He won Six-Day War, but Is­rael un­sure how to re­mem­ber him

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

AT MANY points over the two decades since Yitzhak Rabin’s mur­der in Tel Aviv, it has seemed as if Is­raelis are re­mem­ber­ing three dif­fer­ent prime min­is­ters.

His former po­lit­i­cal al­lies and the em­bat­tled left-wing are anx­ious to fo­cus above all on the last three years of his life, dur­ing which Mr Rabin, by then in his 70s, em­braced the peace process with the Pales­tini­ans.

The Is­raeli right nat­u­rally pre­ferred to ig­nore the last episode in his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, em­pha­sis­ing in­stead his role as the IDF chief of staff who won the Six-Day War.

Most main­stream politi­cians, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, glossed over an­other side of Mr Rabin’s char­ac­ter — his lack of re­gard for po­lit­i­cal ri­vals.

As Is­rael marked the 20th an­niver­sary of the as­sas­si­na­tion this week (the an­niver­sary fell on 11 Marchesh­van on the He­brew cal­en­dar; in the Chris­tian cal­en­dar it will be on Novem­ber 4), the roles seem to have been re­versed.

As the diplo­matic process with the Pales­tini­ans is non-ex­is­tent and vi­o­lence is once again rear­ing its head, the right-wing nar­ra­tive is now that Mr Rabin would never have agreed to di­vide Jerusalem. This was a cen­tral theme in Pres­i­dent Rivlin’s speech at the na­tional me­mo­rial event.

Nei­ther, they say, would he have agreed to re­lin­quish­ing strate­gic parts of the West Bank or to es­tab­lish­ing a Pales­tinian state on more than 50 per cent of the ter­ri­tory.

His former aides and col­leagues dis­pute this in­ter­pre­ta­tion but they have no con­crete proof. Mr Rabin never ex­plic­itly said how he en­vis­aged a peace agree­ment with the Pales­tini­ans tak­ing place.

In­stead, his heir as Labour leader, Isaac Her­zog, harkened back to Mr Rabin’s im­age as “Mr Se­cu­rity”, con­trast­ing it with the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion un­der Benjamin Ne­tanyahu.

Speak­ing at a spe­cial Knes­set ses­sion, Mr Her­zog said: “Rabin would never have al­lowed ter­ror to win”, im­plic­itly cas­ti­gat­ing the Prime Min­is­ter. He had less to say about the peace process — Labour right now has no al­ter­na­tive diplo­matic for­mu­las to those be­ing put for­ward by the gov­ern­ment.

The march in Tel Aviv on Satur­day night in Mr Rabin’s mem­ory, call­ing for Is­rael to with­draw from the West Bank, was dom­i­nated by groups to the left of Labour — Meretz and Peace Now. But only 2,000 at­tended, a far cry from the masses who used to at­tend the an­nual me­mo­rial rally.

Twenty years later, Is­rael still can­not de­cide how to re­mem­ber Mr Rabin. The gen­eral who cap­tured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan and 25 years later be­gan the un­cer­tain process of pulling back from those ter­ri­to­ries has no clear legacy. In the ab­sence of one, his suc­ces­sors are re­duced to bick­er­ing over who was re­spon­si­ble for his mur­der. “You who called him a traitor,” Mr Her­zog told the rightwing benches this week. “You who pre­tended not to hear those call­ing him a traitor. You tried to for­get this is the man who al­lowed you to glo­rify in Jerusalem as the eter­nal cap­i­tal of Is­rael.”


Flag flown at half-mast dur­ing this year’s com­mem­o­ra­tions

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