Mordechai, Yitzhak

Mordechai, Yitzhak
(1944- )
   Born in Kurdish Iraq, he immigrated (see ALIYA) to Israel in 1950 and entered the army at 18. During a 33-year (1962-95) career in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), he held a number of important positions, including chief infantry and paratroops officer, head of headquarters training development, officer in command (OC) of the southern command, OC of the central command, and OC of the northern command. He retired from the military with the rank of major general in 1995. Entering party politics, he ranked fourth on the joint Likud-Tsomet-Gesher list for election to the 14th Knesset in 1996. In June of that year, he was named minister of defense and served as a key member of Benjamin Netanyahu's "kitchen cabinet" on peace and security matters.
   Publicly fired by Netanyahu on 23 January 1999, Mordechai joined former Likud Members of the Knesset Ronnie Milo and Dan Meridor and former IDF chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak in forming the Center Party, ultimately becoming the party's leader and its candidate for prime minister. He was thus the first serious Sephardic (see ORIENTAL JEWS) candidate for prime minister. On the eve of the 1999 election to the 15th Knesset, he withdrew from the prime ministerial race and threw his support behind One Israel candidate Ehud Barak. Under Mordechai's leadership, the Center Party won six seats in the 15th Knesset and joined the governing coalition headed by Barak, with Mordechai serving as transportation minister. On 11 July 1999, he was named deputy prime minister (one of three deputy prime ministers in Barak's government). Mordechai was forced to resign from the cabinet in May 2000 amid a serious personal scandal and has since disappeared from political life. On 22 March 2001, Mordechai was convicted of sexual assault and given an 18-month suspended sentence.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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