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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 01:45 GMT
Israel's diplomatic giant Eban dies
Abba Eban
Israel was blessed with a skilled advocate in Eban
Veteran Israeli politician and diplomat Abba Eban has died in hospital near Tel Aviv at the age of 87.

He dominated the first decade of Israeli diplomacy following the state's establishment in 1948, serving as its representative to the United Nations and ambassador to Washington.


History teaches us that men and nations only behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives

Abba Eban
He went on to become one of Israel's most respected foreign ministers, serving for eight of the most turbulent years of its history, between 1966 and 1974.

Leading the tributes, Israeli Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu described him a "founding father of Israeli diplomacy... [who] added an intellectual lustre to Zionism and established the foreign service of a fledgling state".

Relatives said Eban's health had been failing in recent months and will make an announcement about the funeral soon.

Fledgling state

Born Aubrey Solomon Meir to a Jewish family in South Africa in 1915, he moved to British-ruled Palestine in 1946, having served with the British army during WW II.

A year later he spearheaded the embryonic Israeli state's successful campaign for recognition in the United Nations and - after independence - steered its often stormy relations with the international body.

In 1959, he left the diplomatic service and was elected as a Labor member of the Knesset, quickly becoming a minister, before rising to deputy prime minister and foreign minister under Golda Meir.

Eban's nephew Yitzhak Herzog said on Israel Radio that it was a career based on seeing "the need to make peace, to recognise the enemy and to negotiate with him".

Quotable quotes

Fluent in 10 languages and endowed with a famous dry wit, Eban was a highly effective advocate on the international stage.

He was considered a moderate regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, favouring Israel's handover of most of the territories captured in the 1967 war to secure a peace deal.

He was also one of Israel's most quotable politicians, among his most famous remarks the criticism of the Palestinians that they "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity".

However, he was optimistic that peace would eventually come to the region - observing that "history teaches us that men and nations only behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives".

Eban left politics in 1988, becoming a notable broadcaster and writer.


Your reaction

Rest in peace. You have served your country well.
James Wood, United States

We have lost a great man, a great orator, and a great diplomat.
Juliet, Israel

A great man who did so much to bring sanity to the Middle East. His humour was a tool that allowed people to laugh a little at themselves even at the most serious time.
Peter, UK

Abba Eban was a great man and spokesman for the territorial rights of the Jewish people.
Alfredo Fiks, Costa Rica

A great statesman, much admired.
Marion Hitchcott, England

Abba Eban set standards not only of eloquence, but of broad enlightenment and tolerance - indeed, true respect for the humanity of adversaries - standards that the world will do well to strive to emulate, today and in generations to come.
Raphael S. Ryger, USA

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Abba Eban, 1999 interview
"In 1947, we had a feeling that the tide of history was running in our favour"
See also:

27 Apr 98 | Middle East
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