MISREMEMBERING YITZHAK RABIN
* Tablet commentator: “‘Rabin came as close to a final agreement as any Israeli leader ever has, and since his murder there’s been flight from negotiation,’ opined one commentator. But as one can see from the history of Israeli peace offers after Rabin, this is decidedly not so. In fact, the impact of Rabin’s murder was quite the opposite. His assassination presaged a massive shift in Israeli public opinion toward peace and the two-state solution. Following Rabin’s shooting, the Israeli left moved to his left, while the Israeli right gradually adopted Rabin’s own positions from when he led the Israeli left. (Recent Israeli skepticism about the peace process has far more to do with Gaza’s rockets than Amir’s bullets.) …The untold story of the peace process is the fact that by any objective measure, Benjamin Netanyahu today is to the left of where Yitzhak Rabin was in the 90s.”
* Haaretz commentator: “Ever since Rabin’s murder, there has been a need for both Israelis and foreigners to imbue his death with a higher meaning… As the years passed and Oslo became a byword for a stagnating diplomatic process and eternal deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians, a new narrative emerged. Rabin was no longer just the martyr of peace, he was the embodiment of the elusive solution to the conflict. Amir had not just ended a man’s life, he had succeeded in dashing all hope for a peaceful resolution… The only problem with this dream scenario is that almost nothing in it tallies with reality.
“Rabin never contemplated dividing Jerusalem or relinquishing control of strategic locations in the West Bank such as the Jordan Valley… The assumption that had Rabin lived he could have brought the Oslo process to its final station ignores the role of the Palestinians and all the other players…
“To say that with Rabin’s assassination the peace process was also murdered is lazy thinking. And this ties in with other lazy assumptions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such as the one that it’s actually quite simple to solve, if you just get the two sides in a room, bang their heads together, then split the territory along the Green Line.”
MIGHT NETANYAHU TURN OUT TO BE THE TRUE SUCCESSOR TO RABIN?
[Notes by Tom Gross]
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated just over 20 years ago, on November 4, 1995. In the past two weeks, to mark the Hebrew and secular anniversaries of his death, hundreds of articles have appeared about him in the media. Many have promoted false accounts of the political views Rabin held. And several TV broadcasts, such as the recent one by the BBC’s chief Middle East Correspondent Jeremy Bowen, have completely misrepresented Rabin in an effort to try and further Bowen’s and the BBC’s own agenda of undermining the current Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As a corrective to the widespread misreporting, I attach two articles below -- rare accounts of Rabin’s true positions -- from the left-of-center publications Haaretz and Tablet.
Rabin’s children have tried to keep the record accurate, but to no avail as left-wing journalists in the American and European media continue to re-write history.
For example, Rabin’s daughter Dalia said in an interview with the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot in October 2010:
“Many people who were close to father told me that on the eve of the murder he considered stopping the Oslo process because of the terror that was running rampant in the streets and that Arafat wasn’t delivering the goods. Father after all wasn’t a blind man running forward without thought.”
(Dalia Rabin has repeated similar sentiments in interviews this year, for example in this interview with the Times of Israel.)
Rabin’s son Yuval has also sought to correct some of the misreporting about his father and even criticized his nephew’s comments at the large left-wing rally commemorating Rabin held a week ago in Tel Aviv, which was addressed by Bill Clinton.
Today Netanyahu meets President Obama in Washington, the first time in over a year that the leaders of these two closely allied nations have met.
(You can read the full text of Rabin’s final speech to the Knesset referred to in the articles below, here.)
Meanwhile the Palestinian attacks on Israelis continue, largely unreported by the western media. There have been more attacks this morning.
And here is footage of a stabbing yesterday morning of an Israeli security guard by a Palestinian woman dressed in a hijab. The reason the security guard was there in the first place, of course, was to protect Jewish children in the nearby building.
Another Israeli teenager, 19-year-old Binyamin Yakobovich, who was badly hurt on November 4 when a Palestinian driver deliberately rammed into him at high speed, was pronounced dead by doctors in Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem last night. He is survived by his parents, brother and two sisters. His parents announced they would donate his organs to patients in urgent need of transplants.
FATAH POSTS NAZI CHILDREN’S BOOK COVER
The daily incitement to kill Israelis continues on official Palestinian Authority media, with hardly a word of criticism from most of the western governments that fund it. The New York Times continues to describe Palestinian Authority and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas as a “moderate”.
Here is a compilation of clips from Memri showing Palestinian officials, clerics, parents, and even small children praising the wave of knifings and other terror attacks against Israelis and encouraging more Palestinians to attack Israelis and Jews.
