Using Yitzhak: The Rabin Trade

Last week witnessed a host of events and ceremonies, across the country, marking the 13th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

An estimated 100,000 attended the main rally on Saturday evening, in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, the site of Rabin’s murder (at the hands of Yigal Amir on 4 November 1995). A friend asked me to accompany her. But I refused. I rarely attend such rallies. I tried explaining myself. But, other than telling her what she already knows (that I am contrary), I couldn’t.

The state memorial, on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl on Monday, however, reminded me exactly why – because they have been hijacked by too many opportunists and self-publicists, who milk the ‘Rabin brand’ for every drop of benefit it can provide their own agendas and careers.

The main culprit this year (you may not be surprised to hear) was Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. With his undistinguished tenure drawing to a close, and embroiled in allegations of corruption, he chose the memorial to show himself as a peace-loving visionary, following in the Oslo footsteps of Rabin.

Olmert has had three years to work on realising his claimed vision – of an Israel back at its 1967 borders, with a divided Jerusalem as its capital – but only now, as a ‘lame duck’, is he espousing it, thus burdening his successor in the Kadimah party (and also perhaps as Prime Minister), Tzipi Livni, with an unreasonable weight of expectation. Whether out of spite (Olmert and Livni are not best pals these days), or in an attempt to go down in history as a visionary rather than a criminal, only he knows.

Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, Livni’s closest rival for the top job, used the special Knesset memorial session following the state one to speak out against incitement. Yes, the very same ‘Bibi’ who took part in right-wing demonstrations – in which Rabin was denounced as a traitor, and portrayed in SS uniform (though Netanyahu distanced himself from both) – just a month before the assassination.

But it is not just Israel’s right that uses Yitzhak. Leftists continually prescribe the correct path for the country based on what Rabin would have wanted. No one knows, however, how things might have turned out were he still with us. Rabin himself went through so many transformations that it is not inconceivable that he might have returned, from the Rabin of the Oslo Accords, to his former hawkish self – as Defence Minister, he was quoted as saying “We will break their [the Palestinians’] bones” – had suicide bombers struck with as much murderous ferocity during his lifetime as they did after his death.

There are also a host of musicians who enjoy the publicity that the Rabin Square rally, in particular, earns them (though once can hardly blame them for accepting such an opportunity). Even if not entirely unsavoury, however, there is very little truly ‘Rabinesque’ about these events either, and I, for one, prefer to stay away.

Left-wing commentator and former politician,Yossi Sarid, put it far more eloquently than I ever could, in this weekend’s Ha’aretz: “Poor Yitzhak Rabin, whose memory was desecrated this week: Who hasn’t ripped off one of his limbs, amputated an arm or a leg of his heritage, and scurried off to his lair to gnaw on it? Suddenly, they were all his sons, all of them are the heirs to his way.”

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5 responses to “Using Yitzhak: The Rabin Trade

  1. In the mid-1980s I had to meet someone in Jerusalem at a hotel where an international conference of rabbis was taking place. At the time Shamir was PM and Rabin was the Minister of Defense.

    I arrived early and was in time to hear both Peres and Rabin address the rabbis. Peres was his normal pseudo-intellectual self, trying to teach the rabbis about Judaism. Looking back probably someone like Avraham Burg had probably helped him with his speech, spicing it with quotes that everyone (even I) already knew, often taken out of context. At the end he was politely clapped.

    Then Rabin arrived. It was clear that he had prepared nothing special for the rabbis but gave them his usual strategic analysis of the Middle-East situation as he saw it then. It was obviously a speech he had given many times as he rarely referred to notes. His words were clear and logical. Many, perhaps most, disagreed with much of what he was saying but nobody wanted to miss a word. There was the mind that Henry Kissinger had described as one of the most brilliant that he had encountered. You could argue every point but you could not deny the internal logic and consistency of his thought process. The applause he received at the end of his lecture was genuine and deserved.

    Rabin registered several patents but perhaps the most brilliant of all was to teach the Israeli Left that the only way to sell territorial concessions to the majority of Israelis is by using anti-Arab nearing racist lines of reasoning. Before then they had tried to argue that wretched Palestinians had deserved it, from then on, it would be that we don’t want them in Israel so we’ll “return” land to get them off our backs. Up until then terror attacks before elections had customarily helped the Right. This new line of reasoning meant that every Israeli stabbed before the 1992 election earned votes for the Left.

    Rabin was an atrocious PM and began his second term by committing himself to an ultimatum of making peace within nine months. When that failed he fell for the logical fallacy of assuming in a bad situation, any alternative to the current policy must be an improvement. He went to Oslo and the rest is history.

    Rabin should, like all victims of murder, not have been murdered. He should have lost the election in 1996, instead of Peres, and have had an enjoyable and well earned retirement.

  2. “Rabin was an atrocious PM . . .”

    Who was the last good one?

  3. Shamir, he was excellent. He did absolutely nothing. Under the circumstances that was the best he could have done.

    Any question he was asked he’d answer, “That matter is extremely important and we have an expert team who will examine all options and reach the best decision.”

  4. I could never take Shamir seriously because he always reminded me of a bear (the name escapes me) from UK children’s TV.

    In spite of their many faults, I have always thought twice before criticising the likes of Begin, Shamir, Rabin, Sharon, Barak, and even Netanyahu . . . men who have done and seen things that most most of us mere mortals aren’t sufficiently brave to even dream about.

    And when shmocks – especially in the Diaspora, but also those here (whose idea of heroism is Baruch Goldstein or making an example of a defenceless Palestinian) – question the patriotism of such men, or refer to them as “traitors”, it just makes me laugh.

  5. Another year, another memorial rally for our assassinated Prime Minister . . . that I didn’t attend.

    I walked Stuey and Dexxy to Kikar Rabin, at 5pm yesterday, to watch them setting up. And seeing those Shalom Achshav muppets distributing their banners – “Bibi’s Government: No Vision! No Peace! No Future!” – only served to confirm my belief that I would be better off, and get less agitated, watching Wolves v Arsenal.

    I want peace as much as the next man (if that next man also wants peace), but it has to be a real peace with a real partner. And, right now, I don’t see one.

    You can’t help feeling that many of those mindless lefties would sell their own mothers, together with this country, in blind service of their completely unrealistic, irresponsible ideologies.

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