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Shattering the myth of Rabin as the ‘man of peace’

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Every year, to coincide with the Israeli Labour Party’s commemoration of the anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (November 4, 1995), we hear voices claiming that this assassination killed the “peace” he was aspiring to achieve.

Within these voices one can find one or a couple of Arab voices also convinced that Rabin’s past strongly indicates that he was in the process of challenging all the traditional red lines of this peace, which were almost unanimous among Israeli public opinion. However, they are too many to list in this article.

These voices reproduce the myth of the “man of peace,” although this myth was shattered many years ago. Indeed, the most important tool in shattering this myth lay within Rabin himself, by recalling the most important remarks he made in his last speech before the Knesset on 5 October 1995, a month before his assassination. In this speech, he spoke about his vision for the essence of a settlement with the Palestinians, which continued to cast a shadow over all subsequent developments.

In this speech Rabin, as well as I, reiterated that the permanent solution to the conflict would be within the framework of the 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”.

He also noted that he would like this entity to be “less than a state” and “the borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War”. Rabin also stated, “The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term”. He also stressed his rejection of the right of return for Palestinian refugees and stressed that “United Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty”.

Since his return to power in 2009 the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stressed that he has adopted Rabin’s vision for the settlement, especially in his description of the Palestinian entity as “less than a state”. He translated this into a demilitarised state and added the condition of recognising the “Jewish people’s nation state”.

Those close to Netanyahu recall that Rabin revealed, in closed conversations, that he is seeking to reach a permanent agreement that would keep about 65 per cent of the West Bank (Area C) under Israel’s control forever. This is the same position adopted by the radical right-wing Jewish Home Party.

The shattering of this myth is not limited to Rabin’s political opponents, but actually started with those close to him, beginning with his chief strategic adviser Haim Asa. Asa confirmed in 2014 that Rabin’s most important objective at the time of the signing of the Oslo Accords was to improve Israel’s chances of material survival in the long run. There were no considerations stemming from the philosophy associated with Mahatma Gandhi’s “universal brotherhood approach”. At the same time he pointed out that any different assessment in this regard, such as saying that Rabin is a “philosopher of peace” not an exceptional strategic figure, would be a distortion of his legacy.

Read: The importance of the PA’s response to normalisation

Last but not least, during the Oslo Accords Avraham Burg said in an interview with Israel’s Maariv newspaper in late October that Rabin, who sang “Song for Peace” at a rally that ended in his death, did not achieve a peace agreement. In his opinion, Rabin tried to take a path different to that of oppressing and excluding the Palestinians, but his DNA, along with the Oslo Accords, were not peaceful. He has repeatedly stated that his position on the Palestinian issue is not based on the decisions of the Supreme Court and B’Tselem, which shows that his internal world is not based on justice, partnership, building trust, and sensitivity to the trauma of others.

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