And here are a few of the bulletins from Palestinian Media Watch from recent days:
* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.
MISREMEMBERING YITZHAK RABIN
Misremembering Yitzhak Rabin
The paragon of peace held positions nearly identical to Netanyahu
By Yair Rosenberg
November 4, 2014
Nineteen years ago today, on November 4, 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a far-right extremist. In a yearly ritual, he is being remembered as a peacemaker and as someone whose death “changed history.” Rabin, it is widely said, could have ended the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something the Anti-Defamation League vividly portrayed in its alternate history viral video, “Imagine a World Without Hate.”
But if you read Rabin’s final speech to the Israeli parliament, delivered just a month before he died, the picture seems more complicated than this narrative. On October 5, 1995, Rabin laid out his vision for peace, telling the Knesset:
We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.
And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:
A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev – as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.
C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the “Green Line,” prior to the Six Day War.
D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.
It’s an address that could have been given by Benjamin Netanyahu, who has pointedly opposed withdrawal to the 1967 borders – most famously alongside President Obama in the Oval Office – and insisted upon a long-term Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley and a united Jerusalem. Far more generous peace offers than Rabin’s, which included the division of Jerusalem, were made by his left-wing successors as prime minister, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert. Meanwhile, Gush Katif, one of the settlements singled out by Rabin for preservation, was evacuated by right-wing prime minister Ariel Sharon – along with the rest of Israel’s settlements in Gaza.
If anyone can be said to be carrying on Rabin’s legacy, it is Netanyahu, who, like Rabin in 1995, is more skeptical of the stability and good intentions of a potential Palestinian neighbor, and insists on more defensible borders and stronger security guarantees in any peace deal. But even Netanyahu has been willing to grant the Palestinians a state – rather than Rabin’s “entity which is less than a state” – telling CNN’s Fareed Zakaria just last month that “I remain committed to a vision of peace, of two states for two peoples, two nation-states, one for the Palestinian people, one for the Jewish people.”
And unlike Rabin, the Likud leader froze West Bank settlements for 10 months to jumpstart negotiations, and initiated a “silent freeze” on building in Israel’s contentious capital of Jerusalem. Even Netanyahu, in other words, has governed – both in word and deed – from Rabin’s left. Needless to say, this is not so much a reflection of Bibi’s dovishness as Rabin’s hawkishness.
But if Rabin didn’t actually possess the most prophetic positions on peace, what then is his true legacy? To answer this question, it helps to look at what it is not. In a series of tweets today, Canadian scholar Jeet Heer claimed that “[Yigal] Amir’s bullets achieved what the right wanted: a definitive end to the last real chance for a 2-state solution.” Added Heer, “Rabin came as close to a final agreement as any Israeli leader ever has, and since his murder there’s been flight from negotiation.”
But as one can see from the history of Israeli peace offers after Rabin, this is decidedly not so. In fact, as those offers demonstrate, the impact of Rabin’s murder was quite the opposite. His assassination presaged a massive shift in Israeli public opinion toward peace and the two-state solution. Following Rabin’s shooting, the Israeli left moved to his left, while the Israeli right gradually adopted Rabin’s own positions from when he led the Israeli left. (Recent Israeli skepticism about the peace process has far more to do with Gaza’s rockets than Amir’s bullets.) As Ben Birnbaum, the journalist who co-wrote the definitive account of the most recent peace talks for The New Republic, has put it, “The untold story of the peace process is the fact that by any objective measure, Benjamin Netanyahu today is to the left of where Yitzhak Rabin was in the 90s.”
This is what Rabin achieved. He might not have been the revolutionary peacemaker that some of today’s hagiography makes him out to be. Few elected leaders in modern democracies can be so far ahead of their time and people within the constraints of politics and history. But what Rabin did accomplish was creating the space for Israelis to recognize the need for Palestinian autonomy. By daring to imagine a different future, and taking the first courageous steps towards it, he set in motion the trends that would ultimately remake Israeli society, and open the door for leaders like Barak, Olmert, and yes, Netanyahu, to take positions far beyond what he initially envisioned.
WOULD IT ALL BE DIFFERENT IF YITZHAK RABIN HAD LIVED?
Would it all be different if Yitzhak Rabin had lived?
Historians and journalists love to imagine that Rabin would have beaten Netanyahu at the polls and gone on to sign peace agreements with Arafat and Assad. But that doesn’t tally with reality.
