Deputy Prime Minister Yigael Yadin today announced he will retire from politics in June, thereby ending not only his own public career but bringing to a close the last chapter of the once-promising Democratic Movement for Change party.
Yadin, 63, disclosed his retirement plan first in a meeting with the remnants of the factionalized Democratic Movement and then again tonight on the same television news interview progrm on which four years ago he announced his decision to enter politics as a leader of a newly created reform movement.
The Democratic Movement for Change captured the imaginations of Israeli voters who had become disillusioned by nearly 30 years of Labor Party rule, and in a first election appearance it won 15 seats in the Knesset (parliament) as Prime Minister Menachem Begin was voted into office in 1977. It joined Begin's Likud coalition, thereby enabling the prime minister to form a government.
The party, called DASH for the acronym of its Hebrew name, promised election reform, progressive economic policies and a moderate approach to dealing with the Palestinian issue and Israel's relations with neighboring Arab states.
However, the party became a bitter disappointment to its supporters as its members fell into intraprty squabbling and its three Cabinet ministers increasingly supported hard-line positions advanced by Begin and other rightist ministers of the Likud.
Yadin, who had been immensely popular in Israel as the country's leading archeologist, increasingly defended Begin's policies and the performance of the faltering government, sometimes so limply that he was openly accused of being mainly interested in holding onto his prestigious Cabinet rank.
But as the government's dissension and feuding worsened, Yadin continued to support the Likud, until the coalition ultimately collapsed and Begin called for new elections June 30. Yadin, who suffered a heart attack in office, appeared drawn and tired as he began walking with a cane and made fewer public appearances.
The son of an archeologist who purchased the first of the Dead Sea scrolls from Bedouin shepherds near the caves of Qumran, Yadin at the age of 16 became active in the Haganah, the pre-statehood shock troops of the Palestine Jewish community's underground army.
During the 1948 war of independence, he was the first operations officer of the general staff, combining his skills as an archeologist and soldier to guide Israeli fighters through long-forgotten Biblical routes and passages in the Negev Desert so that they could surprise the Egyptian Army.
At the age of 32, he became the Israeli Army's second chief of staff, but he left the military in 1952 to become a full-time academic again. He led numerous archeological excavations, including the digs at Megiddo, Hatzor and Massada, the last ancient Jewish fortress against the Roman legion.
Among the remaining Cabinet members of the Democratic Movement, Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir is expected to join the Likud for the June elections, and Welfare Minister Yisreal Katz is negotiating for a political union with the new Rafi faction led by former foreign minister Moshe Dayan.