Yehoshafat Harkabi, Academic and Military Man, Dies of Cancer

Yehoshafat Harkabi, a former intelligence chief of the Israel Defense Forces and one of the country’s premier specialists on the Arab-Israeli conflict, died early last Friday morning at the age of 72.

He had been admitted to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem a few months ago, at his own request, when he was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer.

An acclaimed authority on Middle Eastern affairs and a professor of international relations at the Hebrew University, Harkabi, popularly known by his nickname “Fatti,” was adviser to several prime ministers, including Yitzhak Rabin and the late Menachem Begin.

A third-generation Israeli, Harkabi was born in Haifa.

He won the prestigious Israel Prize last year for his writings on the Middle East.

Harkabi had a checkered military career, beginning in 1947 when he was commander of a company of students for the Palmach, Israel’s pre-state army.

In 1949, he was a member of the Israeli delegation to the Rhodes talks negotiating cease-fire agreements with Jordan and Egypt. During that period he made a secret visit to Jordan with the late Moshe Dayan.

A decade later he was forced to step down as army intelligence chief, as a result of a mistaken military call-up broadcast over Israel Radio.

He then switched from a military to an academic career, focusing on philosophy and history, particularly the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In 1969, Harkabi was the first to translate the Palestine National Covenant, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s charter that called for the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of all Jews who had come here after the state was established.

It is that same charter that PLO chairman Yasser Arafat promised to amend as part of his agreements with Israel, but so far the PLO has refused to do so.

Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Harkabi turned from a hawk to a dove, becoming one of the first Israelis to call for negotiations with the PLO and for withdrawal from the territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

He became even more outspoken about withdrawal from the territories following the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising, or intifada, in 1987.

He was buried Sunday, in a military funeral at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.

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