In Memoriam: Meir Rosenne (1931-2015)

, February 24, 2016

Meir Rosenne was one of the last representatives of a remarkable generation of Israeli diplomats who were born in Europe, survived the Holocaust and made the defense of the Jewish State their cause and purpose in life. The son of Jacob and Minna Rosenhaupt, Meir was born in 1931 in Jassy or Iasi, former capital of Moldavia and the capital of Rumania (1916-1918). Jassy was also the center of a thriving Jewish community. During World War II, a third of the community was killed in the worst pogrom of the war in Rumania. The family survived, but had to wear the yellow star. Jacob Rosenhaupt told his son to “wear it with pride.”   In 1944, the family managed to board a ship in Constanţa, on the Black Sea, and made its way to Mandatory Palestine. Young Meir learned Hebrew, excelled at his studies, fought in the War of Independence and went on to study international relations at the prestigious Institut d’Études Politiques de ParisSciences Po.  In 1953, he joined the fledgling Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs while pursuing his studies. He later obtained a Ph.D. in International Law from the Paris Law School.

In the course of his long and distinguished career, Meir Rosenne played a vital role in Israel’s foreign policy. He was sent to Paris to coordinate efforts to enable Jews to emigrate from the Soviet Union, served as Consul-General in New York and was a member of the Israel’s mission at the United Nations.  Rosenne headed the International Relations Department of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission and served as its representative at the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission in Geneva from 1969- 1971. From 1971- 1979, he served as legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. In that capacity, he participated in the cease-fire talks between Egypt and Israel following the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. These talks were conducted at “Kilometer 101” (from Cairo) – the farthest line of advance of the Israel Defense Forces into Egyptian territory. Rosenne subsequently took part in the Geneva Conference and was instrumental in the disengagement agreement between the forces of the two countries. This led to his involvement in drafting the Camp David agreements and the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel later in the decade.

Meir Rosenne also was dispatched to Norway to assume the legal defense of the Mossad team after the fiasco in Lillehammer in July 1973, where the Mossad eliminated an innocent Moroccan waiter who was mistakenly identified as the head of the Black September terrorist group which perpetrated the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972.

Regarded as one of Israel’s foremost diplomats, Meir Rosenne served as Ambassador to France from 1979-1983. In 2000, he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur for his outstanding efforts to promote relations between the two countries. After Paris, Meir Rosenne became the Ambassador to the United States where he served from 1983-1987. It was an extremely sensitive period, marked by Israel’s alleged involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, “Irangate”, and later, by the arrest of Jonathan Pollard in 1985 and his trial for espionage. Meir Rosenne used his consummate diplomatic and legal skills in dealing with the consequences of the two affairs.

Upon his return to Jerusalem, Rosenne resigned from the Foreign Ministry and accepted the position of president of the Israel Bonds Association, the Development Corporation of Israel. He left the organization in 1994, joined the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and was elected a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.  With his boundless energy, Rosenne accepted the presidency of Israel Media Watch. Later on, he became a senior partner at Balter, Guth, Aloni, one of Israel’s largest law firms. He also taught international law at the Hebrew University.

Rosenne’s encyclopedic knowledge of international law and impeccable command of English, French, Hebrew and his native Rumanian, made him a much sought-after commentator. A robust debater, he defended Israel vigorously and intelligently. His many friends remember him as a bon vivant, who could tell jokes in several languages and as someone who always was ready to extend his help to others. His untimely accidental death on April 14, 2015 has deprived the country of a great diplomat, legal expert and patriot. He will be sorely missed.

Meir Rosenne is survived by Vera, his wife, of many years, their daughters, Michal and Daphna, and their families.

About Amb. Zvi Mazel

Amb. Zvi Mazel served as Israel's Ambassador to Sweden between 2002-2004. From 1989 to 1992 he was Israel's Ambassador to Romania and from 1996 to 2001, Israel's Ambassador to Egypt. He has also held senior positions in Israel's Foreign Ministry as Deputy Director General in charge of African Affairs and Director of the Eastern European division and head of the Egyptian and North African department.