He Understood - and Believed

Itamar Rabinovich
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Itamar Rabinovich

It was hard to put a label on Ze'ev Schiff. Ostensibly the title "military commentator for Haaretz" sufficed, and because of that, by virtue of his personality, his authority, his knowledge and his experience, he was called the "elder of the tribe" and the "elder of the corps" of commentators and reporters on military and defense matters in Israel. But Wolfie's extraordinary status and his influence in Israel and abroad also derived from his activity and achievements in many other areas.

He was the confidant of government ministers and generals, a guide for the perplexed vis-a-vis diplomats and foreign correspondents, an interlocutor for figures from the Arab world who wanted to know and understand Israel. And perhaps most important, he was a man who not only understood, but also believed. During the course of his long career, Schiff changed from being "defense-minded" to being someone who upheld "peace and security," in the perception that Israel will never achieve true security without peace agreements, and that at the same time nothing is to be expected of peace agreements that are not anchored in solid security accords.

His extra-journalistic activity was conducted for the most part along three tracks:

It is hard to exaggerate the importance of such meetings, which enable representatives of the elites and of civil societies from antagonistic sides to get to know one another, to learn, to teach and to build a broader basis of support for agreements that are ultimately signed between statesmen and diplomats.

Ze'ev loved these meetings for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that at the end of the day, as at its beginning, he was a journalist and a commentator; what he learned at these meetings, without quoting and without betraying trust, also nourished his columns in Haaretz.

I will miss him very much, as a writer, as a colleague and as a friend.

The author served as Israel's ambassador to Washington and as president of Tel Aviv University.

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