Yitzhak Rabin in 1985, then defense minister.
(photo credit: DAVID BRAUNER)
I never met Yitzhak Rabin, and I never voted for him, and yet I find myself spending quite a lot of time thinking about him. I think about how Rabin was worried that not enough people would show up to the rally at which he was assassinated, which was attended by the masses, plus one person too many. And about his wife, Leah, who told supporters who came to comfort her after the funeral, “It’s a shame you didn’t show your support before he died.”
These two sentences express more than anything else the loneliness our leader was feeling when he made the dramatic decision that he wasn’t happy with, but which he understood was necessary for the future of his people.
I didn’t attend the peace rally in the Square that fateful evening.
But I did witness how the two political camps were splitting Israel in two and how they would fling incriminations at each other. One side spoke about its love for the land and blamed the other side for relinquishing its responsibilities and for showing weakness in the face of the enemy. And the peace camp blamed the other side for inciting war. Neither side was sensitive to the other’s fears, how its members felt that their entire world was being threatened, and that their view was the just one.
Then, as now, I feel stuck somewhere in between these two views. I love this country with all my heart and soul, but I understand that we have to separate ourselves from the Palestinians. I want more than anything to reach an agreement, but I see so many holes in the Oslo Accords, which do not set the terms for ending the conflict. I wanted to do this differently. I wanted to reach an agreement in which all the issues were clearly delineated, that would ensure our security, and bring about an end to the conflict.
Back then, or even now, I didn’t believe in a romantic type of peace. I pictured, instead, an arrangement that would meet all of our requirements. Just weeks before Rabin was assassinated, I decided to make my voice heard, and so I joined the political arena.
And then Rabin was murdered in cold blood. And we were all shocked and suffering from the intense pain of our loss. We were all suffering, not just his supporters, Labor Party members and Rabin followers.
My children were brought to Rabin Square with their school classes, where they were told about how awful it was that Rabin was murdered just because he was a prime minister who wanted to make peace. And I told them that it was terrible that any prime minister was assassinated.
Not because of what he did, but because of who he was: the elected prime minister.
Ten years later, I myself stood at Rabin Square as the justice minister and a member of the Likud party, and I said – I belted out – what many Israelis were feeling: that although I hadn’t voted for him, he was my prime minister, too.
It’s now been 20 years since Rabin was murdered, and the hatred is still here among us. It is screaming from the endless Facebook posts and talkback comments.
We no longer need rallies at Rabin Square in order to express our hatred. When people ask me what I think things would be like now if Rabin were alive, I reply: I really don’t know. I do know which decisions we the living need to be making today.
Israel’s security, strength and mere existence as the home of the Jewish people demand that we make courageous decisions about our future, the most important one being that we separate the two peoples that live here.
Twenty years later, I want to see the Square full of people who desire peace and not violence. Twenty years later, I’m asking the same question that Rabin did that fateful night, with his embarrassed smile and a cigarette hanging from his lips: Are you coming to the Square? The writer is a member of Knesset for the Zionist Union party and a former foreign minister. Translated by Hannah Hochner.