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Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin assassinated

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin assassinated

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Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is fatally shot after attending a peace rally held in Tel Aviv’s Kings Square in Israel. Rabin later died in surgery at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

The 73-year-old prime minister was walking to his car when he was shot in the arm and the back by Yigal Amir, a 27-year-old Jewish law student who had connections to the far-right Jewish group Eyal. Israeli police arrested Amir at the scene of the shooting, and he later confessed to the assassination, explaining at his arraignment that he killed Rabin because the prime minister wanted “to give our country to the Arabs.”

Born in Jerusalem, Rabin was a leader of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and served as chief-of-staff of Israel’s armed forces during the Six-Day War of 1967. After serving as Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Rabin entered the Labour Party and became prime minister in 1974. As prime minister, he conducted the negotiations that resulted in a 1974 cease-fire with Syria and the 1975 military disengagement agreement between Israel and Egypt. In 1977, Rabin resigned as prime minister over a scandal involving his holding of bank accounts in the United States in violation of Israeli law. From 1984 to 1990, he served as his country’s defense minister.

In 1992, Rabin led the Labour Party to election victory and became Israel’s prime minister again. In 1993, he signed the historic Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and in 1994 concluded a formal peace agreement with the Palestinians. In October 1994, Rabin and Arafat shared the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres. One year later, Rabin was assassinated. Peres succeeded him as prime minister.


Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who led Israel to victory in 1967 and began the march toward peace a generation later, was shot dead by a lone assassin this evening as he was leaving a vast rally in Tel Aviv.

Mr. Rabin, 73, was struck down by one or two bullets as he was entering his car. Police immediately seized a 27-year-old Israeli law student, Yigal Amir, who had been active in support of Israeli settlers but who told the police tonight that he had acted alone.

The police said Mr. Amir had also told them that he had tried twice before to attack the Prime Minister.

It was the first assassination of a prime minister in the 47-year history of the state of Israel, and it was certain to have extensive repercussions on Israeli politics and the future of the Arab-Israeli peace.

Mr. Rabin was to lead his Labor party in elections scheduled for November next year, and without him the prospects for a Labor victory, and of a continuation of his policies, were thrown into question.

In the immediate aftermath, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Mr. Rabin's partner in the peace negotiations, automatically became Acting Prime Minister. It was widely expected that he would be formally confirmed as Mr. Rabin's successor.

Mr. Rabin, who rose to national prominence as commander of the victorious Israeli army in the 1967 Six-Day War, became the second Middle Eastern leader, after President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt, to be killed by extremists from his own side for seeking an Arab-Israeli peace. Mr. Sadat, the first Arab to make peace with Israel, was assassinated in 1984.

Mr. Rabin and his Labor Government have come under fierce attack from right-wing groups over the peace with the Palestinians, especially since the agreement transferring authority in the West Bank to the Palestine Liberation Organization was reached in September. Mr. Rabin has been heckled at many of his appearances in recent weeks and his security has been tight.

A gruff, chain-smoking career military man, Mr. Rabin led Israel both in its greatest military triumph and in one of its most dramatic bids for peace.

Shortly before his death, Mr. Rabin, obviously buoyed by the huge turnout of more than 100,000 supporters of the peace process, told the rally, "I always believed that most of the people want peace and are ready to take a risk for it." [Excerpts, page 16A.]

He then joined other participants in singing the "Song of Peace," a popular paean. Unfamiliar with the words, the prime minister followed from a text he tucked into his pocket.

Hours after the shooting, Mr. Peres said the blood-soaked sheet of music was found in his pocket and stood as a symbol of Mr. Rabin's sacrifice.

Since achieving a historic peace agreement with the P.L.O. in 1993, and especially since the follow-up agreement two months ago on establishing Palestinian self-rule in much of the West Bank, Mr. Rabin had come under increasingly bitter attack from Jewish residents of West Bank settlements and right-wing opponents of the agreement.

In recent months, he had been heckled at his appearances and had received open threats from extremist groups. The fury of the criticism led to a tightening of security around him and other government ministers, and to a growing debate about the potential for violence.

As he walked to his car this evening, Mr. Rabin gave his last interview to a radio reporter, saying, "I always believed that the majority of the people are against violence, violence which in the recent period took a shape which damages the framework of fundamental values of Israeli democracy."

At 9:30 P.M., as he was preparing to enter his car, there were four shots. Two struck one of Mr. Rabin's bodyguards, who was reported in critical condition. One or two struck the prime minister. The Minister of Health, Ephraim Sneh, said Mr. Rabin had no heartbeat or blood pressure when he arrived at Ichilov Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 11:10 P.M.

At 11:15 P.M. the director of Mr. Rabin's office, Eytan Haber, came out before the waiting crowd at the hospital to read a brief statement: "The Government of Israel announces with shock and deep sorrow the death of the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by an assassin tonight in Tel Aviv."

The crowd, which only recently was singing and dancing in the streets, erupted in shouts of "No! No!"

The rally had been called by a coalition of left-wing political parties and peace groups as a response to increasingly strident street protests by the right-wing opponents of the peace agreement. More than 100,000 people turned out on Kings of Israel Square in front of Tel Aviv's city hall organizers declared it the largest rally in the coastal city in at least a decade.

As word spread, seens of grief and fear spread through Israeli streets. In Jerusalem, women wept and stunned students gathered in groups, wondering what would happen to them and their future.

"I'm not crying for Rabin, I'm crying for Israel," one woman sobbed. About 1,000 mourners gathered outside Mr. Rabin's residence with candles, while devout Jews gathered at the Western Wall in the Old City to chant memorial prayers.

For all the passion of the debate over the peace, the notion of an assassination of an Israeli leader by an Israeli Jew was far from anybody's mind in a nation whose greatest bond has been the joint Jewish struggle for survival against hostile Arab neighbors.

Mr. Rabin's spokewoman and close aide, Aliza Goren, who was next to him when he was shot, said, "I never imagined that a Jew would murder a Jew. It's a horrible thing. If someone imagines that he can seize power through murder, then our state is simply finished."

In the immediate aftermath, the police gave no indication that the student, Mr. Amir, had any support, though some reporters received messages on their beepers from an unknown group that described itself as the "Jewish Avenging Organization" taking responsiblity for the attack.

The police said that before entering the law school of Bar-Ilan University, Mr. Amir had studied in a yeshiva, a religious institution, and was a member of Eyal, an extreme right-wing group. Eyal leaders, however, denied any link to the killing.

Like many Israelis, Mr. Amir was licensed to carry a pistol. He lived in Herzliya, a northern suburb of Tel Aviv. The Israeli radio said he had confessed, and quoted him as saying: "I acted alone on God's orders and I have no regrets."

About an hour after the death was announced, the full Cabinet met, with Mr. Rabin's place draped in black. Ministers wept as Mr. Peres eulogized Mr. Rabin as a rare and determined leader who was aware of the risk he took.

Mr. Peres also vowed that the process he and Mr. Rabin launched would continue: "We are all determined to continue on this great path, to serve the people, the state. The only thing we can do after this tragedy is to continue on this course."

