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Former Israeli President Herzog dies

Herzog

Also served as diplomat, military officer

April 17, 1997
Web posted at: 9:48 a.m. EDT (1348 GMT)

In this story:

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Former Israeli President Chaim Herzog, who also defended his country on the battlefield and championed its cause at the United Nations, died Thursday after a long illness. He was 78.

Israeli officials said they were preparing for a state funeral but a date was not immediately set.

Herzog suffered heart failure after contracting pneumonia during a recent visit to the United States, said Rachel Sofer, a spokeswoman for Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv.


Herzog addresses the U.N.
movie icon (1.1M/21 sec. QuickTime movie)

One man, many careers

The Irish-born Herzog crammed into his life at least half a dozen careers. Serving more than 20 years in the military, he also practiced law, represented Israel's Labor party in parliament, and wrote many books on Israeli history.

Throughout the six days of the 1967 Middle East war, as a reserve major general, Herzog offered commentary on Israeli radio, helping calm a nervous nation.

In 1975, as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, he took the podium of the General Assembly and ripped up a draft resolution that equated Zionism -- the belief in a Jewish state -- with racism.

When the United Nations later rescinded the resolution, he was among the first to praise the decision.

In March 1983, Herzog was elected president, overcoming intense opposition from the right-wing Likud party, headed by then-premier Menachem Begin.

During his 10 years in office, he made 45 visits abroad and spoke to 13 parliaments in other countries -- and was credited with helping to shape Israel's image internationally.

Controversy

Like his brother-in-law, former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, Herzog was seen by much of the Israeli public as being sometimes aloof and remote from daily concerns of average people.

His image with Israel's liberal establishment was tarnished in June 1986 when he granted presidential pardons to the head of the Shin Bet security service and three aides allegedly involved in killing two Arab captives.

In another controversial decision, Herzog in 1987 commuted the sentences of Jewish underground members convicted of killing Arabs in the occupied West Bank after he had resisted right-wing pressure for months to grant them an amnesty.

Personal history

He was born on September 17, 1918, in Belfast, where his father was rabbi of the small Jewish community. As a youth, he was Ireland's bantamweight boxing champion.

In 1935, Herzog arrived alone in British-mandated Palestine to study at a Jewish theological school in Hebron.

The family followed the next year when his father became chief rabbi of Palestine.

Herzog returned to Britain for university studies at London and Cambridge, but World War II interrupted. In 1942 Herzog began his military career.

He took part in the 1944 Normandy landings, was with the first troops to cross the Rhine and became Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's personal representative to a high-level conference on displaced Europeans immediately after the war.

Herzog returned to Palestine in 1947 and soon became Israel's first head of military intelligence when the Jewish state, created in 1948, plunged into war with its Arab neighbors. He served in the army until 1962.

He was recalled to be the first governor of the occupied West Bank after the 1967 war.

Tributes

Weizman, who succeeded Herzog as president in 1993 and served in battle with him in the 1948 War of Independence, described him as a "talented man and good friend."

Shimon Peres, the former prime minister and Labor Party leader, called Herzog "a man of war who loved peace" and "perhaps the most statesmanlike person Israel ever knew."

Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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