Remembering Rabin — A Piece for Peace

Judaism honors its dead more than its living. As the years progress, we love the deceased rabbis and politicians and mourn at their graves whereas we didn’t when they lived. The teachings of Judaism have a role to play in this. We don’t pray to any man ever. However, out of respect, we acknowledge the role of those special who have passed on. We also tend to ignore the weaknesses of these out of this respect. The teachings of Judaism have a role to play in this. We don’t insult nor mock.

And so 20 years on, former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin is honored in remembrance as the man who could have given Israel peace had not he been assassinated. The element forgotten out of reverence for the dead is that he wished to give a large piece of Israel away for this peace. At the time in 1995, land for peace as proposed by Rabin was considered almost inevitable, more so than today in 2015. In 1995, the demographic balance was shifting to a larger non-Jewish than Jewish population. The massive Aliyah from the former Soviet bloc had yet to take place. So Rabin saw the only option for keeping Israel as a Jewish state was to give away a piece of it. With the land would go the non-Jewish population, and peace would ensue. The 1993 Oslo process was under way and all look set for “Two States for Two Nations”. However even then, as the assassination shows, there were those who disapproved.

Such disapproval was and is religious, ideological and pragmatic. Had Rabin lived, he would have faced the same problems that his successors faced and continue to face. The other side and an evolving world would have made Rabin’s ideal not realistic.  Prime Minister Barak in 2000 tried to move forward on this option in a one-to-one deal with Arafat. This was before Hamas had Gaza and before Hezbollah had Southern Lebanon. However, the then leader of the PLO, Yasser Arafat refused the only viable option that Israel could offer and can still offer; about 92% of Judea and Samara, all of Gaza and part of Jerusalem.

Today the situation on the ground makes the “Two States for Two Nations” option a Utopian ideal rather than a pragmatic solution. This is not to deny a state for the Palestinians. I say that they can have one, if they so wish and if they strive to build it as a viable and stable one that doesn’t threaten Israel. The situation on the ground, however, is that the PLO in its current manifestation as the Palestinian Authority is no longer the only or even the main actor.  Hamas controls Gaza, Hezbollah the Southern part of Lebanon, the Islamic State parts of Syria and Iraq and proxies of these influential anarchists’ rampages through the Sinai Peninsula.  So the creation of a state of Palestine no matter its borders will not be enough to ensure peace.

A piece of Israel proposed by Rabin then and others in a recent street march in Tel Aviv is not an option for Israel’s peace. It is only an option for Palestinian dreams. It is all too easy to mock our current politicians, but all too hard to suggest and implement a viable option for peace other than a piece of Israel. I have no doubt that in years to come we will look back at 2015 to honor and to remember our current leaders for not being weak in giving away a piece of Israel for an ideal rather than a deal. It is only with strength rather than with protest that we can neutralise Israel’s adversaries and negotiate a new and more viable option.

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.
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