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Rafael Eitan (2)

Aliases and/or alternative transliteration(s):  
  • Raful Eitan
  • Raphael Eitan
  • Rafael (‘Raful’) Eytan
  • Rafael Kaminsky
  • (2) רפאל איתן
  • רפול איתן
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Two Rafael Eitans were prominent in Israel in the second half of the 20th century. They are distinguished by having different nicknames, "Raful" and "Rafi". Don't confuse this fellow, Raful Eitan, with Rafi Eitan

Rafael "Raful" Eitan (1929-2004), born Rafael Kaminsky, was an Israeli general, former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces and later a politician, a Knesset member, and Minister of Agriculture. Eitan was born in 1929 in Afula, in the British Mandate of Palestine and was raised in Moshav Tel Adashim, where he spent most of his life.

The mounting Israeli casualties in Lebanon in the war that started in June 1982, combined with the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, resulted in mass protests by the Israeli public against the war - which resulted in a cease-fire agreements and the establishment of the Kahan Commission to investigate the massacre. The commission concluded that Israel was not directly responsible for the massacre but that senior Israeli officials such as Sharon and Eitan were culpable in part. Although Sharon was removed as Minister of Defense, the committee recommended no sanctions against Eitan.

Nevertheless, Eitan's reputation became identified with the failed Lebanon War.

After his retirement from the army, on April 1983, Eitan entered politics.

Eitan initially joined the "Tehiyah Party" and was first elected to the Knesset in 1984. Later he established an ultra-nationalist party called "Tzomet" which had conservative views on defense and foreign policy but a liberal and secular domestic platform. He was elected to the 11th assembly of the Knesset and served as Agriculture Minister between 1988 and 1991. In the 12th assembly of the Knesset, Tzomet achieved a record of eight seats. Eitan refused to join Yitzhak Rabin's coalition.

However, Eitan had troubles in controlling his party, resulting in some Knesset members splitting from Tzomet to join other parties. When Rabin presented the Oslo II Accords to the Knesset, it managed to pass only with the support of Alex Goldfrev and Gonnen Segev - two Tzomet members who were promised ministries by Rabin in return for their support. They were later indicted for unrelated crimes.

On 1996, Tzomet joined the Likud and Gesher parties to win the national election making Benjamin Netanyahu prime minister. Eitan was promised the ministry of internal security, but a criminal investigation against him blocked his nomination. The investigation eventually cleared Eitan and the case was closed on 1998 due to "lack of evidence". In the meantime, Eitan served as agriculture and environment minister and also as a deputy prime minister (1998-1999).

In 1999 Tzomet failed to win any Knesset seats and Eitan retired from politics.

Eitan left politics in 2001, concentrating on carpentry - he loved to carve rocking horses. He divorced his first wife, Miriam Eitan, and married Ofra Meirson. The couple moved to Jerusalem in 1997, where Ofra became a leftist councillor. Remarkably, Raful never discouraged her from protesting against Israel's 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon. Around that time Eitan revealed that his mother was a member of the Christian Subotnik sect, and a descendant of the Russian tsar's bodyguards. Thus the Jewish ultranationalist, according to Rabbinic law, might not have been Jewish.

In 2003 Eitan became logistics manager for a project to extend Ashdod's port breakwater, which is where he drowned. On November 23, 2004, Eitan arrived at the Mediterranean sea port of Ashdod, where he was overseeing a port expansion project. A large wave swept him from a breakwater into the sea and he was lost in rough waters for over an hour. Eitan's body was recovered by the Israeli Navy and he was pronounced dead after efforts to revive him failed.

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Rafael Eitan   • Avigdor Ben-Gal   • Miriam Eitan   • Tzomet   • Eliahu Kaminsky

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