A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, November 9, 2015

Yitzhak Navon, 1921-2015, Fifth President of Israel

Yitzhak Navon died November 7 at the age of 94. He served as Israel's fifth President, holding that ceremonial position from 1978 to 1983, but had a long career as well in diplomacy and politics. A descendant of Jews from Spain, Turkey, and Morocco, he was the first Sephardi (Mizrahi) to occupy the Presidency. Fluent in multiple languages, he worked in Haganah intelligence before independence and then entered he Foreign Service. In 1951 he became Political Secretary and then Chief of Staff to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, continuing in the same capacity under Moshe Sharett. After holding a post in the Education Ministry, he entered the Knesset representing Ben-Gurion's Rafi faction, He chaired the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

After his five-year term as President, he returned to politics, declining an offer to run for the Labor Party leadership, but serving as Minister of Education and in other capacities. He was a dovish figure within the party.

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