rabin arafat clinton 1994 .
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
On October 5, 1995, the day after Yom Kippur and a week before he was assassinated, Yitzhak Rabin placed before the Knesset for ratification the "Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement," otherwise known as Oslo II.
His speech was full of pathos, of how in Israel the Jews returned to their homeland, the land of the prophets which bequeathed to the world morality, law and justice. He spoke of how in its own land the Jews built an "exceptional national home and state."
Rabin also spoke of the fact that the Jews did not return to an empty land, and that it was incumbent upon the country to find a way to stop the "never ending cycle of blood," of killing and being killed.
But the speech was not only pathos, it was also a program. And it is extremely instructive, in trying to decipher where exactly Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is leading the diplomatic process, to pay attention to the lines that Rabin drew back in 1995.
It is especially interesting to look at this speech today, a day after the government - in a symbolic move that could be interpreted as a signal of where it eventually hopes to draw the final borders - approved a few hundred housing units in greater Jerusalem, Gush Etzion, Ma'aleh Adumim and the Jordan Valley.
Rabin, in his speech to the Knesset, said he envisioned, alongside a State of Israel that would include most of the area of the land of Israel as it was under the British mandate, "a Palestinian entity that will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
"We would like this to be an entity that is less than a state, and that will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority," Rabin said, preceding by 14 years Netanyahu's call for a demilitarized state that has all the trapping of statehood except those that could threaten Israel's security - in other words, a state-minus.
"The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines that existed before the Six Day War," Rabin said. "We will not return to the June 4, 1967, lines.
"And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution," he said:
"A. First and foremost, [a] united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma'aleh Adumim and Givat Ze'ev - as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.
C. Changes that will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Betar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the 'Green Line,' prior to the Six Day War.
D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif."
Coincidentally or not, what Defense Minister Ehud Barak - in the name of the government - approved on Monday regarding settlement construction falls well within Rabin's framework.
First of all, regarding Jerusalem, Netanyahu has said publicly and unequivocally, even when being censured for it by the US and Europe, that Israel would continue to build where it saw fit in east Jerusalem, and that Israel would not accept restrictions on its sovereignty in the capital.
The decision to build 76 units in Givat Ze'ev, and 89 in Ma'aleh Adumim, as well as another 25 in nearby Kedar, is a signal to the world that Israel intents, as Rabin envisioned, on continuing to hold a united Jerusalem, as well as Ma'aleh Adumim and Givat Ze'ev.
Perhaps the most interesting component of what Barak approved on Monday were the 20 units in Maskiot, in the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley has for some time been somewhat of a conundrum. Is it a settlement bloc or not? Generally the settlement blocs, never really spelled out, are considered to be those areas incorporated within the route of the security barrier. In that case, the Jordan Valley is not a bloc, because there is no barrier there.
On the other hand, the Jordan Valley has long been considered the country's "security belt," and Netanyahu's confidants have said consistently that when he talks about a demilitarized Palestinian state, he means the need for an Israeli presence along the Jordan River to monitor what goes into the West Bank.
But is that only a military presence, or a civilian one as well? The decision to build in Maskiot indicates that Netanyahu envisions a long-term civilian presence there, and not only a military one. And this is consistent with what Rabin said: "The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term" (italics added).
The decision to build in Har Gilo and Alon Shvut, which are both inside Gush Etzion, as well as in Modi'in Illit, which is just east of the Green Line, falls well within the third principle Rabin enumerated in that speech: Changes will be made in the final border that "will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Betar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the 'Green Line,' prior to the Six Day War."
If one wants to stretch the point, one could argue that Barak's decision on Monday to build a new sports park in Ariel as well is also a signal that the state intends to incorporate it as a settlement bloc. The question of Ariel, and whether it should be characterized as a settlement bloc, has been an issue of contention with the Americans, one Western diplomatic official recently told The Jerusalem Post. The decision to build a new park there seems a way for Israel to put down a clear marker on the matter.
Netanyahu has been, and will continue to be, slammed by the US, EU and much of the Israeli Left for pushing forward with Monday's approval of these housing units, approvals that adhere to guidelines laid out by Rabin, a man who - unlike Netanyahu - was adored by the US, EU and the Israeli Left.