Officials said Mr. Rabin's body would lie in state at the Parliament on Sunday and would be buried on Monday afternoon at the Israeli state cemetery on Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem. President Clinton is among the leaders to announce that he would attend.

Mr. Clinton had led the historic meeting on Sept. 13, 1993, at which Mr. Rabin shook hands with Yasir Arafat, the chairman of the P.L.O., and began the journey toward peace. Mr. Clinton also presided over the signing of the follow-up agreement last Sept. 28 that set out the schedule for the transfer of authority to the Palestinians over their population centers in the West Bank.

In Gaza, Mr. Arafat expressed condolences and the hope that the process toward peace would continue, saying, "I hope that we will have the ability -- all of us, Israelis and Palestinians -- to overcome this tragedy against the peace process, against the whole situation in the Middle East."

Israeli conservative leaders immediately condemned the attack and joined in expressing their grief.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud opposition coalition, called the assassination "one of the worst tragedies in the history of the state of Israel, and even the history of the Jewish people."

With Mr. Peres and Mr. Arafat, Mr. Rabin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for the secret negotiations in 1993 that led to the agreement to end Israeli rule over the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

But the peace also provoked a loud and passionate opposition. Settlers and right-wing nationalists have held held constant demonstrations and protests, blocked intersections and jeering Mr. Rabin wherever he appeared.

In the immediate grief, there was little discussion of the political repercussions of the assassination. But it was bound to have a major impact. In the elections scheduled for next November, voters will be voting separately for the prime minister for the first time in Israeli history, and Mr. Rabin's personality, age and record were expected to be a central issue.

Mr. Peres is generally acknowledged to be far less popular than than Mr. Rabin was, and it was possible that Labor would seek a more acceptible leader.

Mr. Rabin's popularity stemmed from his record as a genuine war hero, and from his reputation for rough candor. He was accepted by supporters as a man they could trust, and many political analysts felt that no other contemporary political leader could have persuaded Israelis to accept a deal with Mr. Arafat, who was universally perceived in Israel as a terrorist dedicated to the crushing of the Jewish state.

Born on March 20, 1922, Mr. Rabin came to national prominence as the military chief of staff during the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel swept through the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The images of Israeli soldiers weeping at the Western Wall, previously in Arab hands, remain a national icon in Israel.

After the war, Mr. Rabin was appointed Ambassador to Washington, where he served from 1968 to 1973. He was elected Prime Minister in 1974, but was compelled to step down in 1977 over a scandal involving an illegal bank account his wife held in the United States. He was Defense Minister from 1984 to 1990, during the Arab uprising in occupied territories, which he fought with an iron hand. Mr. Rabin returned to the Prime Ministry in 1992.

Lessons From History Series: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin—25 Years Later

Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Former Deputy Prime Minister (2004–2005) and Former Foreign Minister (2002–2004), Jordan Former Jordanian Ambassador to the United States (1997–2002) Former Jordanian Ambassador to Israel (1995–1996)

Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern History, Tel Aviv University Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States and Chief Negotiator with Syria (1992–1996)

International Correspondent, NPR

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995, only two years after he shook hands with Yasser Arafat on the White House South Lawn following the signing of the Oslo Accords. Panelists discuss his legacy, achievements, and the ramifications of his assassination on the Middle East peace process twenty-five years later.

AMOS: Thank you very much. I am delighted to be here and I will introduce our distinguished panel. I'm going to begin with Martin Indyk, who is a distinguished fellow at CFR. He's a former U.S. envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. He's a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. Marwan Muasher—vice president for studies [at the] Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Jordan. He's in Jordan now. And Itamar Rabinovich—he is a professor emeritus of Middle East history at Tel Aviv University, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., and a chief negotiator with Syria. I want to start with this, gentleman. A century ago, peace was snuffed out by an assassin's bullet—that is how we usually think about Yitzhak Rabin. His murder stunned the world, changed the course of history. We all remember where we were the moment we learned that he had died. I want to begin with his legacy, we'll get to his life, but let's begin with his legacy. Itamar, can you give us a sense of what we still take away from his message before he died?

RABINOVICH: Yes, there was a time during which the [Yitzhak] Rabin Center thought to commemorate Rabin mainly through Oslo, and then they moved away from this. It is not popular with part of the Israeli public, and they also realized that long term the most important part of the legacy is his leadership. This was obvious then and even more obvious now if you look around the international scene and look at the level of leadership that we have around the world—Rabin stands out. He had a vision. He was not interested in the second term, in just being in power. He was interested in implementing his vision. He had the courage to take unpopular measures. He had the ability to sweep people with him. And he was direct and credible.

What made him popular with the Israeli public, he was not charismatic, he had authority and he had credibility. These were his two strongest claims to leadership among the Israeli public. And you could see that also in his relationship with world leaders, particularly President Clinton, who very much admired Rabin for many qualities but also for the fact that he always said what he had on his mind. He was credible and very much appreciated by people who need to deal with another leader. So, if you look at the sum total of these qualities and you compare them to the available leadership around the world today, Rabin stands out. And I think that long term, he will be remembered primarily for his leadership.

AMOS: Marwan, first of all, where were you when you heard that he had been assassinated? And how is he seen now in the Arab world?

MUASHER: Well, I was actually with him in that square where they had the peace rally. I was seated next to him. I left the event probably a minute or two before he did, going down that, you know, the stairs that he went down from. So I was there, together with the Egyptian ambassador, at the time. And I think Martin, you also were there. But Rabin is, of course, looked at in the Arab world. First, as Martin said, during the first intifada he was seen as a brutal suppressor of the intifada. But he also came to be seen as someone who understood that he has to come to terms with the Palestinians. And I think that the first intifada made a big effect on him, where he understood that he has to negotiate with the Palestinians themselves.

And he took measures to do that and even though Rabin never talked about a Palestinian state, nobody did that at the time of his assassination in '95, not the Americans, nobody did, but he clearly was moving in that direction. The last speech he gave before the Knesset, he talked clearly about the Palestinians ruling themselves. He said, you know, it's self-rule plus less than a state, but more than self-rule. In my view, and I think you know his legal advisor at the time, Joel Singer, had an article yesterday in which he argued that Rabin was preparing his own public for the time when a Palestinian state would be established.

And I think that's his main legacy that he understood that this needed to be done. After he left, I mean, we are today looking at an Israeli government twenty-five years later that is not interested in a two-state solution, that says so publicly, and that instead is talking about annexing large parts of the West Bank. We are a long way from where we were in 1995 when Rabin was assassinated.

AMOS: Martin, can you talk a little bit about where you were and does the idea of Palestinian state on the Israeli side die with him?

INDYK: Thank you, Deborah. So I was not there, Marwan, explicitly because Rabin had asked me to stay away. He did not want to associate the United States with this rally. It's quite interesting that he wanted the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors there, but he wanted the U.S. ambassador to stay away. So I was at home, and I got the call from Eitan Haber, his chief of staff, who unfortunately just passed away a couple of weeks ago, and Eitan called me and he just said, Rabin's been shot. Meet me at Ichilov [Hospital]. And as a result, I was only able to get to the hospital after Rabin had died.

