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