Amnon Rubinstein: A legislator and an educator

Yesterday (Thurs.), Senior Minister Amnon Rubinstein, an academic and middle-generation politician, passed away. The great influence of Rubinstein, combined with his relaxed and practical personality, has become the representative of an entire breed of public figures who stood out here in Israel.

Rubinstein was a man who knew how to contain several different worlds; he grew up in Tel Aviv in 1931 to a revisionist-liberal home, and was an ‘Irgun’ supporter. He served in the IDF artillery corps and was an officer, and then turned to academia – to study law and economics. Rubinstein proved to be an excellent thinker and writer, and during the 60s he gained a reputation as one of the country’s greatest experts on constitutional law. At the same time, he became a publicist and published articles in the papers, and was one of the first to host a show on the new Israeli television.

The Yom Kippur War (’73) was a turning point, when the great shock he felt in its wake and the desire to change and influence the political and public arena, led him to establish the “democratic movement for change” with Yigal Yadin, that ran in the 1977 elections as the ‘Dash’ party. The party won 15 seats, an impressive achievement, and Rubinstein entered the Knesset, but not yet the government.

At this point, Rubinsteun began 25 consecutive years in the Knesset (later in the ‘Change’ party, and also in the New ‘Meretz’). Rubinstein was a member of the national unity governments of Peres-Shamir. He served as Minister of Energy in the 80s, and was able to open more competition in the fuel market, and later as Minister of Communications, he pushed for the Privatization of Bezeq. In the early 90s, he was one of the initiators of the new Basic Laws (“Dignity and Liberty”; “Freedom of Occupation”), which had a great impact on society and politics, in accordance with his constitutional ideology. At the end of the Rabin-Peres government, he served as Minister of Education, and carried out a comprehensive reform that upgraded the status of academic colleges and opened the gates of higher education to tens of thousands of students every year, and millions since then to this day. Those who recall anecdotes will never forget that Rubinstein was eulogized in the Knesset in 1999 after a prank by Zalman Shoshi.

Rubinstein retired from politics in 2002, feeling that he had done his job. He returned to the Academy and won the Israel Prize in 2006 for his work in the study of law. At the same time, he reached out to literature and published a number of books he has written in recent years. His death today, at the age of 92, reminds us all that you can be a man of thought, and also a man of action; be a nationalist, and a liberal; be a politician and maintain dignity. May his memory be blessed.

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