As for his legacy, for me, but his courage, his ability to read the map and his courage to act on the conclusions were the most compelling part of his legacy. As Marwan says and Itamar also, there was a conviction on his part that he had to deal with the Palestinians. And now there's some argument about even the right in Israel tries to corrupt his legacy and say that he, you know, was not committed to a Palestinian state. And Marwan has expressed that.

But for me, the moment that I will never forget was the speech that he made, that few people refer to, after he signed the Oslo II Accords a month before he was assassinated. The Oslo II Accord, just to remind people, was the agreement in which Israel handed over 40 percent of the West Bank—the 40 percent of the Palestinian Authority now controls and 90 percent of the Palestinians in the West Bank live in those territories. And that was signed in Washington a month before he was assassinated. He spoke there afterwards, in the presence of Arafat and King Hussein and President Mubarak of Egypt, as well of course, President Clinton.

And he said, turning to Yasser Arafat, he said what we want, what I see is my vision is of Palestinians in an independent entity living alongside a Jewish state of Israel and under their self-rule, they will rule themselves independently. And we will separate from them, not because of hatred, but because of respect. And that was Rabin's vision. And it's that concept of living side by side in peace, separated into two separate entities out of respect, was, I think, the most important legacy and the thing that has been lost now in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

AMOS: Just recently, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was giving a speech on the Arab-Israeli peace process, which he didn't mention Rabin at all. In fact, he was confronted by Rabin's daughter to admonish him that he'd left it out. Let me start with you, Itamar, is that a signal of something, is that simply a mistake, or should we read that as how the Trump administration sees the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin?

RABINOVICH: To begin with, I don't know. You know, it may have been a speech written by someone, it's not exactly Mr. Mnuchin's forte in foreign policy. But it may also be indicative of the attitude of the Trump administration and the close relationship between the Trump administration, the Trump circle, and Netanyahu. Today we had a very awkward incident in the Israeli parliament, in the Knesset, in the memorial for Rabin when Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke and he spoke more about himself than about Rabin, trying to belittle Rabin's contribution, denigrating Oslo, and so forth and so forth. So I suspect that there may be a connection there between the omission of Mnuchin and the commission of Netanyahu.

AMOS: Marwan, do you see it the same way? Is there something to be said about the Trump administration not mentioning Rabin? Is it more than just Netanyahu or do they see the peace process in a different way?

MUASHER: Well, this is a Trump administration, Deborah, that clearly is against a credible two-state solution. They have sided with the Israeli government under Mr. Netanyahu. They have put forward a plan that only caters to the, you know, to Israel's needs. And by agreeing to annexing more than 30 percent of the West Bank, what they are really doing is killing the two-state solution, the very solution that I think Rabin, you know, and King Hussein and others, worked to achieve.

Today, everybody agrees that annexing the West Bank is going to kill a credible two-state solution. And as Itamar said, whether it is intentional or not, there is no question that the Trump plan attempts to kill the peace process as we know it and have Israel have the cake and eat it, too. It's not going to work in my view. But this is clearly an administration that is not serious about a credible two-state solution that gives hope to both Israelis and Palestinians.

AMOS: Let me just do one more follow up, Marwan, before I get to you, Martin, and that is you're in Jordan. So how does that work for Jordan where you have a majority Palestinian population? How does the slow death of any idea about a two-state solution work for Jordan?

MUASHER: Jordan's main reason why it went to Madrid, you know, to Oslo, is exactly to effect a two-state solution to end occupation of, you know, a Palestinian occupied territory, establish a Palestinian state on Palestinian soil as the only way to avoid solving the conflict at Jordan's expense, either through mass transfer of Palestinians into Jordan or through asking Jordan to manage the affairs of Palestinians in areas that Israel does not want to keep. When we signed the peace treaty with Israel, King Hussein and Rabin had a clear understanding that this is what the treaty will do. It will end once and for all the notion that Jordan is Palestine.

Today, Jordan is not, you know, clear that this remains of Israel's objective. If Israel does not want a Palestinian state on Palestinian soil, and it clearly does not want it today, and if Israel also does not want a Palestinian majority in areas under its control that is in Israel's proper, the West Bank in Gaza and East Jerusalem, then to Jordan the only logical alternative for Israel is to try to solve the conflict at Jordan's expense. That explains the bad relations between Israel and Jordan today. And as long as Jordan feels that Israel is not serious about the Palestinian state on Palestinian soil, the relationship I think is not going to improve.

AMOS: Martin, I don't mean to put too much on Steve Mnuchin's comments, but it does in some way represent the administration's thinking. Will it matter, I mean, we are a week away from an election. You know, will we see a big shift if the election changes who's in the White House?

INDYK: So let me, if I might just make a comment about Mnuchin's omission. I don't think that he wrote that speech. He doesn't know anything about the Arab-Israeli conflict and its history. But that speech is consistent with the Trump administration's determined efforts over the last four years to do away with the basic principles, resolutions, plans, and parameters that represent the historical groundwork for the resolution, not just the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the overall Arab-Israeli conflict. I'm talking not just about the Oslo Accords, I'm talking about UN Security Council Resolution 242, which is the basic underpinning of the whole American-led peace process since 1967 in the Six-Day War. I'm talking about the Arab Peace Initiative, which Marwan had such an important role in devising, which called for a resolution of all of these issues based on Resolution 242. In return the Arab world would make peace with Israel.

All of those basic frameworks for negotiating between the Arabs in Israel that led to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, and the Oslo Accords have been written out of the Trump administration's approach to resolving the conflict—purposely. Jason Greenblatt, who used to be the Middle East envoy, working with Jared Kushner, went to the UN Security Council to speak there and tell them that UN Security Council Resolution 242 was outdated, outmoded, and no longer relevant. And this is a resolution not only that Israel accepted, but worked greatly to Israel's benefit. But from their point of view, everything that came before Trump, failed—was all a failed effort—and therefore, should be wiped away in favor of this new approach that was somehow going to resolve the conflict. Of course, they did promote normalization in the end between the UAE and Bahrain and Sudan and Israel to their credit. But these were countries that were not in conflict with Israel. And so it doesn't do anything to end the Arab-Israeli conflict in itself. That will require a resolution to the Palestinian conflict.

Now, what happens a week from now? Well, it depends, of course, who wins. If Vice President Biden wins, I think you will see a reversion to strong support for the two-state solution, not just because he believes that that is the way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but because the Democratic Party is different today. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party has elevated promotion of a two-state solution into a kind of critical issue for them.

Having said that, however, the second thing is that I do not believe that if Biden becomes president that he will make resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a priority. And I say that simply because he's got the pandemic, he's got China, he's got the economy. He's got so many other—climate change, of course—priority issues. And he knows because the people around him worked with me when I was envoy back in 2013-14, that with Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel and Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] as the Palestinian president, the chances of actually moving forward to some final resolution or conflict are between zero and none. And therefore, I think that he will restore relations with the Palestinians, but I wouldn't expect him to take an initiative until there's a change of leadership on both sides and a greater chance of moving forward.

