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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/2/15

20 Years After The Dark Day Rabin Was Killed

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1995 Funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
1995 Funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
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Twenty years ago, on November 4, 1995, an extremist Jew shot and killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Israel's leader was buried two days later at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl Cemetery.

Looking back on that dark day, Jewish scholar Avi Shlaim describes its significance: "Rabin's crime was to conclude a peace agreement with the PLO, hitherto regarded as a terrorist organisation pure and simple. Few political assassinations in history achieved their aim as fully as this one."

"The assassin's aim," Shlaim wrote in the Guardian, "was to derail the Oslo peace process and to halt the transfer of territory on the West Bank to the Palestinians. And this is what happened following the return to power of the rightwing Likud party."

The killer, Amir Yigal, a law student and Jewish extremist, was tried and given a life sentence. He was 25 at the time of Rabin's murder. Rabin was 73 when he died.

Shlaim, an Iraqi-born British Israeli historian, is emeritus professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford. Expanding his belief that "few political assassinations in history achieved their aim as fully as this one," Shlaim wrote in The Guardian: "Rabin's political legacy, in a nutshell, is that there is no purely military solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians."

Rabin reached that conclusion after a long military and political career. Shlaim explains:

"When the first Palestinian intifada broke out in 1987, Rabin was defense minister in a national unity government led by the Likud. His initial order to the IDF was to "break the bones" of the demonstrators. Only gradually did it dawn on him that this was in essence a political conflict that could only be resolved by political means."

After Labor won the 1992 election, Rabin became prime minister. He worked to achieve what became "the Oslo accord of September 13, 1993 and the hesitant handshake with Yasser Arafat on the lawn of the White House."

The New Yorker called the assassination one of "history's most effective political murders."...

"Two years earlier, Rabin, setting aside a lifetime of enmity, appeared on the White House lawn with Yasir Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and a former terrorist, to agree to a framework for limited Palestinian self-rule in the occupied territories; the next year, somewhat less painfully, he returned to the White House, with Jordan's King Hussein, to officially end a forty-six-year state of war.

"Within months of Rabin's death, Benjamin Netanyahu was the new Prime Minister and the prospects for a wider-ranging peace in the Middle East, which had seemed in Rabin's grasp, were dead, too. Twenty years later, Netanyahu is into his fourth term, and the kind of peace that Rabin envisaged seems more distant than ever."

Looking back, it is now apparent that Rabin's "hesitant handshake" launched an effort toward peace that demanded an Israeli leader like Rabin who truly wanted to achieve a lasting negotiated agreement.

Instead, Rabin's assassination led to the rise of successive right-wing Israeli governments that want nothing less than to have their own modern empire from the sea to the river.

The assassin of Rabin achieved his dark and destructive goal.

The story of Rabin's assassination is told in the book, Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel (Norton), written by Journalist Dan Ephron.

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James Wall served as a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois, from 1999 through 2017. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced (more...)

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