Israeli President Rivlin Joins Fight Against Naming War Memorial After Disgraced Israeli General

Veterans say War of Independence memorial should honor all who helped break the siege of Jerusalem in 1948, an idea supported by the Israeli president.

Ofer Aderet
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Rehavam Zeevi during his time as head of the Israeli army's Central Command.
Rehavam Zeevi during his time as head of the Israeli army's Central Command. Credit: Daniel Rosenblum  
Ofer Aderet

President Reuven Rivlin has expressed his support for the battle by Palmach pre-state elite strike force veterans to stop the government naming a permanent War of Independence memorial after former minister Rehavam Ze’evi.

Speaking last Thursday, Rivlin said his support does not represent opposition in principal to commemorating Ze’evi (widely known in Israel as Gandhi), but merely his support against naming the specific site at Sha’ar Hagai – which is one of the symbols of the Palmach and its Harel Brigade in the 1948-1949 war – after the minister.

Rivlin said the site should honor all the soldiers who participated in the campaign to let aid through to besieged Jerusalem in 1948, “without focusing on one soldier.”

Last week, as part of their ongoing fight, a group of Palmach veterans and representatives of the families whose relatives fell in the battles met Rivlin in the President’s Residence.

A former Israel Defense Forces major general, MK and tourism minister, Ze’evi championed the transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to other Arab countries. He was assassinated by Palestinian terrorists in Jerusalem in 2001.

Although he served in the Palmach, Ze’evi fought in other battles in the War of Independence and wasn’t involved in the fighting in the so-called Jerusalem corridor. The veterans of the Jerusalem battles say it is inappropriate to name the memorial after Ze’evi and not those from the Harel Brigade who fought and fell there.

Earlier this year, Ze’evi was implicated in a number of alleged sexual assaults and ties with criminals, which received a great deal of attention after being .

However, the veterans who met with Rivlin said they are not part of the fight by other groups, who object to honoring Ze’evi because of the accusations against him and his controversial political views.

A memorial at Sha'ar Hagai for overseas volunteers who died during the War of Independence.
A memorial at Sha'ar Hagai for overseas volunteers who died during the War of Independence.Credit: Kobi Gideon

“We have nothing against ‘Gandhi,’ we fought with him in other places shoulder to shoulder. We want to commemorate the entire mission, all those who accompanied the convoys [to Jerusalem],” they said.

The cabinet made its decision to commemorate Ze’evi in 2011, a decade after his murder. “The site will offer educational, tourist and cultural activities focusing on Israeli history and commemorating Minister Rehavam Ze’evi,” the decision said. The memorial site is scheduled to open in about two years.

The Palmach vets’ campaign was launched after the cabinet decision, but failed to gain much traction. But the story returned to the headlines this April, following the broadcast of the TV investigation.

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