AMOS: Correct that it's not a peace treaty with the Gulf states because they weren't at war.

RABINOVICH: Deborah, may I say something?

RABINOVICH: Itamar here. Actually, yes, contrary to what was said or understood before, the assassination of Rabin did not end the notion of a two-state solution in Israel. There were subsequent efforts to move the peace process forward with the Palestinians. Under Prime Minister [Ehud] Barak and under Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert, it's only since 2009 when Netanyahu came back to power and formed essentially a right-wing government that the Israeli government doesn't support a two-state solution, including the episode that Martin referred to before, the awkward negotiations with the Palestinians. But the main damage, the main disaster that happened in Israel with the assassination of Rabin, in my view, was more domestic than external. It affected the nature of Israeli politics and led to the kind of right-wing preeminence. And by the way, some of the voices, some of the people who incited against Rabin are still there and free speech.

AMOS: Let me ask you this, Itamar, and follow up on the opening with the UAE and Gulf states. How would Rubin have seen that? I mean, there's some things missing from that agreement. And certainly any sort of notion of negotiating with the Palestinians is out of that agreement. How would he have seen that? As a victory? As a half measure? What do you think?

RABINOVICH: No, he would have seen it as very positive, but he would not have confused it with the peace process. Actually, if you go back to the peace process of the 1990s, when Oslo was signed and the Israeli-Jordanian agreement was signed, we had economic conferences—in Casablanca, in Amman, in Qatar—and you had diplomatic delegations by other countries in Israel. You had the Moroccan legation, you had the Mauritanian legation, so what we see now is not all that novel, it all happened in some way in the '90s under Rabin. And Rabin was very happy with this because the sense of normalization was very important in instilling in the Israeli public the sense that things have changed, and one can move forward even when making concessions. But he would not confused it and the main thing, he would definitely not have called it peaceful peace.

AMOS: Marwan, how did the opening with the UAE play in Jordan? I've read lots of press accounts, but I certainly am interested in your view from the ground.

MUASHER: As I said before, Deborah, any development from Jordan's perspective that does not contribute to ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state on Palestinian soil is not something to be celebrated. Yes, these are bilateral agreements, and you know, every country is free to do bilateral agreements. But they should not be celebrated as contributing to the peace process. If there is a contribution to the peace process, in my view, it is a negative one because Mr. Netanyahu is selling these agreements to the Israeli public as normalization with the Arab world as not having to deal with the Palestinians since he can have agreements with the Arab world without having to give up anything in return.

And in so doing, that gives the false impression that peace can come to that part of the world when there is no agreement with the Palestinians. I mean, let me just state the simple fact. It's not the UAE nationals or the Bahraini nationals that are living amongst Israelis, it's the Palestinians. And unless you come to terms with what is soon to become a Palestinian majority in areas under Israel's control, unless you come to terms with that, peace is not going to come to the Middle East. Jordan, you know, on one hand, has good relations, excellent relationships with Bahrain and the UAE.

And on the other hand, it understands well that the consequences of these agreements might work to its disadvantage and that explains Jordan's muted response, if you will. It was a very bland response. It did not celebrate the agreement it did not condemn them. But the real reason and the real factor here is, as I said, Jordan looks with great concern of the death of the two-state solution and what repercussions that will have on its own security.

AMOS: Martin, let me ask you, so this is moving quickly. It's possible that the Saudis will sign on. And I just wondered if you thought that because these relations are opening, because there may be flights, because, you know, Israelis will be happy to be flying through Dubai, that it does somehow, you know, put the Palestinians on the back burner. I mean, the UAE says, well, we've put off annexation, not forever, but for a while. How do you think this plays against the ideas that Rabin had about how to settle this conflict?

INDYK: Well, as Itamar said, Rabin was all in favor of normalization. And was certainly pushing it as hard as he could, and he had considerable success with it. But it was a normalization that was lubricated by the moves that he made on the Palestinian front. What we have now is normalization in the absence of any progress on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. And that is a product of several factors. One, I think is important to recognize is that the Arab states essentially have been waiting for eighteen years for the Palestinians and Israelis to do something. The Arab Peace Initiative, as Marwan knows, goes back to 2002. And they now have other problems, in particular, the UAE and Bahrain are concerned about Iran and Turkey. And they have a common interest with Israel in dealing with that threat. And so they're putting their own national interests above the Arab interest, if you like, in the Palestinian interest.

So I think that the first thing that should happen, and may happen, is that the Palestinians themselves need to come to terms with the dramatic change in their circumstances. And they need to reassess and need to have a process of reassessment to figure out how they can turn normalization from something that was being held back to something that's being used to advance their interests. And that actually happened with the UAE. The UAE's deal was no annexation for normalization. It was very clear cut and Israelis understand that.

And the Saudis, if they come, the Palestinians should be talking to the Saudis now about what their conditions will be. And there are a whole range of things that the Saudis could insist upon, that Israel could do, justified in terms of concessions to the Saudis rather than to the Palestinians. But nevertheless, stopping demolition, stopping settlement expansion, allowing Palestinians to build in areas that are under Israeli control, etcetera. All of those things could change the dynamic between Israel and the Palestinians. At the same time, as Israelis feel that they can breathe more, that they're no longer under siege, that they are accepted by their neighbors, and I do believe, you've lived there Deborah, you know, that that will have an impact on Israelis.

The sense of a greater security that can lead under new leadership in Israel to a greater sense of generosity towards the Palestinians and why that's so essential. And that's coming back to Rabin's legacy, what he understood, is Israel holds all the cards. Israel holds the territory. Israel by respecting the Palestinians, giving them an ability to rule themselves in freedom and independence, is the way to resolve this conflict.

AMOS: We have 166 participants in this call, and so I'm going to open it up for them to ask questions. And I'm going to turn it over to my colleagues at the Council on Foreign Relations to choose who is our first question.

STAFF: We'll take the first question from Robert Lifton.

Q: Hi, it's good to see you all again. I'd like to talk about one legacy of the assassination and that is the assassination itself. Shortly before Arafat's failed meaning with Ehud Barak, we had a luncheon with him in which he made clear his personal physical fear of giving up a right of return. And the basis of that, I wrote a letter to my constituents saying that I thought the meeting with a with Ehud Barak would fail, which indeed it did. At a meeting with Hafez al-Assad, he told us a story about how Anwar Sadat came to him to join with him, but that he thought it was too dangerous, actually putting his finger to his head indicating being shot in the head and suggested that he was at fear of assassination, too, if he made a deal with Israel without solving all of the right of return issues for the Palestinians. I wonder if you think any of this kind of thing influences people, like Abbas or any of the Palestinian leadership, or anybody else in this process?

AMOS: Your mics are open, any one of you can answer.

RABINOVICH: Yes, I think—hi, Robert, this is Itamar. I guess I think, let's put it this way, leaders in the Middle East and in other places when they make such concessions have to think about potential assassination. Yitzhak Shamir's nickname, our former prime minister, was "Michael," in the underground, after Michael Collins, the Irish leader who was assassinated. Leaders do or politicians do think about that, but it doesn't have to be the prevailing consideration.

