility to Rabin's reservations about the va summit.
There are plenty of key players in the Clinton administration,
Warren Christopher among them, who have not forgotten
that Weizman accompanied Jimmy Carter on a presidential
jet (eating ice cream, as Weizman later explained) during
the disastrous 1980 election campaign, while most Israeli
politicians supported Ronald Reagan, the successful
At home, Weizman's statements also have political impact.
Their effect is, in the strictest sense, legitimation
- conferring legitimacy on Assad as a partner for peace,
in the one case, and conferring legitimacy on a referendum
as an acceptable method of national decision-making,
in the other. This conferring of legitimacy is the quintessence
of the presidential role. It translates into action
Rabin's congratulatory exhortation to Weizman on the
importance of the presidency in making divisive decisions
Weizman has also performed the presidential
role in his visits to settlers in Judea and Samaria.
Again, the proper interpretation of his action is legitimation
- or, more precisely, the rejection of delegitimation.
So too, his statements to Jordan Rift farmers, supporting
their right to oppose an interim settlement that would
include them within the boundaries of Palestinian autonomy.
Before Weizman's election, there were calls for the
abolition of the office of president. The new law for
direct election of the prime minister, it was argued,
made the presidency an unnecessary, ceremonial position.
In fact, perhaps the most significant presidential initiatives
have their roots in the broad legal definition of the
president as chief of state, rather than in any specific
President Chaim Herzog, for example, faced with a crisis
over the breakdown of health services, demanded the
appointment of what became the Netanyahu Commission,
whose recommendations are the basis for the pending
national health law. He also pushed hard for electoral
reform. Before him, Yitzhak Navon mobilized the national
conscience in his call for an investigation into the
massacres in the Beirut refugee camps.
The ultimate extension of presidential initiative would
likely occur if all other political forces were stalemated.
Given Israel's present parliamentary division, this
is a possibility that cannot be ruled out.
Ezer Weizman, the seventh president of the State of
Israel, was born in 1924 in Tel Aviv. Chaim Weizmann,
the first president, was his uncle.
During World War II, Ezer Weizman served in the Royal
(British) Air Force and was stationed in France and
in India. From 1946 to 1948, he was a member of the
IZL (pre-state underground organization). In 1948, after
the proclamation of the State, he served in the "Air
Service," the predecessor of the Israel Air Force.
During the War of Independence, he flew arms and supplies
to the Negev and to the besieged Gush Etzion. That same
year, Weizman was sent to Czechoslovakia for training
to fly the "Messerschmidt" airplane and to
fly one back to Israel. He continued to serve in the
IAF until 1966, the last eight years as its Commander.
Though Weizman served as IDF Head of Operations and
Deputy Chief of Staff in the years 1966-1969, his political
background excluded his becoming Chief of Staff. After
ending his military service, Weizman served as the Minister
of Transport in the second National Unity Government
under Levi Eshkol. For a short while, he was the Chairman
of the Herut party's executive committee, but resigned
in 1972 over a disagreement with Menahem Begin over
the distribution of posts in the party leadership. Weizman
returned to the Herut party in May 1973 and remained
there until 1980. In 1977, he was elected as a member
to the 9th Knesset, during which he served as the Defense
Minister in Menahem Begin's first government. In this
capacity, he played a pivotal role in the peace process
with Egypt, and launched the Litani Operation in 1978.
In 1978, he proposed the formation of a "National
Peace Government" to help further the peace process,
but his idea was rejected by Begin.
In May 1980, Weizman resigned from the government, formally
over military budget cuts, but in fact because of his
dissatisfaction with progress in the peace process.
In November of that year, he was dismissed from the
Herut party because he considered establishing a new
party with Moshe Dayan, who had resigned from the government
in the previous year.
From 1980 to 1984, Weizman took a break from political
life and engaged in private business. In 1984, he established
a new party called "Yahad" which attained
three seats in the 1984 elections to the 11th Knesset.
Yahad became part of the Labor Alignment, and was appointed
Minister without Portfolio in the National Unity Government
formed by Shimon Peres. In January 1985, Weizman was
appointed Coordinator of Arab Affairs, and in this capacity,
he helped the Arab sector and continued in the effort
to normalize relations with Egypt.
In 1986, Ezer and his Yahad party officially joined
the Israel Labor Party. When the Labor Party joined
the National Unity Government with the Likud in 1988,
he served as the Minister of Science and Technology.
