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Abba Eban

(1915 - 2002)

Abba Eban was an Israeli orator, diplomat and politician who served in many capacities including Deputy Prime Minister and Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations.

Eban (born February 2, 1915; died November 17, 2002) was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and moved to the United Kingdom at an early age. Heavily involved in Zionist activities, at the outbreak of World War II Eban went to work for Chaim Weizmann at the World Zionist Organization in London. He also served in the British Army in Egypt and Mandate Palestine, becoming an intelligence officer in Jerusalem where he coordinated and trained volunteers for resistance in the event of a German invasion.

In 1947, Eban was posted to work for the Jewish Agency in New York and was appointed as a liaison officer to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), where he was successful in attaining approval for Resolution 181, calling for the partition of Palestine. For the next decade, Eban served as Israel's permanent representative at the United Nations and as Israel's Ambassador to the United States.

In 1959, Eban returned to Israel and was elected to Knesset for the Mapai political party, serving under Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion as Minister of Education and Culture from 1960 to 1963 and then as Deputy Prime Minister under Levi Eshkol from 1963 to 1966.

From 1966 to 1974, Eban served as Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs, defending the country in the political arena following the Six-Day War and ensuring that world powers knew Israel had defended itself in the war and not acted aggresively. He was a famous supporter of land for peace exchanges with Egypt and the Palestinians and played a key role in shaping UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

In 1988, after having served for three decades in the Knesset, Eban was booted over internal splits within the Labor Party and he devoted the rest of his life to academia, writing and teaching about Israel. He served temporary posts as a visiting academic at Princeton, Columbia and George Washington universities.

Abba Eban was a member of the American Academy of Sciences. His books include Heritage: Civilization and the Jews, Promised Land, My Country: The Story of Modern Israel, Abba Eban, Voice of Israel, The Tide of Nationalism, My People, the New Diplomacy, Maze of Justice, Personal Witness, and, in 1998, Diplomacy for the Next Century. He was chief consultant and narrator of the nine-part television program Heritage, and editor-in-chief and narrator of the five-part television series Personal Witness: A Nation is Born. He completed The Brink of Peace, a film on the Middle East peace process for the PBS television network in the U.S. He received the Israel Prize in 2001.

He died in Israel on November 17, 2002.

Official Post


Political information officer for the Jewish Agency in London


Liaison officer of the Jewish Agency with the UN Special Committee on Palestine and a member of the Jewish Agency delegation to the UN General Assembly


Representative to the UN


Permanent representative to the UN


Ambassador to Washington and permanent representative to the UN


Vice President of the UN General Assembly


President of the Weizmann Institute of Science


Elected to the Knesset


Minister without Portfolio


Minister of Education and Culture


Deputy Prime Minister


Minister of Foreign Affairs


Guest professor at Columbia University


Chairman of the Board of Governors of Beit Berl


Member of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security


Chairman of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security

Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry.