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Yitzhak Rabin: The Man and the Myth

17 October 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Yitzhak Rabin was not a saint, nor did he know everything nor is it assured there would have been peace had he not been assassinated by a right wing messianic extremist Jew, Yigal Amir.  Rabin was a soldier, a diplomat and a politician with the accompanying supporters and detractors. 

Seven years after the vile murder Rabin is becoming more of a myth and less of a real person.  Those on the Left and many in the Center believe there would have been peace by now with Syria and the Palestinians had Rabin lived.  On the Right others are sure he would have trashed the Oslo Accords after Yasir Arafat’s treacherous perfidy in betrayal of peace.  It is all speculation and no one knows, yet many, especially on the Left see themselves are part of the Rabin heritage.

So where did it all stand seven years ago?  In Rabin’s last speech to the Knesset ten days before the murder (as quoted not long ago on Yoram Ga’on’s Voice of Israel radio show on Friday afternoons) he spoke of the need for a territorial compromise with the Palestinians and made it very clear that the Rift Valley in the eastern West Bank along the Jordan River must be kept to ensure Israeli security.  He spoke of a united Jerusalem and was known to differentiate between Jewish settlements to be kept for security reasons and those he termed ‘political’ to be conceded to the Palestinians.  Translating this to a map, Israel was to keep some 30% of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). 

As we know Arafat began his war when offered a return of well over 90% of the West Bank.  He certainly would have rejected Rabin’s offer.  And besides in documents captured in the Mukata it is clear Arafat’s strategic aim is the eventual elimination of the state of Israel and not a two state solution.

As for Syria, just recently his daughter Dalia Rabin – Philosoph discovered a small notebook outlining her father’s plans for peace with Syria.  Israel was to fully withdraw from the Golan in return for a full Syrian demilitarization all the way to the outskirts of Damascus.  Syria has never agreed to such terms and still does not to this day.  It is difficult to imagine a Syrian dictator (Bashar Assad or anyone else) acquiescing to such conditions. 

Let’s not forget, Syria demands an Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 borders and not the international boundary.  The 1967 line is the cease-fire line from 1949, meaning Syria was occupying Israeli lands.  It is hard to imagine Rabin agreeing to such a final frontier.

At the time of the assassination Rabin and then Likud leader Benyamin Netanyahu (who was an unknown) each had 42% support from the public.  Rabin was by no means a favorite to win the 1996 elections.  Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin drew up the Oslo Accords, not Yitzhak Rabin although he did approve them and believed in their slow implementation.  So what would Rabin think today?

No one can be sure, but he would probably be just as confused, disappointed, frustrated and angered by ‘the situation’ as the rest of us.