Itamar Rabinovich's biography, Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman, is being published today by Yale University Press, the latest offering in its prestigious "Jewish Lives" series.
The publisher describes the book as a "revealing account of [Rabin's] life, character, and contributions [that] draws not only on original research but also on the author's recollections as one of Rabin's closest aides."
One of the interesting facts in the book is Rabinovich's account of the trouble Rabin got into during his service as Israel's ambassador to the United States, when he took a public position in support of President Nixon's re-election against Senator George McGovern.
Rabinovich writes that Rabin "saw Nixon as a genuine friend of Israel, felt beholden to him, and was concerned with McGovern's liberalism." He quotes Rabin's June 1972 interview on Israeli radio: "While we appreciate the support in the form of words we are getting from one camp, we must prefer support in the form of deeds we are getting from the other camp." Rabin's remark produced a strongly adverse reaction in both the U.S. and Israel, with the Washington Post criticizing him in an editorial titled "Israel's Undiplomatic Diplomat."
Rabinovich's book makes it clear he believes that Rabin was one of Israel's most effective ambassadors, developing a close personal relationship with both Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, at a very critical time.
Today, just outside the Washington office of Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, there is a large picture of a young-looking Rabin, walking at the White House with Nixon. Among a long line of influential Israeli ambassadors, including the first one, Abba Eban, Rabin was one of the most important, before going on to become prime minister. Rabinovich's book is a useful portrait that goes beyond the well-known facts of Rabin's later career to provide context, including some that may be useful in considering the issue of Israel in current American politics.