A legacy of his own

Robert Slater was the first foreign journalist to have the opportunity to write an official biography of a sitting Israeli prime minister.

Yitzhak Rabin (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yitzhak Rabin
(photo credit: REUTERS)
This fall will mark 20 years since prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered. It’s difficult to grasp that two decades have passed since the tragic night that shocked the world. So much has happened since then in Israel and especially throughout the Middle East, and yet, as the cliché goes, so much has stayed the same.
Robert Slater – who wrote the landmark biography of Rabin during his first premiership and then his second, with a revised edition published immediately following the assassination – believed that such a figure of Israel’s history deserved to be considered once more, now 20 years into his absence.
It was only natural, then, that when the Yitzhak Rabin Center and Kotarim International Publishing showed interest in putting out a book based on his previous editions, Slater was more than enthusiastic. He told the skeptical publishers in late 2013 that he would have his revisions – including a new chapter and foreword – for the New Year. And indeed, he worked hard, traveling around the country to interview his earlier subjects and revising the 1996 manuscript, finishing his draft within a few short months in January 2014. Slater died only a few weeks later.
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It is fitting that Bob, humble and modest as he was, would dedicate his last months to writing about another man, who himself was famously humble and modest. Yitzhak Rabin has of course left an iconic imprint, which some, including his daughter, Dalia Rabin, may argue would have embarrassed him. However, his proponents – and even his detractors – have maintained that he always considered issues carefully and thoughtfully, and made decisions based on what seemed right in the moment, rather than what would boost his ratings. He was wary of his place in the public eye, but still understand the importance of his conduct. His times in the United States both as a visiting military official and later as ambassador were highly influential on him, particularly on his steadfast commitment to improve his English.
He understood the great importance of Israel’s participation in the world at large. Perhaps this was one of the reasons why, when he decided to have his biography written, Rabin sought out an English speaker.
Robert Slater was the first foreign journalist to have the opportunity to write an official biography of a sitting Israeli prime minister. The honor was not lost on him, and his wife, Elinor, speaks of a fervent dedication to “get it right.” Bob indeed had a strong work ethic, which did not fade throughout the years – in addition to his long career as a journalist with Time, UPI and The Jerusalem Post, he penned some 30 books ranging in subjects from biography to Jewish history.
But there seemed to be more than hard work that led to the Rabin biography’s first publication and following editions. Dalia Rabin contends that the two men shared a chemistry that allowed for the creation of a truly honest and open biography. “The spirit of Yitzhak Rabin is in this book,” she said, during her opening remarks of the book launch, which was held on Tuesday at the Daniel Hotel in Herzliya.
So it is right that Bob Slater’s legacy is his faithful representation of Rabin’s legacy, because it is his job well done. He knew how to write, he knew how to get the story, and he knew to always give credit where it was due. “She’s my editor,” he said about Elinor. “Everything goes through her.” Bob had integrity, he was modest, and he charmed all who met him. He is sorely missed.
Rabin: 20 Years After is published by Kotarim International Publishing and is available at all major online bookstores, as well as bookstores throughout Israel.