During this time, Yitzhak Shamir threatened to evict
Weizman from the government over secret talks he was
having with the PLO. Weizman continued in the government
until the disbanding of the National Unity Government
in 1992. At that time, he decided to distance himself
from political life, and resigned from the Knesset.
In 1993, as Labor candidate, he was elected president
by the Knesset. He has received much criticism for some
of his political statements and his refusal to grant
pardons to certain prisoners. Following the Declaration
of Principles with the PLO and the lack of progress
on peace with Syria, Weizman became more rigid in his
political approach to the peace process. However, after
the election of Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996, and
a crisis in the peace talks, he began to actively promote
the peace process, even going as far as inviting PLO
Chairman Yasser Arafat to his private home in Caesarea.
Ezer Weizman was elected to a second presidential term
in March 1998. For the first time in Israeli history,
an acting president who ran for a second term was faced
by an opponent (in this case, MK Shaul Amor).
?Copyright 1998, The State of Israel. All Rights Reserved.
We welcome your Suggestions and Comments.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Seventh President of the State of Israel 1993-2000
Ezer Weizman, an air force general, industrialist and
politician, was elected Israel's seventh President by
the Knesset (Israel's parliament) for a five-year term
(commencing 13 May 1993). Born in Tel Aviv in 1924 and
raised in Haifa, Weizman is the second president in
his family, following in the footsteps of his uncle,
Chaim Weizman, the renowned scientist and Zionist leader
who was Israel's first President (1949-1952).
Weizman's extensive military career began when he joined
Great Britain's Royal Air Force during World War II,
serving in Egypt and India. After the war, he served
in the Air Service, the predecessor of the Israel Air
Force (IAF), and was one of the founders of the IAF
when it was formed as an integral part of the Israel
Defense Forces (IDF) in 1949. In 1956 Weizman was appointed
Commander-in-Chief of the IAF, and ten years later (1966)
he became Head of the IDF Operations Branch and Deputy
Chief-of-Staff responsible for the IAF. In this capacity
he was the architect of Israel's decisive victory over
Egypt's air force during the 1967 Six Day War. He retired
from the IDF in 1969 after more than two decades of
distinguished service in this country's defense.
Weizman's political career was launched in 1969 with
his appointment as Minister of Transport for Gahal (the
Likud party's predecessor) in Levi Eshkol's second national
unity government. When Gahal left the government a year
later, Weizman became Chairman of the Herut party's
(a component of Gahal) Executive Committee (1971-72).
In 1977 he ran the Likud's victorious election campaign
for the Ninth Knesset.
A high point of Weizman's public service came during
his tenure as Minister of Defense (1977-80) when he
was instrumental in the process leading to the peace
treaty with Egypt, fostering close personal relations
with Egyptian leaders and playing a pivotal role in
the Camp David negotiations. Differences of opinion
with the government over ways and means of achieving
peace in the region caused Weizman to resign his cabinet
post in 1980. He was subsequently ousted from Herut.
From 1980 to 1984, he was occupied mainly in business
In 1984 Weizman founded a political party, Yahad, which
ran on a dovish platform in the elections to the Eleventh
Knesset, gaining three seats. In the national unity
government formed after these elections, Weizman served
as Minister without Portfolio and as a member of the
inner cabinet. In 1985 he was apointed Coordinator of
Arab Affairs, a position which enabled him to promote
his long-time interest in assisting Israel's Arab sector.
In the 1988 elections, he ran Labor's campaign and subsequently
became Minister of Science and Development in the new
national unity government, serving in this position
until March 1990. In February 1992, Weizman resigned
from the Knesset over what he regarded as lack of pogress
in the Arab-Israeli peace process.
Israel's seventh President brings to the office impressive
achievements and wide-ranging personal contacts in the
Western, as well as in the Arab world. No stranger to
problems and challenges, Weizman draws upon decades
of political experience during which he shifted party
affiliations to accommodate his changing views, gradually
replacing hawkish beliefs with a dovish orientation.
On accepting the Presidency, which carries with it responsibility
for fostering national unity and promoting moral values,
Weizman said he regards the job as "the most complicated
and difficult one I have ever assumed."
Ezer Weizman was re-elected to a second term in May
1998, and resigned from the Presidency in July 2000.
Copyright (c)1999 The State of Israel. All rights reserved.