People mistakenly think that Sadat was killed because he made peace with Israel—that is wrong. He was killed because to the jihadis, he was seen as a pagan ruler in Egypt. Making peace with Israel didn't help but was not the reason. King Abdullah was killed because of his relationship with Israel. But on the whole, given the level of violence, and in our region, the number of leaders who were killed because of making peace with the enemy is quite small.

AMOS: Anyone else? Okay, let's go on to another question.

STAFF: We'll take the next question from Ron Shelp.

Q: Yes, thank you. I'm an author and a frustrated documentary filmmaker. Just out of curiosity, if President Rabin had lived, what do you think the odds are that a two-state solution could have come about? And that's for any of you to answer or all of you.

INDYK: Well, I'll jump in. But I know everybody has a view on this. It's the big question, the big counterfactual. And of course, it's all conjecture. I think that, first of all, Rabin would have had to win the election that was looming, I think, it within twelve months. And that bar was by no means a certainty, because the terrorist attacks that were accompanying his efforts to make peace with the Palestinians, these were terrorist attacks coming from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, these Islamist terrorist organizations that were opposing the peace process, that those terrorist attacks were really harming the cause of peace.

And Netanyahu, of course, after the assassination when he ran against Peres, and defeated him, made a big deal in his campaign, of course, of the terrorist attacks. So I think that's the first question that would have to be resolved, but it's not impossible that Rabin would have won. The number of people that came out to rally in support of him on the night that he was assassinated was truly surprising to him. And to me, too, at the time. And so there was clearly still a strong sentiment for peace. He would have had to get Arafat to crack down on the terrorists, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists. Arafat was reluctant to do so. But he had started to move in that direction.

And here I think is the critical thing, Rabin and Arafat had built a relationship of trust. And Arafat came to believe that Rabin had his interests in mind in a way that I don't think he felt any other Israeli leader that came after Rabin, with the possible exception of Peres, but Peres was only around as prime minister for about seven months. But certainly not Netanyahu, and certainly not Barak. He thought they were out to screw him. And he didn't have a lot of incentive, therefore, to do their bidding.

With Rabin, it was very different and that speech that I described, that Rabin made in Arafat's presence, followed a speech that Arafat made, which was also very different to his usual calls for justice and Palestinian rights to the point where Rabin actually said, you know, “Mr. Chairman, we Jews are famous for only one sport and that's speechmaking. It seems to be that you must be a little Jewish.” And that, I thought, captured the nature of the relationship that had developed between them. And that I think was critical to whether if Rabin had been reelected, he would have been able to get Arafat to do what he needed to do.

Finally, Rabin had a special status amongst Israelis because he was "Mr. Security," precisely because he been such a hawk, such a warrior, such a war hero. They believed in him. And I think that he, much more than any of the leaders that came after him, was capable of convincing the Israeli public of the calculated risks, is what he called them, they would have to take in order to resolve this conflict once and for all. So bottom line is, we can’t, of course, know, but I think it's plausible that Rabin would have been able to achieve something that none of his successes have been able to do.

MUASHER: I'd have to agree with Martin. I mean, yes, Rabin faced a difficult three election challenge in 1996. But I think that, you know, I mean, Peres came within point 5 percent of winning the election, and Rabin would have probably would have won the election. Let's remember that the Oslo process was supposed to end in May 1999. If Rabin had survived and won the election it would have been well within his second term. And I think that there is a good chance, a very good chance, that it would have ended with a resolution.

The problem with the Oslo process, of course, one of the main problems is settlement activity. When Oslo was signed in 1993, Oslo I, the number of settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem was two hundred fifty thousand. They were still manageable in 1999, but today, they are close to seven hundred thousand people. Today, the demographics alone make it very difficult for a two-state solution to emerge. But in 1999, it would have been possible.

RABINOVICH: Yes. And let me take advantage of the fact that Marwan Muasher is with us and bringing the Jordanian angle. Martin made reference before to Rabin's speech and Arafat's speech at the Corcoran Museum after the signing of Oslo II. Rabin did speak there of a Palestinian independent entity, but he also spoke about, in not very clear terms, about the need to have some formulation—Israeli, Jordanian, Palestinian—that could have facilitated the solution of the problem. And because if you bring a third partner in, you increase the pie, you make it easier.

But you also you can consider Jordan's interest. Jordan has a very significant and very justified interest in the future of a Palestinian entity. And any entity that would have emerged as a result of Rabin's negotiation with Arafat, in his own eyes could not have threatened Jordan in any way. So it never happened. The trilateral—Israeli, Jordanian, Palestinian—is not very active now. But at the time on Rabin's mind, maybe not in a fully-fledged way, but this as in a nebulous way, was an important consideration.

INDYK: I think there's one other thing, Deborah, I want to add if I could, that Rabin has stood for. His approach was very much a step-by-step approach, a gradualist approach. He called it "phase by phase." The Oslo Accords did not define what the outcome would be. It never mentioned a Palestinian state, or Jerusalem, or refugees, or as Marwan knows, settlements. It didn't define the outcome because he knew that the outcome that he was at that point ready to support, Arafat could not accept.

And the outcome that Arafat wanted, he could not accept. So for him, it was about a process of coming to terms of learning to live with each other, of trying to build trust in each other in a way that would make these issues easier to deal with in the end. So I actually think that if he had survived, they wouldn't have made the final deal in the timeframe of Oslo in the five years. He would have put it off and Arafat would have agreed to it, too, because Arafat wasn't ready for those compromises that Robert Lifton referred to that would have been, for him, life threatening or at least he thought.

So, I think that, you know, to redefine the question in a way, it's not that they would necessarily have been a final agreement between Rabin and Arafat had he lived, but that there would have been a meaningful process moving towards a final agreement that would have, I think, had much greater chance of resolving the conflict of a time, than the efforts that his successors, particularly Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, when they tried to get a final agreement and could not do so.

AMOS: Thank you. And who knows, maybe the UAE would have come in back then. Can we have the next question, please?

STAFF: Sure. And as a reminder, to ask a question, please click on the “raise hand” icon on your Zoom window. We'll take the next question from Hani Findakly.

Q: Yes. Hi. Hello, Marwan. Hello, Martin. Nice to see you here virtually. As you know, I’m not focused so much on the parochial political issues, but I am focused on the economic issues. And I wanted to get your reaction to what I see over the medium and long term. The Arab population today is about four hundred million people. My own prediction is that they will double in the next 30 to 40 years and they will double again, there will be about a billion and a half Arabs, give or take, by the end of the century. And there's a huge social, political, and obviously economic implication, there's going to have to be a need to pay somewhere in the range of about $600 to $800 billion over the course of the next 70-80 years.

And there is nothing, no government today, that is capable and has plans and has ideas about how to go about doing that. We talk about the countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, today, Apple computers will release its earnings report. Last year it earned two hundred sixty billion U.S. dollars. That's the revenue for the company. It's roughly equal to about eight times the entire earnings from oil of the country like the UAE. And it's about three times, four times the size of earnings that Arabia has of oil. So looking over the long term, what do you see given the whole new changing dynamics for the Arab world and the way governments and society is going to deal with this issue and how this Palestinian-Israeli conflict fit within that context.

