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Abba Eban, “Voice of Israel”

November 17, 2017

Israel’s peerless diplomat, Abba Eban, the so-called “Voice of Israel,” died on this date in 2002. Born Aubrey Solomon in South Africa (1915) to Lithuanian Jewish immigrant parents, he served simultaneously as ambassador to both the United Nations and United States during Israel’s first decade of independence, and evoked great pride in Jews worldwide due to his eloquence, intelligence, and general liberality (he was more dovish than most of his government colleagues). As Israel’s Foreign Minister between 1966 and 1974, Eban played a key role in crafting UN Resolutions 242 (in 1967) and 338 (in 1973), which laid down the land-for-peace foundation for Middle East peacemaking. Eban is often remembered for his claim that the Palestinians “have never missed a chance of losing an opportunity,” though by the 1990s, he reportedly felt that this maxim applied more to his own country’s leadership. Eban was fluent in ten languages and wrote several popular histories, including My People: The Story of the Jews (1968) and Heritage: Civilization and the Jews (1984), which was adapted for television in a series that he hosted.

“I think that this is the first war in history that on the morrow the victors sued for peace and the vanquished called for unconditional surrender.” —Abba Eban (1987)