1984 – Defense Minister
Following the elections that took place on July 23, 1984, in which none of the large parties received a sufficient number of mandates to form a government, a National Unity Government was formed. According to the Likud and Labor Party agreement, Shimon Peres was the first to serve as prime minister. At the end of a two-year term, he would pass the position onto Yitzhak Shamir.
Peres appointed Rabin as Defense Minister, and he was reappointed for the position by Shamir until the conclusion of the third National Unity Government headed by Shamir in 1990.
During his term in office, he initiated a gradual withdrawal from Lebanon. He established the IDF’s hold on the Security Zone. In contrast to his predecessors, he agreed to a cut in the defense budget, which became possible after Egypt’s exit from the cycle of aggression. His consent for the “Jibril Deal,” which led to the release of 1,150 Palestinian prisoners in return for three Israeli prisoners, caused public debate. Still, the responsibility for the lives of the Israeli prisoners tipped the scale in favor of the deal’s approval.
When the Intifada first broke out, he did not identify its uniqueness. In its first months, he believed that a military solution was available to put down this popular uprising through the use of force. In the eyes of the left, his policy was deemed immoral and futile, while the right saw it as insufficient.
After several months of struggle, he became convinced that this uprising expressed authentic Palestinian national aspirations that Israel could no longer ignore. The Palestinians’ willingness to absorb losses surprised him. It led to an understanding that the policy of force alone would not bring about the desired quiet. He was mindful of the growth of local Palestinian leadership. He saw it as an interlocutor for diplomatic negotiations for the first time. At the same time, his fears and concerns grew regarding the Intifada’s impact on the fighting spirit of the IDF and its status as the people’s army.
In 1989 he formulated a two-phase peace initiative, which proposed to enable elections for the local Palestinian leadership in the territories that, since the Camp David Accords had operated as a Palestinian autonomy and would guarantee the area’s quiet. According to the initiative, negotiations would be conducted with elected leadership toward a permanent settlement in the second phase. Under American pressure, the plan gained the support of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The National Unity Government was dismantled in 1990, and the Labor Party returned to the benches of the opposition.