Twenty-five years ago, the late Yitzhak Rabin ushered in the political spring by signing a peace treaty with Jordan and opening a channel of dialogue with the Palestinians. These days, the political spring is coming from a different angle – from the Israeli public, who is fed up with the era of endless conflict and seeks to return its leadership to its rightful path.
The first signs of decline from a promising path of dialogue to a path of destruction, are well-portrayed in director Yaron Zilberman’s film Yamim Noraim, which is currently being screened in perfect timing. The film chronicles the events that led to Rabin’s murder through the eyes of his assassin, Yigal Amir, thus portraying the political and religious incitement that led to the rebellion of the masses against Israel’s prime minister.
Even though the screening of Yamim Noraim and Yitzhak Rabin’s memorial rally (November 2) coincide, they actually highlight a stark contrast between the period of Rabin and the present day. On the outside, the current situation shows signs of a return to the political spring, with a feeling that change is taking place in the Middle East and the State of Israel.
The incitement was not ignited by pariahs
Zilberman’s movie describes the junctures at which the seeds of incitement were sown, not by pariahs, but by a wide and diverse public. We must remember the lessons learned from that time, because like the past, there is a chance that this time too, we have turned to hope, and we must know how to maintain and nurture it.
In 1995, hope hung in the air, and was chosen as a motto to accompany Rabin’s election campaign. Those were the days following the signing of the peace agreement with Jordan, and it was clear that the change had already taken place and that the goal was to instill new hope in the public. But the cards were shuffled, and since then hope has only waned. One of the manifestations of its decline was the turning point in recent years in Israel’s relationship with Jordan.
At the outset, diplomatic relations with Jordan served as proof that Israel was able to maintain good relations with its neighbors in the Middle East. In the 1994 Israel-Jordon peace treaty, it was decided that two agricultural areas returned to Jordan, Naharayim and Tzofar, would be leased to Israeli farmers for 25 years; and if no objection was raised, the lease would continue automatically. However, Jordan, like the Israeli public, witnessed Israel’s departure from talks with the Arab world, and about a year ago expressed its opposition to continuing to lease the land to Israel. This event indicates a change in relations between the countries. From a personal closeness between the Israeli prime minister and the king of Jordan, we headed toward a relationship over which hovered suspicion, dispute and disagreement.
An optimistic perspective – a rally in memory of Yitzhak Rabin
Our history teaches us that in order to educate a generation and get it back on track, it is required to wander in the desert for forty years. This time, too, we have wandered on a challenging and painful 25-year-long journey. There are now signs of a way out. Public opinion has changed, and seeks to restore sanity to the country, come together and unite as one.
In the past year, Netanyahu has failed in his attempts to form a government, and has dug in his heels with an uncompromising policy. This policy is contrary to Rabin’s policy, from which it is worth learning.
Rabin was not a pacifist; he was a military man and a soldier. He used to say that we must fight terrorism as if there’s no peace process and work to achieve peace as if there’s no terror.
Despite the intifada and despite tense relations with Israeli Arabs, when the election day came, he saw them as equal citizens, and even negotiated a coalition with them. While they did not join the coalition he formed, they recommended him as prime minister and supported him by a vote in the Knesset. On the other hand, the Shas party at the time did not consider the Arab support a hindrance.
Rabin fought racism and sectarianism. His memorial rally will hopefully usher in a new era of hope.