AMOS: That's some interesting data. Marwan, you want to take this?

MUASHER: Well, the Arab world today—Hani, first, it's good to hear your voice, it's been a while. The Arab world is undergoing a huge transformation in political and economic terms, societal terms as well. They oil era is over, Hani, as you know. It started in 2014 with the decline in oil prices below a hundred dollars a barrel. It was deepened with COVID-19 and basically collapsed of the rentier period in the Arab world. They Arab world lost the traditional tools it used to have to keep social peace. The economic tools of, you know, brought about by oil, and the fear of security, which was broken in 2011 by people going to the street and protesting against the lack of good governance.

Unfortunately, as you said, most Arab governments today, if they understand that the old tools are gone, are not ready to employ new tools that, you know, move towards inclusive decision-making, that has a new education system that emphasizes critical thinking, and prepares people for the complexities of today's world that has a new economic system that moves away from the rentierism and more towards productive economies. All of these are issues that require a fundamental shift in the mindset of most governments, if not all, in the Arab world. And unfortunately, such a mindset is not there.

The Arab world, maybe with the exception of Tunisia, has not yet been able to understand that the world has changed. And the tools of the twentieth century cannot work for the challenges of the twenty-first century. So we are in this interim period where the old Arab order has died. But a new order is having great difficulty being born because the status quo forces in the Arab world, basically most Arab governments, remain resilient to any change that would have them share their power, not lose it, but share their power with the populace. There remains a great resilience to that. And I'm afraid that this resistance to change is not going to bode well for the future.

RABINOVICH: Deborah, should I comment? Okay. In fact, in the normalization with the Emirates, and to some extent with Bahrain, there is an element of that. I think, you know, without Israel of course is, at the end of the day, a small country but it has highly developed technology, electronic, computers, biomed, and so forth. And I think that the Emiratis see a potential of using the relationship in Israel, you know, to expand and develop their own economy and we see in a surprising volume of business already taking shape in both directions—delegations from Israel going there and delegations from the Emirates coming to Israel trying to buy assets in Israel and so forth. And I think this helps to explain the breakthrough, but of course, Israel can do so much. I mean, larger actors than Israel—the United States, European Union and so forth—should be bought as to a transformation.

But, you know, the Arab world should look at the Asia—look at the Asian tigers. Look at where Egypt was in the early 1950s and where Korea was after the Korean War and where Korea is today and where Egypt is today. Many of these countries in Asia—Muslim countries—they've done very well. But this is something that has to come from within the Arab world. The Arab Human Development Report that was published by the UN early in this decade is an indication that there are people in the Arab world who are aware of it are capable of identifying the problem and of drawing a map. And so Israelis or Americans or Europeans can be partners, but I think, as Marwan suggested himself, the impetus should come from within.

AMOS: Martin, I wondered if how much we should account for instability in the big Arab countries—Saudi Arabia, Egypt—because of the economy and because of the leadership in both of those places. You know, so far, the Saudis are on a path to revamping their economy. But, you know, the political decisions made by the leadership there put some of that at risk. Is that more of a problem than peace with the Palestinians?

INDYK: Definitely, I think the Saudis under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, very much see their priorities as focused on development and modernization of their society. So, unfortunately, he also engaged in all manner of adventures abroad that’s distracting them from that. But I do think that that is a very big experiment dragging Saudi society into the twenty-first century, very necessary for all the reasons that Hani laid out and highly consequential. Because if Mohammed bin Salman succeeds at that, it will have a profound impact or kind of ripple effect across the Arab world. And if he fails, it'll also be profoundly negative.

And so I just wish that he would focus on this challenge and leave all these other egregious actions on his path behind. Having said that, I think, you know, we can we can talk about the challenges of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and you’re right because they're the biggest, the most consequential, but we've got failed states in Libya, in Syria, a failing state in Lebanon, and a struggling state in Iraq, a terrible war in Yemen that's causing great humanitarian crisis. Now all of those problems are going to have to be dealt with as well. And there, you know, unfortunately, it’s going in the wrong direction. And so I think that there will continue to be huge, huge problems in the region that don't lend themselves to easy fixes and that don’t depend on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That is a problem for Israel and the Palestinians, primarily, and really, for Israel. And Israel has such a huge potential to participate in the development of the Middle East, and has so much to offer, but is unable to resolve the problem it has with the Palestinians. It's always going to be handicapped, not so much politically anymore, but in terms of, you know, the problem that the failure to solve that will present to Israel's own society and its stability over time.

AMOS: We have time for one more question. I'm going to ask my colleagues to give us one more and then we will wrap up this wonderful hour.

STAFF: We'll take the next question from Judith Miller.

Q: Hi, so good to see you all. I guess, you know, such interesting points, but here's my question about the Rabin legacy. You talked about how tough he was, Martin, how “Mr. Security”—Itamar, you did the same thing. But when I went last year to see Yigal Amir's shrine, gravesite, it suddenly reminds one of how Israel itself has changed dramatically. And is the Israel of Yitzhak Rabin, in what would Yitzhak Rabin have made of the power today of the settlers’ movement? And is anything in that legacy possibly relevant today to the modern Israeli state we know? And finally, how would Yitzhak Rabin have handled the Iranian challenge both nuclear and its regional ambitions? What would he have done given “Mr. Security's” outlook?

AMOS: Thanks for the last one. But let's start with Itamar and see if we can wrap up on time after that question. Thank you.

RABINOVICH: Okay, let me do two briefly. One is with regard to the settlers. Twenty years before the assassination in the mid-1970s when Henry Kissinger was coming to Israel to negotiate the agreements of that period and the settlers were demonstrating against him in a very vile language, Rabin denounced them as a cancer in the body of the nation. And he was very powerful in that regard. And he identified early on the potential dangers that a fanatical movement had.

Second with regard to Iran, I think Rabin was a very smart analyst. He knew Israel's capabilities and the limits of Israel's capabilities. Iran, you know, is too much for Israel alone. He would have understood that the solution to the problem needs to be international, that Israeli alone cannot cope with the potential of this hundred million people nation with the science and money in research and everything that Iran has. And he would have tried to, I think, foster an international approach, not a unilateral Israeli effort to solve the issue of the Iranian nuclear.

MUASHER: I will say one thing. If Rabin was alive today, he would look with great horror at the death of the two-state solution. The death of the two-state solution, and I maintain that it is that, is going to change the focus of the conflict from the shape of a solution to a rights-based approach. If the Palestinians cannot have a Palestinian state on Palestinian soil, the next best thing they will ask for is equal political rights within the area that they live in.

And the international community is not going to be able to indefinitely say to the Palestinians, no to a state and no to equal rights. That means yes to apartheid. And no country in the world, including the United States, can tolerate, you know, condone apartheid indefinitely. That is what Rabin would have worked against. He understood the need for separation. He understood the need for Palestinians to rule themselves because the alternative is not going to be good for the state of Israel.

AMOS: Martin, you get one minute but the last word.

