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January 15, 2016 3:46 am

Rabin Would Not Have Supported the Positions of Today’s Israeli Left

avatar by Morton A. Klein and Daniel Mandel

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Bill Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat at the Oslo I signing ceremony, September 13, 1993. Photo: Wikipedia.

Bill Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat at the Oslo I signing ceremony, September 13, 1993. Photo: Wikipedia.

What would have happened if Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin hadn’t been murdered? Would history have been altered?

Not according to former IDF Intelligence chief and Labor Party frontbencher Amos Yadlin, who said the following last week. “He would have lost the elections in any event to Binyamin Netanyahu in ’96. The public atmosphere in the country was that the Oslo process failed, the terror attacks of [Islamic] Jihad and Hamas were unacceptable and Rabin himself would have reconsidered Oslo. I have no doubt that he lost his trust, if he even had it, in Yasser Arafat.”

Yet, whether or not Yadlin is correct — and he might well be — Rabin’s murder actually did alter history. It created a mythology on which subsequent Israeli leaders have acted, or felt obliged, to act.

One need only read the pronouncements of some avowedly left-wing American Jewish groups last November on the twentieth anniversary of Rabin’s murder to see that mythology in full flight.

For example, J Street: “We stand for the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin — responsible leadership, bold vision, pursuit of peace. The current Israeli government has ignored that legacy.”

Indeed, J Street, American Friends of Peace Now, the New Israel Fund, Ameinu, T’ruah and Partners for Progressive Israel, and Living Rabin’s Legacy produced a ‘Statement of Principles,’ calling upon American Jews and Israelis to “recommit to carrying out Rabin’s legacy.”

This legacy was not defined by the Statement’s framers, but there is little mystery surrounding their meaning: the cause of creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

This might be regarded now as undebatable, given that the defunct Oslo peace process commenced under Rabin’s stewardship, but this is not so.


For an answer, go no further than Rabin’s last speech to the Knesset, delivered on October 5, 1995, just one month before his murder, in which he outlined in considerable detail his peace vision:

  • No fully sovereign Palestinian state: “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.”
  • No total withdrawal from Judea and Samaria and thus a return to the pre-June 1967 borders: “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.”
  • No withdrawal from the Jordan Valley: “The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.”
  • Establishing, not uprooting, settlement blocs, like the Gush Katif bloc in Gaza (subsequently uprooted by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon): “The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.”
  • Not removing any settlements before concluding a full peace agreement with the Palestinians: “…we came to an agreement, and committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.”
  • Israeli retention of full security control of the borders with Egypt and Jordan: “The responsibility for external security along the borders with Egypt and Jordan, as well as control over the airspace above all of the territories and Gaza Strip maritime zone, remains in our hands.”

Yet, since that date, Rabin’s successors have agreed to Palestinian statehood, albeit with limitations on its sovereignty; uprooted Jewish communities in Gaza and the West Bank without first securing a peace settlement; proposed near-total Israeli withdrawal to the pre-June 4, 1947 lines; relinquished control over the Gaza/Egypt border, and more — without having succeeded in securing peace.

In short, Rabin’s successors have been considerably less cautious and more concessionary than he.

Would Rabin have gone further, had he lived, as his successors have done? Not according to Yadlin. Nor according to his daughter Dalia, who said in 2010 that, “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.”

If that is the case, then perhaps the real legacy of his murder is this: his successors, whatever their actual instincts and regardless of conditions on the Palestinian side, felt impelled to go many extra miles to achieve Palestinian statehood.

But Rabin’s dream was of peace, not Palestinian statehood. In short, his death consecrated a commitment to Palestinian statehood he never made; indeed, which he specifically repudiated.

Accordingly, there is no warrant to pretend, as do the coterie of organizations listed above, that the Israeli government is “ignoring” Rabin’s legacy or that his legacy involves supporting the creation of a Palestinian state. Still less so, 15 years after Oslo foundered in bloodshed and terror launched by his putative peace partner.

Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’ s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Creation of Israel (Routledge, London, 2004).

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  • I hate these suppositions after someone is dead. No one knows what anyone would have done. People change their minds while they are alive, as did Ariel Sharon. Leave the dead to their decisions that they made while alive. Judge them on that, don’t tell us what they would have done now – thought evolves. Articles like these are nonsense, whoever writes them.

  • Paul

    This argument is like the famed debate of Christians, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
    Exactly what Rabin said twenty years ago has very little relevance. Because situations change, and because our attitudes change. The best example of this is how Arik Sharon changed from being the bulldozer who forcibly led the establishments of for West Bank settlements, to the bulldozer who started pulling us out. He realized that when one looks ahead into the future, he saw that we are doing the wrong thing. He was not a traitor – he just stopped counting angels and looked at the future he would like to bring into existence. He said one cannot hold another people at the end of our rifles forever. And this is coming true. Our continued striving to maintain the status quo in the territories is failing, it is blowing up in our faces – because the new generation of Palestinians is now standing up to fight our forced control over their lives – just as we Jews fought against the British.
    So instead of going through life looking backwards and giving great weight to what was said, thought or done twenty years ago, try looking forward and striving towards the future we want to create. Between the Jordan river and the mediterranean, there is an equal number today of muslims and jews. And the muslim birth rate is higher. Is Israel really striving to turn the dream of a Jewish state into a state with a Jewish minority? So that we can try hold on to the settlements ? THAT IS THE ISSUE, not who said what when and therefore ….

  • Julian Clovelley

    so Zionism retreats into Doublethink? Maybe Orwell offers a warning in “1984”

    “Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.”