TV Investigative Program Rips Image of IDF General Rehavam Zeevi to Shreds

Family of former general and minister, who was assassinated in 2001, condemn 'immoral and unethical one-sided indictment.'

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

Controversial former general and cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi was portrayed as a sexual predator, associate of organized crime, violent antagonist of journalists - and even as a cold-blooded killer - in an exposé aired on Israeli TV on Thursday night.

Zeevi was assassinated by four Palestinian gunmen in a Jerusalem hotel in October 2001 while serving as tourism minister.

One of the testimonies aired by the "Uvda" (Fact) investigative program was that of Rafi Eitan, a legendary Mossad operative and former minister, who accused Zeevi of shooting two innocent Bedouin in the Negev before the 1967 Six-Day War. One of the Bedouin died and the other was wounded.

Rehavam Ze’evi, center, and Moshe Dayan, left, in Hebron on June 8, 1967.
AP Photo / Israel Government Press Office

According to Eitan, the incident occurred while the Israeli security forces were attempting to expel Bedouin who were suspected of assisting the Egyptian army to the Gaza Strip.

Following Uvda the broadcast, Knesset Member Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) called on Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to stop the transfer of further funds for activities commemorating Zeevi's memory. Other MKs said they were considering doing likewise in the near future.

Sexual violence

The program presented the testimonies of two women who served under Zeevi when he was officer commanding Central Command after the 1967 war. The first said that Zeevi had tried to rape her, while the second, who was aged 18 at the time of the incident, related that he had raped her in his office.

Another two women told of being sexually attacked by the minister. One related that Zeevi had embraced her and tried to forcibly kiss her, after ensuring that the two were alone in his office in the Tzrifin military base.

The second woman said that Zeevi had arrived at her apartment one day, forced her to the ground and tried to rape her, though she managed to fight him off.

Actress and broadcaster Rivka Michaeli told of being accosted and sexually molested by Zeevi during a bar mitzvah party for his son at the house of Moshe Dayan.

"He grabs hold of me, leans against the wall, paws me maliciously and then leaves," Michaeli said. "I don't know if he even looked at me."

Michaeli said that she was very shaken and didn't tell anybody about the incident.

She also related how Zeevi phoned her in a fury after being turned down for the post of the prime minister's adviser on terror, due to a shady cement deal he was involved in. Afterwards she began to receive threats against her life and the lives of her children, she said.

Uzi Eilam, a former commander of the Israel Defense Forces division in the Jordan Valley, told of an incident in which Zeevi suggested that he kill the members of an enemy squad who had emerged with their arms up from a cave in which they were hiding after being pursued by the IDF.

Dan Hamizer, who was Zeevi's helicopter pilot during that period, related how, after one such pursuit in the Jordan Valley, the general had ordered another helicopter pilot to fly over three Palestinian villages in the area with the body of a dead terrorist hanging from a rope.

Make war

Notorious criminal Tuvia Oshri, who was friendly with Zeevi, told how the latter had asked him to "deal with" Yedioth Ahronot journalist Silvie Keshet who had written about him. At Zeevi's request, Oshri sent members of his gang to place an explosive device outside Keshet's door.

Rehavam Ze'evi with the lioness he held at an Israeli army base.
Daniel Rosenblum  

What had infuriated Zeevi, according to Uvda, was an article published by Keshet when he was OC Central Command in which she referred to the lion and lioness he kept at his headquarters and how he treated them like circus animals, inviting guests to view them.

Oshri also recalled Zeevi saying, during a visit the two paid to an exclusive New York brothel, "My job in life is to eat, make war and fuck."

Eitan Haber, the veteran Yedioth Ahronot defense correspondent, told of an incident during a press tour in which Zeevi pressed a pistol to his temple and forced him to apologize for something he had said.

The program included archival material showing the young politician Ehud Olmert  sitting with Zeevi in a TV studio and accusing Zeevi of making threats against him. Zeevi denied that he had threatened Olmert.

In 2005, the Knesset passed a low for the commemoration of the life of Rehavam Zeevi. The law provided for the appointment of a public council for the commemoration, support for bodies that would preserve Zeevi's memory and student grants.

The law also provided for an annual state memorial ceremony at his grave on the anniversary of his death and lessons in his memory on army bases. The budget spent in Zeevi's memory is the responsibility of the Prime Minister's Bureau.

Gidi Weitz reported in Haaretz several years ago that the bureau had undertaken in 2011 to budget 4.9 million shekels annually for the commemoration of Zeevi's memory. By comparison, only some 350,000 shekels are spent annually to commemorate the memories of Herzl and Jabotinsky.

In response to the Uvda program, the Zeevi family said: "It was a one-sided indictment. Uvda was unable to create an impression of fairness regarding a man, a hero of Israel, who is no longer with us to defend himself.

"The broadcast of one-sided claims by women regarding incidents some 50 years ago, which only they say occurred – with Rehavam Zeevi in his grave for 15 years already and unable to refute the allegations – is immoral and unethical. How can a corpse defend itself against such unfounded allegations?

"The allegations regarding contacts with criminals were examined years ago by the Israel Police and were not found to have any basis. Uvda has created, for the second time in the past year, a fictitious indictment by giving a stage to convicted criminals and murderers.

"The commemorative effort in Zeevi's name was legislated by the Knesset of Israel. It is not a personal commemoration but an important educational endeavor to instill knowledge of Israel in the youth."