By Anshel Pfeffer
Oct. 27, 2015
Yitzhak Rabin, a heavy smoker and habitual drinker could have keeled over and died of perfectly natural causes at the age of 73. There were certainly many Israelis who were praying for such an outcome in November 1995. But Yigal Amir wasn’t prepared to let nature take its course.
Ever since Rabin’s murder, there has been a need for both Israelis and foreigners to imbue his death with a higher meaning, beyond the obvious one of the peak of ideological violence – political assassination. For years his allies and followers talked of “Rabin’s legacy” but it never really caught on. Never a noted orator, he left few memorable quotes and his autobiography was mainly remembered for the snide remarks at the expense of his old rival, Shimon Peres. Other more articulate members of Rabin’s generation slyly reminded us that Oslo was the brainchild of the coterie of advisers around Peres, whom he despised and that on the eve of the crowning achievement of his military career, the Six-Day War, he had collapsed from tension and nicotine poisoning.
For the purposes of preserving a largely false sense of national unity, Rabin couldn’t be regarded as a symbol of the ideological struggle at the heart of Zionism. Besides, once the trauma of a prime minister’s assassination at the hand of a fellow Jew had subsided and the right wing was back in power, Rabin had to be depoliticized so everyone could join in his veneration. But as the years passed and Oslo became a byword for a stagnating diplomatic process and eternal deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians, a new narrative emerged. Rabin was no longer just the martyr of peace, he was the embodiment of the elusive solution to the conflict. Amir had not just ended a man’s life, he had succeeded in dashing all hope for a peaceful resolution.
Historians and journalists love to play with the great what-ifs of history and this is one of the neatest ones. Rabin survives, wins the next elections, Israel’s rightward shift is reversed, Benjamin Netanyahu never comes to power and in his third term Rabin signs comprehensive agreements with Yasser Arafat and Hafez Assad followed by peace across the Middle East. The only problem with this dream scenario is that almost nothing in it tallies with reality.
In the months leading to the assassination, Rabin was trailing Netanyahu in most polls, in some by as much as 13 points. There was a year for those polls to reverse, certainly Netanyahu’s propaganda machine would have had a much harder time portraying war-hero Rabin, rather than Peres, as a limp-wristed leftist. But it still looked more likely at the time that Netanyahu was headed for the prime minister’s office.
But even if Rabin had lived and won in 1996, there is no proof whatsoever that he was prepared to go all the way. He had never contemplated dividing Jerusalem or relinquishing control of strategic locations in the West Bank such as the Jordan Valley. As Joint Arab List MK Ahmed Tibi, a former advisor to Arafat, once said, the Israeli prime minister who is capable of delivering the minimum that the Palestinians are willing to accept has not yet been born. The assumption that had Rabin lived he could have brought the Oslo process to its final station ignores the role of the Palestinians and all the other players. It also overlooks the fact that Rabin was not the only Israeli leader to try to reach an agreement.
It may be easy to forget that three other prime ministers led Israel in the intervening period – not just Netanyahu. Ehud Barak spend most of his short premiership negotiating with Arafat and Assad. Ariel Sharon withdrew unilaterally from Gaza. Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni met dozens of times with Arafat’s successors. And Peres was around as well for all this time. They all had a mandate from the Israeli public to make major concessions. You could perhaps argue that Rabin would have negotiated with greater skill and in better faith but there is little proof that would have been the case.
If the Shin Bet security service bodyguards had reacted a second earlier, if Rabin had agreed to wear a bulletproof vest, if Yigal Amir’s aim had been slightly off or his gun jammed, the history of the Middle East may have been totally different. But it’s just as likely that had Rabin lived, he would today be a hyperactive nonagenarian pensioner like Peres, and Netanyahu would still be prime minister, explaining why it’s all the Palestinians’ fault.
To say that with Rabin’s assassination the peace process was also murdered is lazy thinking. And this ties in with other lazy assumptions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such as the one that it’s actually quite simple to solve, if you just get the two sides in a room, bang their heads together, then split the territory along the Green Line. People too easily forget that the Oslo process wasn’t happening in a bubble. The Cold War had just ended, the United States had established itself as the sole global policeman in the Gulf War of 1991 and for a brief optimistic moment you could believe in a world turning away from confrontation.
The past 15 years have been everything but peaceful, particularly in this part of the world. There is no reason to believe that solving the Palestinian issue would have been any easier than any of the other intractable messes blighting the Middle East. Clinging to the notion that if only Rabin had survived, we would be living in a better place now, is just an excuse not to acknowledge how hard this is to solve and avoid re-examining tired formulas.