Eitan Haber, Journalist and Rabin Adviser Who Told Israel of PM's Death, Dies at Age 80

His distinguished career spanned the military, journalism, and politics

Jonathan Lis
Ofer Aderet
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Eitan Haber with Rabin and Clinton on a visit to Washington in 1995/
Eitan Haber with Rabin and Clinton on a visit to Washington in 1995.Credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO
Jonathan Lis
Ofer Aderet

Journalist Eitan Haber, who had been an adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and announced the late premier's death to the public, died on Wednesday at the age of 80.

Haber, who was born in Tel Aviv, began his journalism career at an early age as a writer for youth newspapers. During his military service, as a writer for the now-defunct army magazine Bamachaneh, he met Rabin, who headed the army's Northern Command at the time.

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Following his army service, in 1960 Haber joined the Yedioth Ahronoth daily as a military reporter, a job that he held for 25 years. During that time, he also worked for the Israel Broadcasting Corporation and Army Radio.

In 1985, Haber was appointed adviser to Rabin, who was the defense minister at the time. Following the breakup of the Israeli national unity government in 1990, Haber returned to Yedioth Ahronoth. Two years later, when Rabin was elected prime minister, Haber resumed his role as an adviser to Rabin and also served as the prime minster's bureau chief. Haber was responsible for communications between Rabin's office and the media and was a speech-writer for the late prime minister.

Haber worked closely with Rabin during the period of the signing of the Oslo Accords and the peace treaty with Jordan in the 1990s.

Following Rabin's assassination in 1995, Haber left the Prime Minister's Office and returned to journalism as a writer for Yedioth Ahronoth. Last year, in an interview with Kan public broadcasting, he revealed that he was suffering from colon and pancreatic cancer as well as Parkinson's disease.

"I could die from this tomorrow," he remarked, but added: "That's not terrible. We've done our thing for 60 years."

Eitan Haber
Eitan HaberCredit: Moran Mayan

Among those to express condolences was President Reuven Rivlin, who said, “With great sadness, I received the news of Eitan Haber’s passing. A knight of the precise written word. Eitan turned history into words and applied them to unforgettable moments, masterpieces that are inscribed in national memory." 

"He accompanied the public as a journalist and a public servants, as he kept his eyes on the good of the nation that he loved so much, in every role that he filled," Rivlin continued. "May his memory be blessed.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said he was "saddened" by Haber’s passing, who he described as "one of the pillars of Israeli journalism for decades,” and passed on his "sincerest condolences to his family." 

“Israel’s security was his priority and he wrote of it in language that was clear, original and engaging. His many stories, that enrich the shelves of military literature, are also valuable historical documents,” Netanyahu said.

However, Netanyahu elided any mention of Haber's role in the Oslo Accords. 

“Eitan Haber aided several national leaders, first among them Yitzhak Rabin. We will never forget his emotional and dramatic announcement of the appalling murder. As chief of staff he was full of purpose and dedication to his position. Among other things, he appointed the team that led the path to the peace agreement with Jordan," he continued.

Responding to the news of Haber’s passing, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, “Eitan Haber, may his memory be blessed, will forever be enshrined in national memory as someone who was right there as Israel’s history was written, and he will not be forgotten by it. I was lucky enough to get to know him personally after I got out of the army, a man with a sharp mind and tongue whose love for the State of Israel wove his life into its history. In blessed memory.”

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