Yitzhak Navon dies at 94; fifth president of Israel

Yitzhak Navon, who served as Israel's fifth president and was a top aide to David Ben-Gurion, the nation's founding father, has died. He was 94.

Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said he died Saturday morning.

Although Israel's presidency is largely a ceremonial post, Navon was seen as a politician with an ability to bring diverse people together.

"Navon is at home in both of Israel's major Jewish communities — the Ashkenazim, with roots in Western countries, and the Sephardim, now a majority of the population, who came to Israel largely from Middle Eastern and North African countries," according to a 1983 editorial in the Los Angeles Times.

Navon also was fluent in Arabic and "favored far-reaching Israeli territorial concessions in return for a true and durable peace," the editorial said.

Born in Jerusalem on April 9, 1921, Navon was from a family that originated in Spain but became rooted in Jerusalem in the 1600s.

He served as president under Prime Minister Menachem Begin from 1978 to 1983. He was the first Israeli president born in Jerusalem. When he met with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1980, he was the first to make an official visit to an Arab state.

Navon served in the Haganah, the forerunner of the Israel Defense Forces, before Israeli independence. He became a diplomat in Uruguay and Argentina before signing on as secretary to Israel's first foreign minister, Moshe Sharett, and, later, as an advisor to Ben-Gurion.

A member of the Labor Party, he was elected to the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in 1965 and served until he became president.

After his presidency, he had a lengthy term as education minister. He quit politics in 1992 and became a successful author and playwright.

Navon wrote two musical plays and one book, "The Six Days and the Seven Gates," which was described by the Times of Israel as a "fantastical account of the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War, in which the gates of the city vie for the privilege of having Israeli soldiers enter."

Navon's survivors include his wife, Miri; a son; and a daughter.


Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on November 09, 2015, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "YITZHAK NAVON, 1921 - 2015 - Israeli leader and playwright" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
EDITION: California | U.S. & World