It’s time to lead

We must remember and remind others what Rabin really stood for. Rabin was opposed to the idea of a Palestinian state.

L'ancien Premier ministre Itzhak Rabin (photo credit: REUTERS)
L'ancien Premier ministre Itzhak Rabin
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I believe that the Oslo Accords were a mistake. I am one of many who realize that it was a dangerous experiment that made our strategic situation worse rather than bringing us closer to peace. However, that does not diminish my appreciation for Yitzhak Rabin and my belief that he possessed outstanding leadership qualities. His assassination fractured Israeli society. It is regrettable that, instead of gathering together as a unified people in the mourning tent, we eventually became even more separated.
From the time he was a young man until the day he was murdered, Yitzhak Rabin dedicated his life to our nation and its security. He took part in so many significant events throughout the history of Israel.
Yet there was also another dimension to his leadership: Rabin had a great passion to improve our country and to promise a brighter future for subsequent generations.
This was reflected in his desire for peace and also through his investment in education.
In good faith, Rabin confronted the country’s fundamental problems to the best of his ability. Even for those of us who disagreed with his political views and actions could not deny that his character was based on accountability, credibility and integrity.
Twenty years later, we find ourselves in a completely different reality. It has never been more clear that Israel is in need of true leadership.
What the State of Israel needs today is a leader who knows how to take responsibility, not pass it off. Israel needs a leader who is willing to make decisions, not evade them. We need a leader who will stand up to the challenges of the day and overcome adversity, rather than focusing only on their own political survival. The citizens of Israel are fed up with hearing empty words and yearn for leadership that is ready to take action. We need a proactive leader who will not be satisfied with just putting out fires, but who will fulfill the needs of the Israeli people. One that is willing to pay a personal price if needed in order to lead the nation on the right path.
I believe that a true leader is one who leads his people by example.
What Israel also needs now is unity.
Our fractured nation needs a leader that can unify our diverse society regardless of political affiliation. We must develop a common language and a sense of genuine partnership to become whole again.
Allowing our society to continue in the path of exclusion and defamation of one another is only making Israel weaker.
This is especially important in light of the difficult challenges that lay before us.
Politics based on the incitement of one sector against another is unacceptable. No matter who is targeted by this collective fervor; religious, secular, settlers, Leftists, Rightists or Arabs, this undermines the foundations of our society.
Recently, there has been a radicalization in the public discourse. This has most clearly manifested on social media.
Hatred and belligerence no longer hide behind anonymous talkbacks. They are now expressed openly and with unbridled hostility. Our public leadership, and especially our elected leadership, must play an important role in publicly denouncing this hooliganism and lack of respect that has become so rampant.
We’ve turned into a society in which basic values such as human dignity and a person’s reputation are trampled day after day.
Our legal system must act resourcefully and deal strongly with the consequences of technological advancements in order to maintain a just society. Violence and factionalism have grown exponentially and this threatens Israeli society. We must work harder than ever to uphold our basic values.
The debate about which path will lead us toward peace and security, and which will provide our children with a secure future, is an important and legitimate one.
Peace cannot be based on an illusion or wishful thinking, for we live in a region that is rife with cruelty.
We won’t achieve peace just because we yearn for it. We Israelis are not responsible for the fact that there is no peace today.
Israel has carried out numerous risky moves, including the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, and then again in 2005 with Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Despite the heavy price we paid for each of these acts, they did not bring us any closer to peace.
We must remember and remind others what Rabin really stood for. Rabin was opposed to the idea of a Palestinian state, and instead proposed a solution that was based on “a Palestinian entity that is less than a state.” It was important to Rabin that Jerusalem remain undivided and fully under Israeli sovereignty. He viewed the “greater Jordan Valley” as an important security buffer. Every one of Rabin’s successors who was lenient on part or all of these fundamental positions failed to bring about the peace we all yearn for.
We will fight against our enemies and we will defeat them as we have in the past.
We must work harder to make Israel a just society for our children.
The writer is a former minister of interior and education. This op-ed was adapted from a speech he made on October 20, 2015, at an event marking the 20th assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.