Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a veteran Israeli politician who held several top government posts and often served as a bridge to the Arab world, died Aug. 28 at a hospital in Tel Aviv. He was 80.
Israeli media reported the death but did not cite a cause.
Mr. Ben-Eliezer, known affectionately by his original Arabic first name, “Fuad,” was born in Basra, Iraq, in 1936 and moved to Israel in 1950. He joined the Israeli military in 1954 and served as a commander in the Mideast wars that followed. He retired in 1984 with the rank of brigadier general and entered politics.
Mr. Ben-Eliezer was a prominent member of the dovish Labor Party and served in senior ministerial positions including defense, trade and communications. He held the defense post at a particularly difficult time, in 2001 and 2002, at the height of the second Palestinian intifada.
A native Arabic speaker, Mr. Ben-Eliezer was on friendly terms with deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and other Arab leaders, and helped bridge gaps between Israel and the Arab world.
In Israel, he was known for his friendly demeanor, good relations with politicians across the spectrum and a reputation as a backroom negotiator. He briefly ran for president in 2014 but dropped out after the police began looking into his alleged misuse of public funds.
Last year, he was indicted on charges including bribery, money-laundering, fraud and breach of public trust. The period being investigated — 2007 to 2014 — included his tenure as national infrastructure minister.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Mr. Ben-Eliezer for decades of service to the country and his “special character.”
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