Former Chief of Staff and government minister Rafael (Raful) Eitan was found dead this morning, the victim of drowning in the waters of the Port of Ashdod.
Eitan's vehicle was near the scene; he was apparently touring the site of the Ashdod Jubilee Port as part of his duties as project head. Paramedics attempted to resuscitate him, but were not successful.
Rafael Eitan was born in 1929 at Moshav Tel Adashim in the Jezre'el Valley, where he continued to live throughout his military and public careers. Beginning as a teenage Palmachnik, he served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) since its establishment in 1948. A graduate of the National Defense College, he served as a paratrooper officer in 1956 Sinai Campaign and the 1967 Six Day War, and was a divisional commander on the Golan Heights in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Eitan was IDF Chief of Staff from 1978-83. In 1982, together with then Miniser of Defense Ariel Sharon, Eitan formulated the plan to eradicate the PLO's military power in Lebanon that led to the 18-year long Lebanon War.
Also as Chief of Staff, he initiated a program to enable underprivileged youth to enlist in the IDF and integrate into Israeli society.
Eitan was the leader of the Tzomet Party since its foundation in 1983. Elected to the 11th Knesset in 1984, he was a member of the Knesset State Control and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committees. From 1988-90, he continued to serve on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and was a member of the Knesset House Committee. From 1990-1991 he served as Minister of Agriculture.
He served as chairman of the Anti-Drug Abuse Committee and was also chairman of the Israel-Russian Federation Parliamentary Friendship League.
Rafael Eitan served as Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, and Deputy Prime Minister from June 1996-July 1999. He was not re-elected to the 15th or 16th Knesset.
A career officer, enthusiastic carpenter, and lifelong farmer, he published an autobiography, "A Soldier's Story: The Life and Times of an Israeli War Hero".
Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on Tuesday, November 23, 2004