ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Rabin and Sharon: Quite a Bit in Common 27.10.04

Rabin and Sharon: Quite a Bit in Common

27 October 2004

By Yisrael Ne'eman

This week nine years ago PM Yitzchak Rabin was murdered (Hebrew calendar) and ten years ago Israel signed its peace agreement with Jordan. On the eve of Rabin Memorial Day, PM Ariel Sharon pushed through the Knesset his Gaza Disengagement by a majority of 67 - 45 with 7 abstentions. Since 1995 there has been a lot of talk concerning the "Rabin Heritage," meaning a full identification of the Oslo Accords as the Israeli Left perceives them. The interpretation given was that Israel would withdraw from virtually all of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and all of the Gaza Strip.

Interestingly enough, Rabin, who met with Sharon on a weekly basis despite his prominent position in the opposition Likud in those days, spoke no less of security and demographic issues then, than Sharon does today. Rabin was very clear that security zones would need to be kept along the Jordan River and did not favor abandoning large Jewish developments along the Green Line border with the West Bank. One only need check his last speech to the Knesset in October 1995.

Today, Ariel Sharon, father of settlement development represents Rabin's ideas. Furthermore Rabin's family no longer wants the day of his assassination to be identified with the Left, but rather with the state as a neutral institution. Semi-private Left wing rallies are no longer in vogue.

Sharon is implementing Rabin's policy, but under more moderate circumstances. As leader of Labor, Rabin never dismantled even one settlement. The right/religious bloc opposed him and the country was split deeply down the middle. With the Jewish Left in his pocket (the Arab Left is another issue) Sharon has it much easier as he enjoys support from the moderate right. He faces oppostion by the extreme right. Sharon's problem is with the solid right who takes its position between the two. Many here do not envision Israel retaining Gaza in a permanent status agreement, yet say they refuse to relinquish settlements if they have no Palestinian partner. But as Likud Minister Meir Sheetrit points out, Israel has a much more significant "American partner" and can begin to implement the Bush Road Map, but at Israel's interest and discretion.

Rabin did not have a Jewish majority in the Knesset when Oslo II passed in Oct. 1995 as he relied on 5 votes from the Arab lists to give him a 61 to 59 majority. Yesterday, Sharon obtained 61+ Jewish votes out of the overall 120. So far Sharon has failed to split the solid right completely from the extremists. 17 Likud votes went against their own PM but still the difference from 1995 is blatent.

Many are saying that nothing has changed nor been learned in the last nine years. One must beg to differ. There is less general incitement although the fanatical fringe is just as dangerous. The Jewish population is split two-thirds in favor and one third against relinquishing territory to the Palestinians and not 46% in favor and 50% against as in the last days before Rabin's assassination.

The situation is still explosive and radicals may yet open fire on the security forces or those taking the decision to disengage from Gaza. But the average Israeli has shifted to the Center over the past decade. Now take Ariel Sharon for example...