INDYK: Marwan and Itamar said it all very well. I think, but unlike Marwan, I don't believe that two-state solution is dead or rather, given that it's the Holy Land, that it's dead but not buried and will soon be resurrected because none of the other solutions, including the one that he referred to, are solutions. They are just recipes for continuation of the conflict. So Rabin's legacy of peace with the Palestinians is something that will have to happen sooner or later. And it will be based on precisely, as Marwan just said, on separation into two independent entities—an Israeli state, Jewish state, living alongside a Palestinian, he said entity, a Palestinian state, that in which the Palestinians rule themselves and Israel will have separated from them, not out of hatred, but out of respect. It's not too late to redeem that legacy, and I believe it will be redeemed. That's not in our time, but sooner or later.

AMOS: Martin, thank you very much for ending with essentially what Rabin been would say if he was with us twenty-five years later. Thank you, Council on Foreign Relations. Thank you everybody who joined us. Thank you, gentlemen. It was illuminating and it's lovely to see all of you.

Rabin’s son decries ‘rewriting of history’ of assassinated PM

The son of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin decried the “delegitimization” of his father and efforts to “rewrite the history” of his legacy on Saturday, 22 years to the day after the premier was assassinated at a peace rally.

“The impression has been created that Yitzhak Rabin woke up in the morning and thought about how to evacuate settlers, how to kill more Jews, how to bring more terrorists,” said Yuval Rabin at a cultural event in Givat Shmuel.

“There is also a process of delegitimization here, the creation of an infrastructure for rewriting history,” he added, according to the Ynet news site. “I don’t want to name names or point fingers, but everyone knows there is a process that serves [the] political interests of all sorts of actors.”

His comments came ahead of the annual rally marking the assassination, to be held Saturday evening in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.

The rally, held this year under the slogan “We are one people,” will include speakers from across the political spectrum, including former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit and local municipality leaders alongside representatives of the ultra-Orthodox and settler communities.

“On the 22nd anniversary of the Rabin assassination, it’s time to look ahead,” organizers said. “To the Israel we all want to see and live in. One that, despite differences, advances that which unites over that which divides. One that strives to realize the spirit of the declaration of independence” and to bring about “a model society. One that can come about, if we choose it.”

Yuval Rabin’s latest comments came after he issued a scathing tirade against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a memorial event for his late father earlier in the week.

“Yitzhak Rabin did not work against the democratic rights of those who opposed him, or tried to silence those who opposed him,” he said in regard to Netanyahu, without mentioning him by name. “Even when he was exposed to waves of the most terrible incitement he was the prime minister for everyone.”

Responding to Yuval Rabin’s remarks, Netanyahu called for national reconciliation and unity, directly addressing his criticism Wednesday at a Knesset memorial service marking 22 years since Rabin was assassinated.

“You challenged me, and I took up the gauntlet,” Netanyahu said. “I call for national reconciliation and brotherhood. I have done it many times before, but in light of your moving call, I repeat this message with all my might. I call for unity, based around the security and political principles shared today by the majority of the nation.”

Addressing Netanyahu’s call for national unity, Rabin said Saturday that while he hoped political tensions could be reduced, more action is necessary.

“I hope we can truly advance what the prime minister called ‘taking up the gauntlet,’ and work first of all towards reducing the flames and the end of incitement amongst us,” said Rabin. “I want to believe, and the test will be action, not words.”

He also said Netanyahu has the ability to help end incitement due to his standing in Likud, the ruling party in the governing coalition.

“Netanyahu is unequivocally an almost absolute authority in the Likud movement and can stop or certainly moderate these processes,” he said.

Tens of thousands have regularly attended the rally in past years and police were expected to show a heavy presence to provide security.

Organizers’ message of unity, rather than the more traditional call for peace and denunciation of extremism, has angered some on the left, with some saying the shift in emphasis to promoting national unity was an attempt to gloss over the assassination.

Right-wing extremist Yigal Amir shot Rabin to death on Nov. 4, 1995, at the end of an event the then-prime minister held to demonstrate public support for his efforts to make peace with the Palestinians. In the following days, and every year since on the Saturday nearest to the anniversary date, thousands of Israelis have gathered in Rabin Square, as it was renamed, to pay their respects.

JTA contributed to this report.

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Episode Transcript

The evening of November 4, 1995 was a Saturday night that started off like any other. Immediately upon extinguishing the havdalah candle, my older brother Chanan and I rushed downstairs to switch on our basement television to watch our favorite Saturday night show, Walker, Texas Ranger.

But this Saturday night was to be different.

As we flipped through the channels, I vividly recall my father and mother slowly descending the staircase and coming into my field of vision. The pain and shock on their faces was obvious and unsettling. “Rabin was killed,” they muttered in disbelief. “Rabin was assassinated.”

Although I was not particularly interested in politics — certainly not Israeli politics — as a 10-year-old growing up in Baltimore, I was raised to be a committed Religious Zionist. I had heard of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. I recalled the image of him awkwardly, limpingly shaking the hand of Yasser Arafat. As I stood there in that basement, looking at my parents, I knew that a major event in the history of Israel and the Jewish people had just taken place.

There is no question that the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin on November 4th 1995 was one of the most difficult moments in Israeli history and honestly in modern Jewish history. In today’s episode, we’re going to dive into the life of Rabin, his legacy and of course his assassination and how it has impacted Israeli society ever since.

It makes me think, what if Rabin was never assassinated? How would life look different? And, even before that, how did it get to the point that a Jew killed another Jewish leader? That fateful night, November 4th, 1995, altered the story of Israel…or maybe it didn’t?

A little biographical background to get us started. Born in Jerusalem in 1922, Rabin, a secular Jew, joined the legendary elite strike force called the Palmach in 1941. By 1947, Rabin became the chief of operations for the Palmach, setting the table for his key involvement in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war as one of the IDF’s key leaders. During this War of Independence, Rabin directed Israeli operations in Jerusalem and fought the Egyptian forces in the Negev. By 1964, Rabin was named the IDF’s Chief of Staff by Israel’s third prime minister Levi Eshkol. As Chief of Staff, Rabin helped build up Israel’s air fleet. This fleet would prove to be Israel’s most important tool in 1967, at the start of the Six-Day-War, when Rabin helped mastermind the legendary and quite necessary preemptive strike that crippled Egyptian air bases. Rabin was quickly becoming a legendary leader and strategist in the annals of Israeli history.

After serving a few years as Israel’s ambassador to the United States in Washington DC, Rabin returned to Israel and on June 3, 1974, he made history as Israel’s first prime minister who was born in the land of Israel. In this sense, Rabin was the ultimate Sabra! This first stint as Prime Minister was highlighted by Operation Entebbe also called Operation Thunderbolt, the miraculous rescue of hostages held in Entebbe airport in Uganda and lowlighted (not a word) with the shame of a financial scandal involving his wife Leah. But that’s a story for another time.

