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Former Israeli President Ezer Weizman Dies

Former Israeli President Ezer Weizman has died. Mr. Weizman, who had recently suffered from a series of respiratory infections, is being remembered as a war hero and public servant who made an important contribution to Mideast peace.

Ezer Weizman was best known for playing an instrumental role in the 1979 Camp David Accords, the peace treaty with Egypt that was Israel's first with an Arab state. Mr. Weizman was a former air force commander who underwent a political transformation, from a hardliner to a dove who supported territorial compromise with the Palestinians.

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres told Israel Radio "he became an emissary of peace, when he realized that peace is possible," Mr. Peres told Israel Radio.

Mr. Weizman was a popular war hero, though his brash style of saying exactly what he thought, and doing it, ruffled many feathers. As a Cabinet minister in the 1980s, he met secretly with PLO leaders at a time when such contacts were illegal. When the meetings became public, Mr. Weizman was sacked by right-wing Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. "I took the step of firing Minister Weizman with a heavy heart," Mr. Shamir said, "but this time he went way too far."

Nevertheless, in 1993, Mr. Weizman took the oath of office as the seventh president of the state of Israel. Mr. Weizman served as president until the year 2000. But he resigned after failing to report a large cash donation from a wealthy friend abroad. It was a bad ending to an illustrious military and political career. But Israelis, like Parliament Speaker Reuven Rivlin, remember him fondly. "His magnetism and charm touched the hearts of all who met him." Mr. Rivlin said. "He was a true Israeli."

Ezer Weizman was 80 years old.