Israel Drops Plan to Name War Memorial After Controversial General

A different site will be named after Rehavam Ze’evi, who in 1948 didn’t fight at the Sha’ar Hagai site in question

President Reuven Rivlin, with photo, and Palmach veterans, February 2017.
Struggle for the Commemoration

The government no longer seeks to name a key War of Independence memorial after Rehavam Ze’evi, a retired general assassinated in 2001 who never fought at the site in question.

A new site to be named after Ze’evi will be chosen in the next two weeks ahead of Memorial Day, the Prime Minister’s Office said late Tuesday.

Ze’evi, whose nickname was Gandhi, was a platoon commander during the 1947-49 War of Independence and served in the army until 1974, when he retired as a major general. He then entered politics and in 1988 established the Moledet party, which sought the transfer of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians to neighboring Arab states.

Last year veterans of the underground pre-state strike force, the Palmach, lobbied hard to keep the site at Sha’ar Hagai one for commemorating Palmach fighters. During the 1947-49 war, the Palmach protected convoys to Jerusalem, and last year, the veterans were backed by President Reuven Rivlin.

Sources told Haaretz that the breakthrough was a letter from Gilad Sher, a director general of the Prime Minister’s Office under Ehud Barak. According to Sher, naming the site after Ze’evi would be tantamount to rewriting history.

Sher added that Palmach veterans had repeatedly been promised that the site would commemorate the people who protected the convoys; he could present dozens of documents to prove this. Sher also threatened to sue, something he said would be a disgrace for the country and his clients.

The veterans did not bring up a separate issue that broke a year ago, when a television documentary portrayed Ze’evi as a sexual predator, an associate of organized crime and a violent antagonist of journalists.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony for Rehavam Ze'evi at the Knesset, 2011.
Michal Fattal

Still, Ze’evi’s son whose first name actually is Palmach harshly criticized the Palmach veterans for their efforts regarding naming the site.

Speaking to the website Ynet, Palmach Ze’evi said, “When Rabin stood on the [White House] lawn in 1993 and shook Arafat’s hand, all those guys without exception took a turn to the left and embraced Yitzhak [Rabin]. The only one to stand there like a rock and shout that they were crazy was Gandhi. They never forget that. And now it’s coming out.”

Sha’ar Hagai is located where the highway starts climbing from the coastal plain to Jerusalem. To this day the roadside is dotted with the remains of improvised armored cars that protected convoys to Jerusalem.