Israel today marks the fifteenth anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s tragic assassination, with the usual festival of left-wing paeans to the Oslo process that Rabin oversaw. But earlier this month, Rabin’s daughter Dalia told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot (Hebrew, Friday October 1; summarized in English in Ynetnews on October 14) that, prior to his assassination, her father might have been close to stopping the Oslo process.
“Many people who were close to father told me that on the eve of the murder he considered stopping the Oslo process because of the terror that was running rampant in the streets, and because he felt that Yasser Arafat was not delivering on his promises. Father after all wasn’t a blind man running forward without thought. I don’t rule out the possibility that he was considering a U-turn, doing a reverse on our side. After all he was someone for whom the national security of the state was sacrosanct and above all.”
In his book The Long Short Way (Yediot Ahronot Press, Hebrew, 2008), Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon wrote that Rabin told him a few weeks before the assassination that, after the next Israeli elections, he (Rabin) was going to ‘set things straight’ with the Oslo process, because Arafat could no longer be trusted. (At the time, Yaalon was chief of IDF Military Intelligence).
Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, surmised much the same thing in his award-winning book Yitzhak Rabin and Israel’s National Security (Washington: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, pages 149-165). “At the end of 1994, Rabin was very pessimistic about Arafat’s performance…. He told the Knesset on October 3, 1994 that ‘(Arafat’s) results up until now have been far from satisfactory – to use an understatement’… Rabin’s disappointment with the policy, which was not initiated by him but for which he was ultimately responsible, became more and more evident with the passage of time and reflected the public’s wary mood toward the peace process… He did not exclude the possibility that the Oslo agreements might not lead to reconciliation. He was not sure that an agreement on final status issues with the Palestinians could be reached… Yet he was caught in the dynamics of a process no longer fully under his control….”
“Rabin wrote in 1979 that ‘there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the risks of peace are preferable by far to the grim certainties that await every nation in war.’ But even when many around him celebrated and were bursting with optimism, he remained the eternal skeptic and pessimist. Only rarely did he project enthusiasm and elation about his political path….”
“More often than not,” continues Prof. Inbar, “Rabin expressed his doubts, his qualms about an uncertain future. He perceived an improved strategic environment containing less chances for existential dangers, but he knew that such military challenges still existed. He was unmoved in the belief that an armed peace was the best to which Israel could aspire in the near future. In an interview (in The Jerusalem Post on September 24, 1995) a month and a half before his assassination, Rabin said that for at least the next thirty years, Israel would have to maintain its military strength and not cut the defense budget.”
Like the majority of Israelis, then and now, Rabin was willing to take risks and give the peace process a chance, but he remained suspicious of his partners and skeptical about the outcome. This is the true legacy of Yitzhak Rabin, which is worth honoring and remembering today.