Article - Abba Eban
"The voice of Israel" is how Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion described statesman and diplomat Abba Eban in his day. Born in 1915 in Cape Town, South Africa, Eban was raised and educated in England in a Jewish and Zionist milieu.
Upon completing his education at Cambridge University, where he specialized in Semitic languages, he was appointed a lecturer there. In addition, he became active in Zionist bodies in London. During the Second World War, he served as an officer in British Intelligence, attaining the rank of major, and inter alia became the British Intelligence liaison with the Zionist leadership in Eretz israel.
After his release from the British army at the war's end, Abba Eban immigrated to Eretz Israel and began working in the Political Department of the Jewish Agency for Eretz Israel. He assisted Chaim Weizmann and Moshe Sharett in the political and diplomatic struggle leading up to the UN decision to partition Eretz Israel in November 29, 1947. With the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, Eban was named the country's representative at the UN, and thereafter its ambassador to that body. In 1950, at the age of 35, he became, additionally, ambassador to the U.S., holding both offices until the summer of 1959.
In his dual roles in the UN and Washington, Abba Eban molded Israel's diplomatic activity and information services in both important venues. The first U.S. aid for Israel was attained during his tenure, and the Israel Bonds venture was established. At his initiative, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was formed, and the activity of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations was institutionalized.
Abba Eban largely determined the pattern of activity of all Israeli diplomats who followed him in both roles. Viewed as a brilliant speaker, he was considered one of the ten best orators in the world.
Upon his return to Israel, Eban was named president of the Weizmann Institute of Science. He was also elected to the fourth Knesset, representing Mapai, and served in Ben-Gurion's government first as minister without portfolio and later as minister of education and culture. In 1963, with the election of Levi Eshkol as prime minister, Eban was appointed deputy prime minister.
From 1966-1974 he served as foreign minister in the governments headed by Eshkol and Golda Meir. No other foreign minister ever gained such world recognition that his name was identified with the state, and no other diplomat could represent Israel's position as skillfully as he. As part of his duties, he led the government's political and diplomatic activity on the eve of the Six-Day War of June 1967 and immediately thereafter. He fought for the wording of Security Council Resolution 242, which stipulated no withdrawal without peace, and which became the cornerstone thereafter in the peace process between Israel and the Arabs. As foreign minister, Eban headed the Israeli delegation to the Geneva Conference in December 1973, which was, in effect, the first peace conference.
He served as a Member of Knesset and as a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee from 1974-1988, chairing the Committee from 1984-1988.
In the last years of his life, Abba Eban devoted himself to teaching at various universities in the U.S., and to producing several fascinating TV series on the Jewish contribution to civilization, the history of the State of Israel, and the peace process. These series were screened widely and made an important contribution to the projection of Israel's image throughout the world. He also wrote books on the subjects of diplomacy and the Jewish heritage.
In 2001, Abba Eban was awarded the Israel Prize for his life's work and his contribution to society and the state. He died on November 17, 2002.
From the Israel Prize dedication