Sixteen years have passed since the shocking assassination of Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin in November 1995. In Israel, the trauma of the assassination has not completely receded from the public’s mind in large measure because of the media’s sharp focus on the tragedy. Rabin’s legacy has led to a tug of war between the political left and right, and the issue is how Rabin would have reacted to the subsequent actions of the Palestinians, had he lived.
Rabin’s death occurred two years after the Oslo Accords were signed on the White House lawn in September 1993. A spate of suicide bombings by Palestinians in 1994-1995 in Israeli cities (Beit Lid massacre, January 22, 1995, 21 Israelis killed; Kfar Darom bus attack, April 9, 1995, 8 Israelis killed; Ramat Gan bus #20 bombing, July 24, 1995, 6 Israelis killed; Ramat Eshkol bus bombing in Jerusalem, August 21, 1995, 4 Israelis killed) made the accords most unpopular. Moreover, the Palestinian commitment to amend their inherently intolerant and deeply anti-Jewish covenant was ignored.
Had Rabin survived the assassination, he would have abrogated the accords for a very obvious reason – the Palestinian side simply did not adhere to its commitments and responsibilities.
In his last public speech to the Knesset, on October 5, 1995, just weeks before he was murdered, Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin had this to say:
We are aware of the fact that the Palestinian Authority has not – up until now – honored its commitment to change the Palestinian Covenant, and that all of the promises on this matter have not been kept. I would like to bring it to the attention of the members of the house that I view these changes as a supreme test of the Palestinian Authority’s willingness and ability, and the changes required will be an important and serious touchstone vis-a-vis the continued implementation of the agreement as a whole.
Unlike his rival to the Labor party leadership, Shimon Peres, Rabin the soldier and “Mr. Security” did not trust Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (P.L.O.). He was reluctant to endorse the secretive Oslo negotiations but was put under tremendous pressure by Shimon Peres, his Foreign Minister, who “cautioned” him not to miss an historic opportunity for peace with the Palestinians. Peres himself was assured by his deputy Yossi Beilin of the negotiation’s “successful” outcome.
In an interview this reporter conducted with Itzhak Rabin in late1 991, Rabin assured me that he “will not negotiate with the P.L.O.” and that even in the context of peace he “will not give up the Golan to the Syrians.” In a conversation this past weekend with Ambassador Yehuda Avner who served as an advisor to Prime Minister Rabin, Avner revealed that Rabin had indeed prepared a document, which he saw, that stipulated that the Golan will remain in Israeli hands.
When it came to security, Rabin was a confirmed “hawk” albeit, in his second term as Prime Minister he committed to becoming a peace-maker. His most dramatic speech, delivered on the White House lawn at the signing of the Oslo Accords on September 13, 1993, Rabin declared, “We the soldiers who have returned from the battle stained with blood, we who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you today in a loud and clear voice: ‘Enough of blood and tears! Enough!”
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