This weekend in the Hebrew calendar and on Wednesday 4th November, it will be 20 years since the assassination of then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z”l.
Rabin, the military man who led the IDF as its then Chief of Staff to victory in the six-day war, will also be remembered for his efforts to bring peace to Israel and the Palestinians. It was also during this, his second stint as Israeli Prime Minister, that Israel also signed a peace treaty with Jordan, and whilst it may have gone through some difficult patches, it still remains in place today.
The period leading up to Rabin’s murder was a complex period in Israel’s history. The Oslo peace agreement was being worked through, Arafat was ‘welcomed back’ to Ramallah and the PLO/ Palestinian Authority began to self-govern large parts of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip. The peace process was also bringing significant international investment in Israel and there seemed to be a ‘feel good’ factor in the air.
Yet this push for peace was sharply challenged with a spate of suicide bombings/murders of Israeli Jews in shopping malls, restaurants and buses by those Palestinian factions against the peace process and against accepting the existence of the Jewish State of Israel. Soldiers were being asked to guard bus stops to act as a deterrent and to try to calm and reassure the public. In addition, the Hareidi-secular divide was arguably at its peak. And to add to the mix, the political divide between the left and the right was tumultuous. On the left of the political spectrum, Rabin was seen as Israel’s saviour who was leading the country to a secure and moral future, whereas on the far right he was called a traitor who was leading Israel to the brink of disaster. It was in this environment, that Yigal Amir felt that he had to assassinate the Israeli leader.
Trying to evaluate Rabin’s legacy 20 years on is difficult. On the one hand he was the unifier of Jerusalem and on the other hand, he was arguably responsib
le for one of the biggest divides the young (modern) nation State of Israel has seen.
Twenty years on, and those on the left will point to the enduring peace with Jordan and the general widespread acceptance of the “two states for two peoples” solution to the situation Israel found itself in with the Palestinians following the six-day war, as Rabin’s legacy. Those on the right will point to the rejection by Arafat of Prime Minister Barak’s 2000 peace offer and the subsequent and deliberate start of the 2nd Intifada by Arafat, the rejection of the 2005 Prime Minister Olmert’s peace offer by Mohammed Abbas along with the more recent spate of terrorism that Israel is witnessing, as proof that Oslo was a failure.
Rabin’s last words 20 years ago to the Israeli public on that November night in Tel Aviv during a rally in support of his policies was, “Peace has its enemies who try to harm us in an effort to jeopardize peace.
Without partners for peace, there is no peace. It entails difficulties, even pain. Israel knows no path devoid of pain. But the path of peace is preferable to the path of war. I say this to you as someone who was a military man and minister of defense, and who saw the pain of the families of IDF soldiers. It [the peace process] is for their sake, and for the sake of our children and grandchildren”
None of us know what the future will bring and b’ezrut hashem Israel’s future is not in question. But for the sake of Israel and the “sake of our children and our grandchildren”, we need to continue to search for a solution. We need to remain a light unto the nations, even when there is so much placed in our way to prevent us from living peacefully. If Abbas is not a partner in peace, we must find a different partner in peace, however at all times we must be the ones who remain in control of our destiny and not let others decide our fate.
Israel’s is a just cause. But to remain a just cause, we must always be searching for partners in peace. As Rabin said, “without partners in peace, there is no peace”. May this continued search be Rabin’s true legacy.
In memory of the late Yitzhak Rabin z’l, we ask that a yahrzeit (memorial) candle be lit on the evening of Tuesday 3rd November in his honour.