Fourteen years ago on this day, Israel was forever scarred. On November 4, 1995 prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, along with the hopes and dreams of many who yearned for a peace agreement. This moment was not only tragic because of the loss of an outstanding human being who took upon his shoulders the weight of Israel's hope for peace, but specifically because this murder was committed to put a halt to the Oslo process.
It was a watershed between hope and despair; between optimism and the total cynicism of those who incited against PM Rabin in the most treacherous way. This moment put Israel's democracy in danger. It is unacceptable to use violence and murder to change political decisions. If nothing else, we must be aware of this crucial lesson.
I had the privilege of working with Rabin and then-foreign minister Shimon Peres, as the director-general of the Foreign Ministry and chief negotiator of the Oslo Accords. This period of my life was personally transformative and taught me much.
First, I would like to dispel a myth: It is false to say that Rabin was not in the picture from the very outset. It is also false that Rabin and Peres did not get along in this period. I am a personal witness to the fact that they took on all these important decisions together.
My time with these great men showed me what leadership is all about. Rabin and Peres analyzed these historic decisions not based on political consensus or popularity, but on Israel's national interests. They indeed broke through the political consensus to shape a new one.
Rabin understood then that the real existential threat to Israel would come from Iran and its allies. He understood that we had to make peace with our neighbors, including the Palestinians, as well as Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Peres agreed, attaching great importance to the economic development of the region.
TOGETHER WITH Rabin, Peres understood that the only way people would support peace was if they gained economically. The late PM also decided that along with the peace process and the freezing of settlements, Israel's national priorities would change to greater investment in education, as well as supporting the periphery and minorities in the country. But the Rabin government's most important goal was to achieve a solution for the Palestinian problem and attain regional peace. Rabin was very aware that Israel did not have an ideal partner, and that the road ahead would not be easy. Yet it was clear to the leadership that this was the right road to take.
It was also a moral decision for Rabin and Peres; it was clear that the occupation of the Palestinians was wrong and slowly corrupting the moral fabric of society.
The lessons for today are the following: through all the difficulties, we must resolve the Palestinian issue and create a two-state solution. This must come with the understanding that land, in the modern era of missiles and terrorism, has little importance. Furthermore we must understand that we are a small country in need of the international support that will come parallel to a peace process.
Most importantly, the notion of leadership must be reevaluated. A leader must understand that his job is first to do what is necessary for the country, not what is popular. Rabin understood this lesson, and it cost him his life.
Although Rabin is not with us anymore, he has left us with important lessons to learn and with an historic legacy of working for Israel's national interests. On this day, all of us from the Left, Center and Right need to wake up and start leading the country toward moral and national prosperity.
The writer was the chief negotiator of the Oslo Accords and is currently president of the Peres Center for Peace.