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No fewer than seven different Labor politicians have called themselves Yitzhak Rabin's heir. In the decade since his assassination, Labor has had four leaders and six leadership races - but the party has never regained the support it had under Rabin.
The first man to try to step into Rabin's shoes was his longtime rival, Shimon Peres. When Peres took over in the Prime Minister's Office he promised to carry on "Rabin's legacy," but when he lost the premiership in 1996, a new generation of Rabin heirs competed in the 1997 Labor leadership race.
Rabin's wife Leah tried to influence the race by declaring on Israel Radio that her late husband saw Ehud Barak as his successor.
"If for any reason he had been unable to continue in office, he would have seen Barak as his political heir," she said. "He saw him as a very promising person, and now that he is no longer here, I hope that Barak will lead Labor to victory in the next elections."
Yossi Beilin and Ephraim Sneh, who ran against Barak, said that Leah Rabin misinterpreted her husband. Sneh said that he "was always a follower of Yitzhak Rabin, and Rabin considered me a person who carries out his policies and follows in his footsteps. I seriously doubt if anyone today can speak in his name or on his behalf."
In 1998, Leah Rabin insisted that the recently-retired chief of General Staff, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, deliver the only eulogy at her husband's grave site, leading to speculation that she had shifted the successor label to him.
Rabin's daughter, former deputy defense minister Dalia Rabin-Pelosoff, bestowed the title of her father's successor in 2001 on her boss in the Defense Ministry, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, but she later shifted her allegiance to Haim Ramon.
When Amram Mitzna became Labor chairman in 2002, he angered the party leadership by spending all of Labor's campaign advertising money on commercials that compared him to Rabin.
"I don't mean to sound immodest, but I consider myself the true successor of Rabin, whom I worked with very closely," Mitzna told The Jerusalem Post. "Since Rabin, the peace movement hasn't found a leader who can bring about real change. Ehud Barak was a great hope, and consequently an even greater disappointment."
The latest self-proclaimed heir to the Rabin legacy is Science Minister Matan Vilna'i, who announced his candidacy for the Labor leadership in February 2005 by comparing himself to Rabin. In a press conference, Vilna'i said that when Rabin was prime minister, he sidestepped then-chief of General Staff Barak and communicated directly with him as OC Southern Command, because Barak opposed the Oslo Accords.
"I am most like Rabin because I carry on his ideals more than anyone else," Vilna'i said. "I had a direct connection with Rabin during Oslo and we talked all the time because of Barak's opposition. Whoever calls himself Rabin's successor now should have backed him then."- G.H.