Reuven Merhav: A Diplomatic Journey

Reuven Merhav: A Diplomatic Journey -

Reuven Merhav, born on February 9, 1936, in Tel Aviv, is a distinguished former Israeli civil servant. He served as the Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1989 to 1991, with a career spanning diplomacy and intelligence.

Early Life and Education

Reuven Merhav was born to parents who had fled Nazi Germany, a background that influenced his commitment to public service. He completed his Bachelor's degree in History at Tel Aviv University and pursued Arabic language and Islamic history studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1956 to 1961.

Student Activism

Merhav was an active participant in student politics and advocacy during his academic years. He served as the President of the National Union of Israeli Students from 1959 to 1960 and was involved in the "Non-Aligned" student movement. He was a co-founder of "Pi Hatoan," the Hebrew University student union.

Military Service

After graduating from high school at the prestigious "Chugim" High School, Merhav became a member of Kibbutz Dvir in the Negev. He later served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and participated in the paratrooper unit during retaliatory operations.

Intelligence and Security Work - Ethiopia, Kenya, Iran

Reuven Merhav's career in intelligence and security spanned over two decades, from 1961 to 1983. He specialized in Eastern European intelligence operations in Israel. He served as the head of the intelligence collection department, deputy head of security at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Israeli intelligence liaison to the Iranian national oil company during this time.

He held various positions within Israel's intelligence community, including serving as Deputy Head of Mission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, heading the Israeli mission in Nairobi, Kenya, and holding a senior position in the Tehran, Iran mission before the Shah's fall. His decision to retire from the intelligence community was influenced by a shift in the leadership's approach, replacing David Kimche.

Middle East Policy and Intelligence

Following his retirement from the intelligence community, Reuven Merhav became involved in Middle East policy and intelligence research. He contributed to the preparation of foundational documents on resolving the Jerusalem issue and was appointed as an advisor to the Camp David Summit in July 2000 by Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

He also played a role in the Turkel Commission, investigating the events surrounding the Gaza flotilla incident in 2010.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Lebanon, China, Operation Solomon, Taba

Reuven Merhav's diplomatic career began when he was appointed as the Head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry delegation during the 1982 Lebanon War.

From 1985 to 1988, he served as the Consul General of Israel in Hong Kong, where he worked to establish ties between Israel and the People's Republic of China before the formal diplomatic recognition.

In 1989, he was appointed as the Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During his tenure, he oversaw the establishment of the Israeli Academic Center in Beijing, which later became the Israeli Embassy (January 1992). He also conducted negotiations with Egypt leading to the Taba Agreement (1989) and laid the diplomatic groundwork for Operation Solomon to airlift Ethiopian Jews to Israel (1990-1991).

Ministry of Absorption

After his term at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Merhav was appointed as the Director-General of the Ministry of Absorption from 1991 to 1993. During this time, he led efforts to absorb Ethiopian immigrants.

Public Engagement and Volunteering

Reuven Merhav continued his involvement in public affairs and volunteer work, particularly in supporting the absorption of Ethiopian immigrants through the "National Project for Ethiopian Immigrants" aimed at advancing education in the community.

He also served as a public representative on the National Labor Court.

Merhav was a founding member of the Board of Directors of Emek Yizrael College.

Current Roles and Contributions

Since 2005, Reuven Merhav has served as the Chairman of the Organization of Jews from Central Europe and has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Claims Conference – the international Jewish body handling material claims against Germany since 1951.

Since 1991, he has been a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research and participated in the preparation of foundational documents on resolving the Jerusalem issue.

Strategic and Academic Activities

Merhav was a team member and instructor at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) of the IDF (1997-2004).

He instructed in the Master's program in Public Policy at the Hebrew University from 2006 to 2008.

He was a member of the management committee of the Council for Peace and Security.

He also served on the Turkel Commission to investigate the Gaza flotilla events in 2010.

Reuven Merhav's career reflects his dedication to Israel, from his student activism to his roles in intelligence, diplomacy, and public service, making him a respected figure in Israel's diplomatic history.

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