Chaim Herzog, 78, was Israel's man for...


Chaim Herzog, 78, was Israel's man for all occasions: diplomat, soldier, spymaster, author and the nation's longest-serving president.

Mr. Herzog died yesterday of complications from pneumonia contracted during a recent visit to the United States, said Rachel Sofer, spokeswoman for Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv.

He was "a man of war who loved peace," according to Shimon Peres, the former premier and Labor Party leader. "Herzog was the most statesmanlike man in Israel. He was a military man, a president, son of rabbis and man of the modern age," Mr. Peres said on Israel radio.

Chaim Herzog was born Vivian Herzog in Belfast on Sept. 17, 1918. He was Ireland's bantamweight boxing champion before immigrating to pre-state Palestine in 1935. His father, Isaac Herzog, became the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi when Israel gained independence in 1948.

During World War II, Mr. Herzog served as a British intelligence officer and helped liberate the Bergen-Belsen death camp in Germany. He founded Israel's military intelligence service in 1948.

He chronicled Israel's wars in critically acclaimed historical works, including "The War of Atonement," about Israel's 1973 Middle East War, and "Israel's Finest Hour," about the Six-Day War in 1967.

As a politician, he joined the Labor Party and became a member of Israel's parliament in 1981 before he was chosen to be Israel's sixth president. He served from 1983 to 1993.

As a diplomat, he was United Nations ambassador and earned fame campaigning, unsuccessfully, to halt passage of a U.N. resolution that equated Zionism with racism.

In 1978, Mr. Herzog returned to Israel from his three-year term as U.N. ambassador and opened a law practice in Tel Aviv.

In March 1983, he was elected president at a time when Israel rTC was divided by the war in Lebanon and facing international isolation.

He is survived by his wife Aura; three children; and six grandchildren.

Pub Date: 4/18/97

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