Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin has admitted he did suffer a brief “breakdown” on the eve of the Six-Day War in 1967. But he has vigorously denounced Likud allegations that he drinks too much.
Rabin’s “confession” was contained in a lengthy interview published in the Israeli newspaper Hadashot over the weekend in response to Likud jibes depicting him as a drunkard and someone who cannot function under pressure.
Personal attacks on Rabin have become a centerpiece of the Likud election campaign, especially since Labor seems to be ahead in the polls. Labor claimed Tuesday that the slurs were not harming their man with the voters.
But the Labor and Likud campaign managers, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Police Minister Ronni Milo, have now agreed that the rival parties would desist from disrupting electioneering speeches by the other’s leader.
Likud hecklers blow shrill whistles when Rabin addresses a crowd. Labor said it has ordered a consignment of whistles and warned that if Rabin is not allowed to speak, neither may Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
Shamir reportedly expressed distaste for the personal attacks on Rabin and was backed up by Housing Minister Ariel Sharon.
Foreign Minister David Levy and Benjamin Netanyahu, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, also have publicly criticized the smear campaign.
But Laborites and members of the leftist Meretz bloc questioned these protestations by Likud leaders. They charged that Shamir and his ministers encouraged the personal attacks from which they publicly dissociated themselves.
WORKING UNDER INTENSE PRESSURE
Some in the Labor camp thought Rabin should ignore Likud campaign propaganda depicting him as a heavy drinker who lacks the “capacity to take decisions under pressure.”
But Rabin apparently thought it necessary to confront the stories of his “collapse” in 1967, especially as it is not a new disclosure.
Rabin was Israel Defense Force chief of staff in May 1967, a time of tension in Israel. Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser was said to be massing troops in Sinai and U.N. Secretary-General U Thant had ordered U.N. truce observer forces out of the Israeli-Egyptian border zone.
Rabin told Hadashot that he was working under intense military and political pressures at the time. Responsibility for keeping the IDF instantly ready for battle rested entirely on his shoulders, he said.
One night, his wife Leah insisted he must rest. She called an army medical officer who administered a sedative. Rabin said he slept for the next 24 hours to regain his strength.
Rabin’s 24-hour breakdown was disclosed in 1974 by Gen. Ezer Weizman, who was deputy chief of staff in 1967. Weizman was trying at the time to convince Labor to choose Shimon Peres instead of Rabin as its leader.
It was unclear, meanwhile, whether the Labor-Likud pact to refrain from heckling applies only to their respective leaders, Rabin and Shamir. Peres, now Labor’s No. 2 man, was the target of a thrown tomato at a campaign rally Monday.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.