IDF Stalwart Maj. Gen. Avraham Tamir Dies at 86

Tamir's many posts included head of the IDF's plans and policy directorate, a body he created toward the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Maj. Gen. (res. ) Avraham Tamir, whose Israel Defense Forces career stretched from the War of Independence to the 1982 Lebanon war, died in Tel Aviv yesterday at the age of 86.

He will be buried tomorrow in a military ceremony at the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery in Jerusalem. His coffin will be borne by six majors general.

Tamir had one of the most fertile brains ever to grace Israel's defense establishment. His many posts included head of the IDF's plans and policy directorate, a body he created toward the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

During the 1948 War of Independence, Tamir was the last commander in the besieged Gush Etzion bloc. He was seriously wounded in the battle and captured by the Jordanians, and until his death suffered from a bullet that could not be removed from his body.

After the war, he commanded an infantry battalion and then the IDF's staff and command college. He was also one of the IDF's leading staff officers, who personally wrote numerous training manuals, combat doctrines and planning documents.

In the 1950s, he became friendly with Ariel Sharon. The two served together during the Yom Kippur War, and when Sharon became defense minister in 1981, Tamir served under him as head of the ministry's national security unit, which was jointly staffed by officers and civilians. In the 1990s, however, they drew apart.

Tamir was also close to Yitzhak Rabin, his direct commander when Tamir headed the General Staff's operations department in the late 1950s, and to Ezer Weizman. It was the latter who, as defense minister in 1977-80, created the national security unit at Tamir's recommendation and chose Tamir to head it.

Current Defense Minister Ehud Barak owes his 1981 promotion to major general largely to Tamir, who persuaded Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan to waive his initial opposition.

When Moshe Arens became defense minister in 1983, he decided to dispense with Tamir, so Tamir left the IDF and entered politics. He helped Weizman found the Yahad party in 1984, and when Yahad merged with Labor after the election, Prime Minister Shimon Peres made Tamir director general of his ministry and national security advisor.

In the late 1980s, Tamir was one of the first Israeli officials authorized to meet secretly with Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat.

Though Tamir had long favored a Palestinian state, he grew disappointed with the Oslo process, and with Peres, and backed Benjamin Netanyahu in the 1996 election. Netanyahu disappointed him as well, though.