Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg’s claim that “Rabin’s murder derailed Israel from its path and stopped the peace process. That’s what it intended to do and it succeeded” is absurd.
Likud member and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein was far more faithful to Rabin’s memory when he said about Rabin’s murder, “I think this despicable political murder had no historical impact”.
Zandberg and others seem to want to re-write history to fit their agenda. Of course, Rabin craved peace, as do the vast majority of Israelis across the whole political spectrum, but that does not by itself define Rabin.
Rabin said, “There is only one radical means of sanctifying human lives. Not armored plating, or tanks, or planes, or concrete fortifications. The one radical solution is peace.” Even though Rabin had great pride in the IDF, whom he considered “an extension of the unique spirit of the entire Jewish people”, he was acutely aware of the cost of war. Even when he celebrated a military victory, he did not lose sight of that cost. On June 28, 1967, he said, “The warriors in the front lines witnessed not only the glory of victory but also its price – their comrades who fell beside them, bleeding. And I know that the terrible price paid by our enemies also touched the hearts of many of our men deeply.”
The evidence that Rabin wanted peace is overwhelming, but that does not mean that he would agree with Zandberg and Meretz on how to achieve peace. Rabin was not for peace at all costs. He said “To preserve the sanctity of life, we must sometimes risk it. Sometimes there is no other way to defend our citizens than to fight for their lives, for their safety and sovereignty.”
It is absurd to suggest that peace has eluded Israel because of Rabin’s death. Less than a month before his assassination, Rabin told the Knesset that what he envisaged for the Palestinians was “an entity which is less than a state”. He pledged to “not return to the 4 June 1967 lines”, and he wanted a “united Jerusalem” and “the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities”.
After Rabin’s death, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians East Jerusalem as part of a package that was far more extensive than Rabin had ever suggested. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert later made a similar offer. Both offers were rejected by the Palestinians. Rabin could not have offered more, and most likely he would have offered less.
Aaron David Miller, who wrote, “I’m betting that had Rabin lived, the future of the state of Israel — both its politics and its foreign policy — would have been different and much better,” contradicted himself when he added, “Rabin was a cautious peacemaker, an incrementalist. In many respects he saw the Oslo process as a probationary period for the Palestinians.”
Had he been alive today, Rabin would likely have agreed that the Palestinians flunked their probationary period.
Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said repeatedly that he would agree to a feasible peace agreement. He said, “I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples: a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.” Yair Rosenberg noted, “Netanyahu […] has governed—both in word and deed—from Rabin’s left.”
One month before his death, Rabin said, “The primary obstacle today, to implementing the peace process between us and the Palestinians, is the murderous terrorism of the radical Islamic terrorist organizations, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, which are joined by the rejectionist organizations.” Fast forward twenty-three years and numerous waves of Palestinian terrorism later, and we note that not much has changed.
Rabin fought when he had to fight, and he made peace when he could make peace, just like every Israeli Prime Minister before him and after him. His daughter Dalia said, “He is portrayed as a hawk who became a dove. He wasn’t a hawk and he wasn’t a dove. […] He was pragmatic, and he wasn’t naïve.”
The road to peace today is the same as it was before Rabin was assassinated, and it requires ending Palestinian terrorism, hatred, and incitement. Pretending otherwise does not serve the memory of Rabin, and it does not serve peace.
Note: Some of this content was borrowed from a piece that I wrote three years ago: Rabin is alive and living on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv