Yitzhak Rabin was a martyr for a just cause: the search for peace, and always will be. Even if war sometimes takes precedence over it. Rabin was no ordinary leader, for his speech was dedicated to all those who believed or believe in a society in which there is a sense of harmony, perhaps not perpetual, but in continuity. Rabin was a leader like few others. It is surely a huge loss for Israel, but more a loss for the whole region and even for that counterpart in the Arab world, which, while it has sectors that are averse to peace, there are also groups and individuals who wish to be part of a new history.
In addition to Rabin, the position on the Arab-Israeli conflict of Israel’s best-selling author, Amos Oz, is worth noting. This legend of letters, in his last lecture at Tel Aviv University, pointed out that “you can’t heal a wound with sticks”, and proposed that, in order to solve the extensive conflict, one should resort to dialogue, good communication, receptivity, good use of language, and understanding. Likewise, it is rationality that should prevail on both sides of the conflict. It is a pity that extremism or sectarianism and its variants destroy in a petty way any possibility of dialogue, reason and peace. Everything ends up in the same place, and it is back to square one.
All in all, Oz said in that last great speech: “If Israel did not have the strength it has, none of us would be here”, and rightly so. Israel was born as a defence state and has remained one. Although at times it has had to attack, its weapon is defence, even attack as defence. So it is not the solution that Israel should cease to exist as a state and as a Hebrew nation; on the contrary, for peace to prevail, there must be peace, both within Israel and in the wider region.
And that is another aspect: is there peace within Israel, is there peace among Jews? For without euphemisms, evasions or ambiguous answers, it was not an Arab, or even a Muslim, who assassinated Rabin and in the process frustrated the possibility of a historic peace agreement. He was a Jew and an Israeli. Yigal Amir represents all the hatred and irrational extremism that can exist within a biased, sectarian, fanatical position. Amir is an example of how the possible achievement of peace can be “killed”. Like Amir, there are many who would not do the same, would support him in one way or another, and would accompany him with fury in such a vile act as the assassination of a figure like Rabin 26 years ago.
Now, the 1993 Oslo Accords sought a permanent solution to the conflict. In fact, what was proposed in these agreements is practically what we have today, but without the longed-for (for some) peace. For Rabin: “Jerusalem is the ancient and eternal capital of the Jewish people”. Also in terms of sovereignty, border security and other aspects, everything would remain in Israel’s favour. For its part, Palestine was prepared to accept most of the points of the agreement, and movements like Hamas would not have had such a lethal expansion.
The first Israeli-born prime minister was killed in Tel Aviv. A year earlier he had received the Nobel Peace Prize. In his childhood he experienced the conflict first-hand. He understood from an early age the terrible dispute, far removed from any peace. He knew how Jewish settlements were attacked, dismantled, burned down and how Jews were killed by Arabs. He was always accompanied by the bitter taste of that conflict and the lack of peace.
Rabin, always a Zionist, was in the Haganah and later in the Palmah, its elite corps. Rabin said: ‘The reality of our people and of our lives urged us to be always on the defensive’. He was appointed Chief of Staff of the IDF in 1964. He then became a diplomat and a politician, and not just anyone.
Few men in the history of the modern state of Israel have been like Rabin. It was not for nothing that the country went into mourning in November 1995, but to this day he is remembered, commemorated and honoured as a man-at-arms who stood for peace. His funeral was attended by almost all the most important personalities of the time.
His last words in that speech on 4 November sum up his life and work: “I was a man-at-arms for 27 years. As long as there was no opportunity for peace, many wars were fought. Today, I am convinced of the opportunity we have to realise peace, a great opportunity. Peace has inherent pains and difficulties in order to be achieved. But there is no path without those pains”.