Member of Knesset for the Alignment
On March 1973, after serving five years as ambassador, Yitzhak Rabin returned to Israel and joined the Labor Party. Ahead of the elections in December, the party's elections committee placed him 20th on a list headed by Golda Meir. About a month-and-a-half before the elections however it transpired that Israel was not headed to an election campaign, but to a war.
On October 6, 1973 the Yom Kippur War broke out unexpectedly. For the first time in years, Rabin found himself without position or authority. His attempts to be enlisted to work under one of the generals failed, and on the fourth day of the war he took up Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir's offer to head the Emergency Loan Fund to raise money to cover the war expenses.
In the elections held in December immediately after the war the Labor Party lost seats. But it was still able to form a government and Rabin was appointed Labor Minister in the second Golda Meir administration. On April 2, 1974 the Agranat Report on the failures of the Yom Kippur War was released. The report did not address the functioning of the political echelon but laid the blame solely with the military leadership. Rabin expressed his reservations at the decision to place full responsibility on the Chief of Staff, David Elazar. The public did not accept the report's conclusions. Protests swelled, and the politicians were called upon to pay the price. On April 11, under public pressure, Prime Minister Golda Meir resigned and the Labor Party set out to appoint a replacement. Rabin was a surprise candidate for the senior post, but the fact that he was blameless for the failures of the war, and the support he enjoyed from a significant faction of Mapai veterans saw him leapfrog the other candidates. The party chose him to take the place of Golda Meir as Prime Minister.
First term as Prime Minister
Rabin took office on June 3, 1974. During his three years as Prime Minister he guided a policy that reflected the Labor Party's continuity of power , but also the changing of the guard within the party and its willingness for change.
Rabin saw resumption of the peace initiative and progress towards peace as a critical mission and opened the way for negotiations with Egypt for an interim accord mediated by the American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. The accord, signed on September 1, 1975, was one of his major achievements as prime minister, and was reached after tough negotiations marked by constant crises. Rabin later saw the interim accord as the first step toward the full peace agreement with Egypt that was signed four years later by the Likud government headed by Menachem Begin. Subsequent to the signing of the interim accords, a "Memorandum of Understanding" was reached with the American administration of Gerald Ford, under which the United States undertook far-reaching obligations to Israel's security and economy.
As part of Rabin's attempts to promote dialogue with neighboring countries he held secret meetings with King Hussein and made the first secret visit by an Israeli prime minister to the King of Morocco.
While working toward progress on the peace front, Rabin had, at the same time, to deal with PLO terrorism against Israeli citizens. He opposed any negotiations with the PLO and claimed that the Palestinian problem could only be solved within a Jordanian framework. He adopted an uncompromising "strong arm" policy toward Palestinian supporters of the organization.
In Rabin's second year in office, Gush Emunim (Community of the Faithful) established a settlement in Sebastia in Samaria. Rabin opposed Jewish settlement in Arab population centers, but avoided conflict with the settlers. After some hesitation he authorized the founding of a Jewish settlement at Kedumim. The road was thus paved for the settlement movement that he had opposed, to march on.
On March 30, 1976, during a demonstration by Galilee Arabs against the appropriation of their lands, that was to became known as "Land Day", security forces opened fire on the demonstrators killing six of them. The events led to harsh reaction from the Arab, as well as among the Jewish public, and convinced Rabin to rethink the state's relations with the Arab minority.
Throughout Rabin's term in office, the economy continued to expand, the social safety net was kept in place and social divides narrowed. These successes gained Rabin public esteem and the Entebbe Operation to free hostages from an Air France plane hijacked to Uganda raised his standing in the world. But corruption scandals in the higher echelons of the Labor Party and the residues of the Yom Kippur War, with which the party was associated, overshadowed the achievements of his government and aroused many against it.
On December 10, 1976 the first F-15 jets arrived from the United States. They landed after the Sabbath had come in, causing a coalition crisis with the religious parties. On December 21, hoping that bringing forward the elections would increase his party's strength, Rabin submitted his resignation to the President. From then until the elections for a new Knesset, Rabin's government operated as a caretaker government.
As Rabin was preparing for the elections, it was revealed that his wife held a bank account in the United States, an act that was illegal at the time. Following the decision to prosecute her, Rabin resigned after three years in office. Shimon Peres was appointed to replace him.
Rabin's decision to take joint responsibility for an offense committed by his wife gained him great public esteem.
"I can no longer be the party's candidate for prime minister. Not because of the gravity of the offense... but because I have committed an offense, even if it is only technical, and I must act according to my upbringing, tradition and my principles and pay the price. This applies to every citizen, all the more so to a prime minister asking for the people's vote for another term in office."
The opposition years
The elections, held on May 17, 1977, saw the Labor Party lose power. For the first time the Likud under Menahem Begin headed a coalition government. Labor went into opposition. As an MK Rabin watched Sadat's visit to Israel with excitement. Despite his reservations regarding clauses concerning the disbanding of settlements in the Sinai, Rabin voted in favor of the peace agreement with Egypt.
In 1979 he published his memoirs Pinkas Sherut in which he reviewed his military career and settled scores with his political rivals, in particular Shimon Peres. From his small office in the Kirya in Tel Aviv, which been allocated to him as a former prime minister, he wrote frequently for the newspapers, met with old friends and tried to revive his following in the Labor Party.
In the 1981 Labor Party primaries for a candidate for prime minister, Rabin backed Yigal Allon. But after Allon's sudden death in February 1980, he announced his intention to run. Peres won the top spot, but Likud won the general elections.
On June 6, 1982 Operation Peace for Galilee was launched to protect the Northern settlements. Rabin initially supported the war, but as it went on and its goals were expanded he warned against the IDF getting bogged down in the "Lebanese mud" and called for IDF forces to be withdrawn to a security zone from whence they could protect Israel's Northern border.
"We unequivocally opposed any initiative that would try to impose a new order in Lebanon through the use of IDF force."