I met Yitzhak Rabin once and for only a short time, but the impression of the man I received is still with me. It was May 1995, about one month after my daughter Alisa had been murdered in a terror bombing. She was on a bus heading for a hotel in the Jewish enclave of Gush Katif. She wanted, she told me, “to get a few days in the sun before Pesach.”
On a Sunday night in early May, I received a phone call from Israel’s ambassador to the United States. He told me that Rabin wanted to meet with my wife and me and family to thank us for donating Alisa’s organs for transplant. I asked him where I had to go to meet Rabin, and his answered floored me — “No, he’ll come to you.”
“Keep it secret” I was told, and more information would be forthcoming. It was. A few days later, the US Secret Service visited our home. A date was fixed, it was a Monday night. On that morning, we woke to the news that Rabin had announced his visit to us in West Orange at the AIPAC convention. He said, “Alisa’s heart beats in Jerusalem.” (Point of fact — it was beating in the chest of a 54-year-old man who lived in Kfar Saba.)
That Monday, I had to leave work at midday because Rosalyn had answered the phone only to find herself being yelled at for letting Rabin into our home. I was told by one caller that I should “push him down the steps” when he got there.
That evening he arrived by motorcade befitting a political leader. We brought him into our living room and asked for several minutes of privacy with the prime minister before we introduced him to our family and some invited guests.
I asked him straight out, “How could you negotiate with Yasser Arafat and sign an agreement with him?”
He replied in his sonorous voice, “Make no mistake about it. Yasser Arafat is a terrorist, was a terrorist, will always be a terrorist, and is surrounded by terrorists.” He then apologized for not being able to find a way to stop a “lunatic” from becoming strapping on a bomb and killing innocent people.
There he was wrong. The young men who became bombers were not lunatics. They may have been foolish to fall under the sway of very evil people in Hamas and Islamic jihad, yes, but not crazy.
But he was right about the nature of Arafat and his henchmen including current Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, being terrorists. The Second Intifada and on-going glorification of terrorists and incitement is proof of that. The only difference between Arafat and Abbas is that Abbas wears a suit.
The rest of the meeting with family and friends was cordial but the only time he became animated was when he spoke about the Western Wall tunnel that had been recently completed. He bubbled in amazement at the engineering feat the creation of the Western Wall required. But something was missing in his approach.
It dawned on me that he was looking at the Western Wall from a pure archeological point of view and not as something being part of Israel’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.
Six months later, he was dead.
I have no illusions that Rabin had no love for the right-wing settler movement. And we know what he did to fellow Jews when he fired on the Altalena.
On the other hand, he took some very bold steps to effectively end the occupation of the Palestinians by agreeing to turn over control of 98% of the Arab population to Palestinian control.
Thus, despite what we hear from the Israeli- and American-left and pro-Palestinian supporters around the globe, Rabin ended Israeli control over the lives of millions of Palestinians. He had a vision of what a Palestinian State would look like and how Israel would secure itself, but that vision was tossed aside by the true architect of Oslo and its ultimate failure, Shimon Peres, and former prime ministers Barak and Olmert.
We could play the “what if” game and wonder what Israel would be like today if Rabin not been murdered. We’ll never know. And maybe that’s where we should leave it.