Uri Elitzur, a leading Israeli journalist and publicist, and a former editor-in-chief for the Makor Rishon newspaper, died Thursday after a months-long battle with cancer. He was 68 years old.
Elitzur was regarded as one of the most influential and respected figures associated with the national-religious right wing, oftentimes serving as an unofficial, eloquent mouthpiece for the settler movement.
Elitzur was born in Jerusalem in 1946, the son of Professor Yehuda Elitzur and children’s author Rivkah Elitzur. He served as a paratrooper in the IDF, taking part in the 1967 Six Day War, the War of Attrition in the late 1960s, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
After earning a degree in mathematics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Elitzur moved on to become one of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook’s closest disciples at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, an experience that would help shape his worldview.
Elitzur became involved with the settler movement in the early 1970s and was among the founders of the religious Gush Emunim group, which, following the Six Day War, urged the government to approve Jewish re-settlement in the West Bank. In accordance with his beliefs, Elitzur set out to establish the settlement of Ofra, north of Jerusalem, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Elitzur vehemently opposed Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai under the terms of the Israeli-Egyptian peace deal and called on the authorities to reconsider the evacuation of Israelis living in the peninsula. During that time, Elitzur began writing and speaking publicly, his name shortly becoming synonymous with the settler community at large.
After the Sinai withdrawal, Elitzur turned to politics, first as a member of the short-lived national-religious party Morasha, then as the Yesha Council secretary general and the National Religious Party’s deputy secretary general.
In the early ’90s, Elitzur began writing columns for the then-popular Hadashot newspaper until leaving it for a position at Yedioth Ahronoth. He also served as editor of the critically acclaimed national-religious magazine Nekuda.
In 2004 he joined the newly founded Makor Rishon newspaper as senior editor. Over the last year he served as the paper’s editor-in-chief.
Elitzur was a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, serving as an adviser to him for many years. He was also Netanyahu’s chief of staff for a time.
In 2008 Elitzur won the Sokolov Award for Written Journalism.
In recent years, Elitzur shifted his positions to became a vocal supporter of a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling for annexation of the entire West Bank and the granting of equal rights as well as citizenship to all Palestinian residents in the area. In a series of articles, Elitzur explained that such a move would guarantee Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, and would quell international concerns over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Elitzur is survived by his wife, Yael, and his six children. His funeral will take place Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at Ofra.