An altercation between Noa Rotman, granddaughter of slain prime minister Yitzhak
Rabin, and members of an ultra-nationalist group on Tuesday marred a nostalgic
tribute to Rabin by former members of his government on the twentieth
anniversary of its formation.
Carrying signs that charged Rabin with
responsibility for the 1,000 deaths perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists in the
aftermath of the Oslo Accords, the group – headed by Baruch Marzel and Itamar
Ben-Gvir of the Our Land of Israel Movement – accosted participants in the
memorial event as they exited the Rabin Center in Jerusalem and made their way
to the parking lot.
Giving arms to terrorists canceled out any of the
positive things Rabin had done, Ben-Gvir told Rotman, while Marzel said that she
had become very wealthy as a result of her grandfather’s death. Rotman, at the
time Noa Ben-Arzi, was reported as having received $1 million for writing a
memoir about her grandfather.
Rotman was close to tears as she drove
But even before the rightwing attack, the meeting between former
ministers, deputy ministers, advisers and Labor Party activists lacked
Although the ministers found themselves seated around a
table, they did not engage in any form of debate.
The moderator was
veteran journalist and television personality Dan Shilon, who appeared to model
the event on his long-defunct but highly popular show, Dan Shilon
There had been a lot of hugging, kissing, hand-shaking and
backslapping prior to the formal proceedings as people who had once been as
tight as canned sardines, once more came together.
“We were together
almost 24 hours a day. It does something to you,” said Leah Goldberg, who is
today the director of the Chaim Herzog Center and was once the director of
Rabin’s office in the Labor Party, where she subsequently worked with Shimon
Peres and Ehud Barak.
The prevailing view was that Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who had briefly been the
internal affairs minister in the second Rabin administration, are not good for
Israel. More time was spent on criticizing them than on praising
Shimon Sheves – the director- general of the Prime Minister’s
Office during Rabin’s second stint – described Netanyahu and Barak as two madmen
running the state who imbue fear in the population and said that no one is doing
anything to silence them.
They are creating a terrible situation and pose
a great danger to public morale, Sheves continued, adding, “We have to use every
democratic means to stop them.”
Sheves was not the only one at the
meeting who believes that Netanyahu and Barak are preying on people’s fears. Uzi
Bar-Am – once the third of five internal affairs ministers during Rabin’s tenure
– spoke of the balance between fear and hope.
In Rabin’s time, the
balance leaned toward hope, and under the current regime it is weighed down by
fear, said Bar-Am.
“Hope comes from great leadership,” said MK Binyamin
Ben-Eliezer (Labor), “but Israel is suffering from a dry season in
Former finance minister Avraham Shohat said he has
absolutely no confidence in Barak, whereas he had every confidence in Rabin.
whose government, according to Shohat, was one of hope.
As to the subject
of an assault on Iran, the response was nearly unanimous. Ben- Eliezer – who was
construction and housing minister under Rabin – was the only one who used the
word “no,” adding afterwards that he does not think that Barak is making the
Amnon Lipkin Shahak – the chief of staff in the early
1990s – said no one can be certain that if Israel were to strike, the Iranian
nuclear threat would be eliminated.
Haim Ramon, former health minister,
said that a strike by Israel would exacerbate the situation because it would
give Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the excuse he needed to go ahead with
his country’s nuclear program.
Former environment minister Yossi Sarid
said he would be in favor of a strike against Iran if it would help terminate
the political careers of Netanyahu and Barak. He regretted that Barak was not
present, because if he had been, perhaps the collective in the room might have
been able inject him with some sense of responsibility.
Moshe Shahal, the
communications minister under Rabin, said he cannot rest easy when he thinks of
the two key decision-makers for Israel’s future.
David Libai, who had
served as the fourth minister for internal affairs, was convinced that Rabin,
who he described as “a virtuoso on security” would have waited, and would not
have struck Iran until he had managed to reduce every risk factor.
immigrant absorption minister Yair Tsaban warned that while it was hazardous to
jump the gun on the Iran issue, it was equally perilous to simply do
“There is an inherent danger in inertia and we can’t risk that
danger,” he said.
Former industry, trade and labor minister Micha Harish
credited Rabin with weighing all viewpoints before reaching a
“He encouraged ministers and senior IDF officers to speak their
minds, even if their views did not coincide with his own,” he
Former minister for economic planning Yossi Beilin and former
health minister Ephraim Sneh, both related to Rabin’s long-term vision and his
desire to settle the conflict with the Palestinians before turning his attention
Rabin initially had reservations about Oslo. When asked why he
changed his mind, said Beilin, he replied that he wanted to reach a peace accord
with the Palestinians before Iran became nuclear.
minister Yaacov Tzur said Rabin would not make a decision related to Israel’s
political strategy without consulting the people.
Tzur had once been
asked to deliver an address on peace with Syria, and consulted with Rabin on
what was appropriate vis-à-vis Israel’s policy. Rabin had told Tzur that the
final decision was one that he could not make alone, because it involved a
change in Israel’s strategy.
“I can do it,” he’d said, “but not without a
Missing from the reunion for various reasons, including
health, tact and travel considerations, were: former ministers Shulamit Aloni,
Shimon Sheetrit, Amnon Rubinstein, Gonen Segev, Ora Namir, Arye Deri and Yisrael
Peres, whose official role does not allow him to comment publicly
on politics or politicians, left immediately after delivering his address.