Prominent Politician and Left-wing Activist Arie Eliav Dies at 88

Peres: In Eliav's view, being a leader meant being a pioneer, not superior

Dudu Bachar

Arie Lova Eliav, a senior Israeli politician and a well known left wing activist, succumbed Sunday to a long term illness at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital. He was 88 years old.

Eliav served as an MK on behalf of the Labor Party between 1965 and 1975.

The late MK also served as the deputy commerce and industry minister between 1966 and 1967. During his term, he tendered his resignation to then prime minister Levy Eshkol, saying that he wanted to take time to really understand the essence of the Palestinian problem.

"Our future, for better of for worse, will be determined in the West Bank and in Gaza, and I don't know anything about them," he told Eshkol. "I am not an expert on Arabs or the Middle East. Until today, I've only met Arabs through the sights of a gun."

Eshkol then asked, in a fatherly tone, "So what is it that you want?" to which Eliav replied "what I want to do now is to tour the territories, explore and begin to understand the issue and the problems. And now I am announcing my resignation."

Eliav toured refugee camps for six months, meeting with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and in Gaza. Once a month, he would file a report with Eshkol.

After six months, Eliav asked to establish a national authority for the resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem. Eliav approached Golda Meir with the proposal, but she replied that it was more important to focus on our own needy people. He returned to politics between 1968 and 1969 serving as the deputy absorption minister.

Eliav published several books throughout the years, the most important of which is "Eretz Hatzvi" where he expressed his ideas on future peace with the Arabs and the future of Israeli society. The book was translated into several languages and was printed in nine editions in Israel.

President Shimon Peres said in his eulogy that "All of Eliav's life was typified by personal pioneering and leadership. In his view, a leader's responsibility is to be a pioneer, not superior, to stand up in front, not above."

MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) said Sunday that "Lova (Eliav) was my teacher and my mentor. I had the privilege of being his friend. He was a man of true values, and man who speaks exactly what he believes, a man who stuck to his ideals and became a lighthouse of idealism in a storm of a world gradually losing its ideals."

"I hope that the current generation, lacking in great Labor leaders, will achieve even a quarter of this great man's achievements. May his memory be blessed," Cabel added.

MK Shelly Yachimovitch (Labor) also lamented Eliav's death, saying Sunday that "Eliav was a unique personality in Israeli politics. He always stuck to his ideals, which were ideals of peace and social equality, Zionist ideals, and he preferred them over political power."

"His book Eretz Hatzvi affected me personally and his death is both sad and a great loss for the Israeli public," she added.