The Conundrum Which Is Rabin

Rabin is one of the few people in Israeli history who is either admired or loved and generally both. I’m trying to write why this is so or why it shouldn’t be so; I found for the first time while writing a blog, I was having difficulty. I set the article aside, missed the deadline and came back to it when I had a serendipity.

Let’s be brutally honest. Rabin, the commander-in-chief in the Six-Day War did not function. If his soldiers had functioned as he did, we would have lost abysmally. Rabin won the Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo agreement, yet he knew nothing about it. It was foisted upon him, and he was left almost in the take it or leave it position. He certainly wasn’t the architect nor was it his inspiration. He gained the credit. Who we have two examples of Rabin gaining the vicarious praise and acclaim. The one thing that can be placed at Rabin’s door is the fact that he was the commanding officer when Jews first fired on Jews; I am referring to the Altalena. Rabin was present and was the senior officer present.

We all loved Rabin, yet let’s be very honest Rabin said some very nasty things that should not be said. He placed opprobrium on the heads of those who had left Israel without ever discussing why they had done so. At the start of the first intifada, Rabin openly said ‘we will break their bones.’ When Col Yehuda Mayer was charged with doing just that, and rightly found guilty and stripped of his command, Rabin stayed uncharacteristically silent.

As I said, I found this blog extremely hard to write. This is where I got to when I wrote the first draft. I didn’t publish it, even though factually what I’d written was correct. However, it did not capture the Rabin we all know and feel. There is no escaping the fact that Rabin is almost universally loved and admired. And this is the strange thing about Rabin, we love him and admire him and yet we know all this. It’s not been hidden or denied. So what was so different about Rabin?

Rabin was the quintessential and first Israeli Prime Minister. Rabin broke free from the influence of the Galut. And herein lies the secret of why we love Rabin. Rabin was primarily an Israeli and not a Jewish leader. Rabin did not live in the fear of the European Ashkenazi Jew, who still live in the shadow of the Holocaust. Rabin knew that we have strength, Rabin knew how to use that strength and Rabin used that strength. On the other hand, Rabin was not a Galut Jew, who was compensating his fears with a swaggering aggrandizement. Rabin had his Israeli-ness innately based on who he was and what he was. He understood he was part of the Bible, but the Bible was only part of him. The Bible would not dictate the way we should live or where our border should be.

Rabin was understood to be, and rightly so, to be a man genuinely in search of peace who completely understood the needs for security. Rabin was a man of security who understood that only a true peace could bring security. Rabin understood where we live and with whom we live. He was down to earth, he didn’t glorify, and he did not simplify our neighbours or their intent.

Rabin was a unique politician; there’s only been one other like him. That was Menachem Begin; the one thing that they have in common was: they told the truth. They were believed; they are the only politicians that were believed.

To distort Rabin’s image and to harness it in the old left camp are a complete distortion. What has happened since his death has been a travesty. The left in its rampage to hold on to some influence and power that it has long since lost has done many things wrong. Things that should not have been done and certainly not in the memory of Rabin, have been done.

Let us remember what happened after Rabin’s death. There was great unrest in the country. The government turned previous policy towards Palestinian leadership on its head. It decided, wrongly that the only way we could make peace with the Palestinians living in the land of Israel was by importing from Tunis those living outside. Time has shown what a catastrophic mistake that was. However, that is not Rabin’s fault. The implementation was naive, foolhardy, weak and invited the inevitable abrogation. Again not Rabin’s fault, but to evoke his memory as some excuse is inexcusable. However, the country was aflame because this unpopular and provocative act was being passed in very questionable circumstances without a Jewish majority. As Parliament was being circumvented, it was only inevitably and natural that opposition would go onto the streets. So it did, to blame Netanyahu for this and to continue a family vendetta are nothing short of scandalous. Where did the freedom of speech go? Why is the right wing not allowed to make regretful statements that the Arab minority makes daily? Freedom of speech is not selective.

Similarly, no one should go to prison for what they think. Margalit Har-Sheffey was sent to prison because of what she didn’t think. This act is a black mark on the pillar of Israeli democracy-its judiciary. All this was done in the name of Rabin; would it have happened under Begin? And finally every person’s blood is equal under the law. It is unfair and completely wrong that terrorists will be released not by if they killed or did not kill but who did they kill. Under our law, every man is equal, and every murderer must be allowed to ask the clemency. Obviously, clemency can only be given if the criminal repents. To deny Rabin’s murder, as vile and vicious as he be, is wrong. Nothing can take away his basic rights — we are all equal.

The lesson of Rabin is a simple one. He spoke the truth, and he saw the truth. He didn’t live in the past, and he did see the future; a future that is a direct extrapolation from today. His present day was an Israeli defined one. Rabin was the first Israeli Prime Minister; we await the second. In other words, Rabin saw the truth that is our reality. He knew where we lived; he knew what we had to do, and he had the pure good luck to accomplish what he set out to do.

The death of Rabin has also been the death truth. The death of Rabin is to resort to the old Israeli politics; lies and Galut mentality. Rabin was a human being with very strange qualities, but he was unique. Having written this article, as a kind of catharsis for myself, I miss the man. I am sure, had he been here our lives would be simpler and probably better.

About the Author
Born in Leeds in 1944, Michael Benjamin is a retired Psychiatrist and medical auditor, co-founder of Oranit, aspiring author and inveterate cynic.
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