(Banner will apear here)

Beautiful Kabbalah Jewelry Judaicawebstore.com
Font Size:

EZER WEIZMAN 1924 - 2005

Israel's Mourns One Of Its Greatest National Heroes

Ezer Weizman, The 7th President Of Israel And The Nephew Of First President Haim Weizman, Died In His Caesaria Home At The Age Of 81

Ezer Weizman
(Image: mfa.gov.il)

Ezer Weizman, the founder of the Israel Air Force, defense minister, statesman and state President; he was all this and more for the people of Israel.

A native-born Sabra, Ezer Weizman became a symbol of the new generation of Palestinian Jews who were to lead on the battlefield in Israels War of Independence in 1948. Weizman was a fighter pilot and that was his surely his temperament. Throughout his volatile career he was always taking off where he would land was not necessarily the most important thing.

Ezer was always a man with a mission, who spoke his mind and let the chips fall where they may. It was for this reason Weizman never succeeded Menachem Begin as Likud leader and most probably Prime Minister. It was his for the taking, but he had made his switch from super-hawk, no compromise on the Land of Israel to super dove, who was ready for give and take on peace with the Arabs. But then again Ezer Weizman was first of all, always true to his own convictions before thinking about his own political future. This is perhaps the reason he rose from being a Likud politician to becoming a leading Likud statesman who played a role in Prime Minister Menachem Begins peace agreement with Egypt's Anwar Sadat.

Ezer was one of a group of Palestinians who, at age 18, volunteered to join the British RAF in World War Two. After training as a fighter pilot, and after the war, Weizman and his comrades returned home to build the Israel Air Force from scratch. When the combined Arab armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded the Holy Land to try and drive the re- born Jewish state into the sea. Without an Israel Air Force, Israeli skies were open to Arab air raids but not for long. After some World War Two fighters were bought and rushed to Israel, Weizman and his fellow pilots took to the skies to drive off the Arab attackers and even take the battle to the enemy. In fact, Weizman himself lead one dog- fight during the War of Independence in which five British RAF pilots, flying for the Arabs, were shot down. Ezer, flying his famed black Spitfire shot down down one of the British fighters.

Flying the Spitfire was one of Weizman's fondest memories. He rose swiftly to become IAF commander and set the standards of excellence and dedication that have made it one of the best in the world. Weizman later said his days in the IAF were the happiest of all the important positions he held and there were many. He became Deputy Chief of Staff but despite Weizman's qualifications and leadership ability, the Israel Defense Forces were not yet ready for an Air Force man to command the entire army, that has to wait until this July when airman Dan Halutz will become IDF Chief of Staff. Weizman started his political career in the Herut (Likud) party as a super hawk. After the Six-Day War in 1967, when the IAF demolished the Arab Air Forces within a few hours, U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers published his peace plan. Weizman would have nothing to do with it because:It gave up territory in the Land of Israel!

Prime Minister Menachem Begin appointed Weizman as Defense Minister and Ezer seemed on his way to one day becoming Herut leader and most likely, Prime Minister. Then came personal tragedy in the war of attrition with the Egyptians along the Suez Canal. His son Shauli was shot in the head and critically wounded by an Egyptian sniper. Shauli survived, but suffered severe head pain for the rest of his short life; he was killed in a car crash with his wife. Weizman said the wounding of his son had a deep effect upon him; he vowed to try and end the warfare with the Arabs. As Defense Minister he and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan supported Prime Minister Menachem Begins drive for a peace treaty with Egypt's Anwar Sadat. Weizman, who had a good rapport with the Egyptian leader, was known to have helped braked deadlocks in the negotiations.

But Weizman went further. He was among the first Israeli politicians who also pushed for peace with the Palestinians and negotiations with Yasser Arafat and the PLO. The PLO had a declared policy of destroying Israel and it was illegal for an Israeli to contact PLO members. And when Weizman's secret contacts with Arafat no less, where found out, the then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir fired him from the cabinet.

Ayzer as he was called by everyone was probably the most popular of all. Both on the left and right, he was liked and respected whether one liked his views or not. When the Knesset elected him State President, Weizman also turned this formal position upside down. The President is not expected to express partisan political views; his job is to unify the country. However, Weizman often irked both Likud and Labor prime ministers. During the upsurge in Palestinian terror attacks, he called on Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to suspend the peace talks. Weizman was also quoted as telling U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to knock the heads of Netanyahu and Arafat together until they reached an agreement. Ehud Barak also felt Weizman's wrath; Weizman let it be known that he was going to vote for Sharon.

As President, Weizman made it a point of visiting the bereaved families of both IDF soldiers as well as civilians who had been killed. In 1997, 73 IDF soldiers and airmen were killed when two helicopters collided. Within seven days, Weizman made it a point of making 73 heart- breaking visits to all the families.

The fighter pilot left or rather was forced out of office under fire. He had secretly accepted money from his friend, a foreign millionaire Edward Sarussi without declaring it. The threat that he might he indicted forced him to resign.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon issued the following statement; Today I lost a commander and a close friend. Ezer Weizman is a sterling example of the Israeli sabra. Every station in his life was pivotal in the building of this country - in the Irgun, the founding of the Israel Air Force and making it the spearhead of the IDF in the brilliant Six-Day War victory, as Defense Minister, as an important partner in the peace treaty with Egypt, and as a President who was loved by all layers of society. Ezer was outstanding in his determination, leadership, courage and sharp tongue. I send my condolences to his wife Reuma, his daughter Michal and his family.

Ezer requested not to be buried on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl, the cemetery of the founding fathers, but rather next to his son Shauli and his wife Michal, in the town of Or Akiva.

The fighter pilot who started in the RAF to become Top Gun in the Israel Air Force entitled his autobiography in Hebrew Root, Sof! - Roger and Out!

David Essing

Back To The Top