1968 – Ambassador to the United States of America

In the early months of 1968, after 27 years of military service, Yitzhak Rabin no longer wore a uniform. Subsequently, he was appointed to his first civilian position as Israel’s ambassador to the United States. The first year of his term was marked by that year’s presidential elections in the United States. Rabin utilized the time to study the mechanisms of the American government, become acquainted with prominent individuals in the American media, and develop bonds with the Jewish communities and important Jewish organizational leaders.

In contrast to the tradition of Jewish support for the Democratic Party, Rabin gave his open support to Richard Nixon, the Republican presidential candidate. An earlier acquaintance with him and monitoring his positions during the campaign strengthened his assessment that Nixon would be a better ally for Israel. Nixon’s victory and his selection of Henry Kissinger as head of the National Security Council created the conditions for Rabin’s greatest achievements as ambassador. Despite the serious tension created during this period between Israel and the United States surrounding the government’s plans for arrangements in the Middle East, to which Israel objected, Rabin succeeded in fostering special relations between the two countries. His activity toward achieving the agreement of Golda Meir’s government for a ceasefire on the Suez Canal contributed to removing the American embargo on deliveries of Phantom jets to Israel.

In September 1970, through talks with Rabin, Nixon requested Israel to assist King Hussein of Jordan in thwarting Palestinian and Syrian attempts to threaten his rule. Rabin supported the request and worked to gain the Prime Minister’s concession, even at the cost of war with Syria. Ultimately, Hussein successfully repressed the “Black September” insurgency. Still, Israel’s willingness to assist him significantly enhanced the collaboration between Israel and the United States, facilitated an increase in American economic aid, and improved the king’s relations with Israel.

Like her predecessor, Levi Eshkol, Golda also saw in Rabin, an ambassador who had a unique status and thus established a direct line of communications with him.

In the second half of his tenure, Rabin based his status as a diplomat and a candidate for senior political roles in Israel. He learned to appreciate American democracy and the achievements of the free market economy. His relations with government leaders and the Jewish communities grew, winning him sincere admiration.

The death of Egypt’s president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, in 1970 and the election of Anwar Sadat to the position altered the political reality in the Middle East. The American administration saw this as a window of opportunity to promote arrangements between Israel and its neighbors and increased its activity to obtain interim agreements. Rabin supported the idea of progressing toward peace in phases and was aware of the possibilities inherent in Sadat’s proposals for a settlement with Israel. He believed that an IDF withdrawal inland into the depths of the Sinai Desert and reopening the Suez Canal would also open the way for a settlement with Egypt and consequently strengthen the alliance with the United States. Rabin cautioned that its rejection of the American plan would lead to a coerced arrangement or even renewed conflagration. Golda and her ministers stood firm behind their position.

The election campaign for the 8th Knesset was imminent, and Rabin expressed his desire to return home.

In March 1973, after five years as the nation’s ambassador, Yitzhak Rabin returned to Israel and joined the Israel Labor Party. Ahead of the December elections, the party’s “Nominations Committee” placed him in the 20th spot among the list of candidates headed by Golda Meir. Approximately a month and a half before the expected elections, it became clear that Israel was not facing an election but rather an all-out war.

On October 6, 1973, the Yom Kippur War broke out unexpectedly. It was the first time Rabin did not hold a position or authority. His attempts to be seconded to this or that commander was unsuccessful. On the fourth day of the war, he accepted Finance Minister Pinchas Sapir’s offer to head up the “Emergency Loan Fund” to raise funds for the war’s expenses.