While many people have heard of Rabin and his multiple military and political accomplishments, we often don’t really know that much about the person himself. Yitzchak Rabin was a real person and he was actually a really complicated figure. Both revered and reviled, ultimately, he was a man of paradoxes. A war hero and a peacemaking icon. Hawkish like in his taking a lead role in expelling the Arabs in Lydda during the 1948 War of Independence or his strength against the Palestinian Arabs during the First Intifada and dovish as in his pursuit for peace with the Palestinians and striking a peace deal with the Jordanians. Socially awkward, an introvert and with a monotone way of speaking, Rabin was a dignified international statesman who is credited with engineering some of Israel’s boldest geopolitical decisions.

This was one interesting man who deserves a separate podcast on his life, but for our purposes let’s unpack his second tenure as prime minister, fastforwarding to 1992 when Rabin was re-elected. His second go-round as prime minister, Rabin, a man who had seen so much war, appeared to have a singular mission: peace. He had his eye on the much-eluded prize.

And the time seemed right. 1993 was a big year for Israel. McDonalds, Madonna and Michael Jackson all came to Israel. Companies like PepsiCola, Honda, and Toyota who previously avoided Israel were now readily available there.

Things were good in Israel! And this is the context in which the “peace process” was taking place.

Rabin and Israel’s Foreign minister, Shimon Peres oversaw the initiation of the Oslo Process, a shaky peace proposal with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The process created deep rifts within Israeli society that are still felt today. Some Israelis feared that concessions and a peace process would lead to more terror and war, not peace. The thinking was that if the Palestinians weren’t sincere they’d ultimately use their new autonomy to perpetrate more violence against Israelis. And this fear was not without warrant. Of course, there was settlement building and the one terrible massacre by one Jewish extremist named Baruch Goldstein in February of 1994 — which is a whole other story we told in a previous podcast — but the first year of peacemaking was moreviolent against Israelis than the entire First Intifada. 60 Israelis were killed. Palestinian extremism and terrorism was at an all time high. But other Israelis were optimistic and saw hope for a brighter, more peaceful future with Palestinian neighbors and potentially a separate state for Palestinians. For ardent religious nationalists, giving up biblically-ordained Jewish land to create a Palestinian State was fundamentally wrong.

In September of 1993, the Oslo process reached a climax. With cameras clicking, Rabin unenthusiastically shook hands with PLO leader Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn with President Bill Clinton glowing while standing between them. Some reporters described Rabin’s awkwardness as a reluctant groom about to say “I do.” But, the prospect of peace between Israelis and Palestinians appeared to be real and was bright on the world stage.

Many Palestinian terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad were fervently opposed to the Oslo Process and Arafat would speak out of both sides of his mouth in order to patronize all of his audiences, engaging in what I would consider BS behavior. While speaking the language of peace in English, he would call for “jihad to liberate Jerusalem” in fiery Arabic speeches. During this time Palestinian terror attacks, especially suicide bombings were pervasive. There were bombings, stabbings, hand grenades, and molotov cocktails. October of 1994 saw the brutal capture and subsequent murder of of Nachshon Waxman. From those in Rabin’s inner circle, they described the search for Waxman as the most painful two weeks of Rabin’s tenure. As a young nine-year-old when Waxman was abducted, I remember hoping, praying and just feeling so sad for Nachshon’s mother. While watching this story unfold in my parent’s boxy 25 inch zenith TV in their bedroom, I remember thinking to myself, “Please make sure he is returned safely,” but it just did not happen. From January until August 1995, 40 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinian suicide bombers. Widespread protests in Israel voiced displeasure with land concessions in a peace deal citing serious security concerns. In some extreme cases, this included hate-filled rhetoric, even death threats, in Rabin’s direction.

Now we’ve caught up with where we began today’s episode, the fateful evening of November 4th 1995. Leading up to this rally, the sentiment within the Israeli public was moving more and more against the peace process, which many felt was anythingbut peaceful. In some protests, people dressed effigies of Rabin in Nazi uniforms and burned them, calling Rabin a murderer and a traitor. In one instance, while making an appearance at the Wingate Institute in central Israel, a crowd gathered around Rabin, screaming at him and even spitting on the Prime Minister. As terrorism continued to drain support for the peace process, a major rally was organized under the platform “Yes to Peace, No to Violence”with the goal of bringing voice to the peace camp and regaining hope in the peace process. That Saturday night, he was anxious that there would be a low turnout but was shocked to see 100,000 people standing in Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv upon his arrival. When Rabin stepped up to the podium to speak, the crowd was chanting “Rabin, king of Israel.”

More powerful than his usual monotone, Rabin declared:

I was a military man for 27 years. I fought as long as there was no chance for peace. I believe there is a chance now, a great chance, and we must take advantage of it.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said that it was the happiest he had ever seen Rabin, possibly the happiest day of his life. After the rally ended with the singing of Shir L’Shalom (the song for peace), Rabin placed the lyrics of the song into his jacket pocket, walked down the stairs towards his car through cheering supporters surrounded by his security guards when suddenly Israeli history changed forever. Yigal Amir, a kippah-wearing Jew, (I’ll describe why that’s important soon) walked up to Rabin, and fired three bullets towards him.

Within 40 minutes, Rabin’s bureau chief Eitan Haber announced the following outside of the Hospital: “The government of Israel announces in consternation, in great sadness, and in deep sorrow, the death of Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin, who was murdered by an assassin, tonight in Tel Aviv. The government shall convene in one hour for a mourning session in Tel Aviv. Blessed be his memory.” Rabin was dead.

The first politically-motivated assassination of a Jewish leader since 1933 when Chaim Arlossorof was assassinated on the beach. Not since since the murder of Gedaliah Ben Ahikam over 2,500 years earlier had we seen the leader of the Jewish people killed by another Jew…and we have a whole fast day to commemorate that event until this day, Tzom Gedalia.

How could this happen? How did we get to this point? And who really killed Rabin?

How did we get here? Well, there were some right-wing Jewish extremists who had been citing mis-applied religious law to radicalize young religious Jews. They said that if a Jew hands over the property of another Jew to someone who is not Jewish, this is called Din Moser and the person who commits this crime is known as a rodef. If someone is a rodef, they deserve to be killed, says the law, but the law has LOTS of context and is notmeant to be carried out practically. A young Orthodox law student named Yigal Amir felt otherwise. In his estimation, Rabin, who was negotiating with Arafat, the mastermind behind countless terrorist attacks, was someone who meant Jews harm. Amir believed that Rabin giving more land to Arafat would only lead to more terror, and more dead Jews as it had before. He saw Rabin as a man with a death sentence hanging over him. Yigal Amir was sentenced to life in prison in March of 1996 after trying to make the argument in court that the assassination was in accordance with Jewish law.

Amir defended himself, saying “The Torah is the brain. If the Torah tells you to do something that runs counter to your emotions, you do what runs counter to your emotions. Din Moser and Din Rodef are halakhic rulings. Once something is a halakhic ruling, there is no longer a moral issue.”

While rabbis like Eliezer Melamed, Daniel Shilo and Dov Lior had written about this concept, it was Amir who materialized it and turned it practical.

The Israeli judges rejected this claim and said “The attempt to grant religious authority to the murder…is completely inappropriate and amounts to cynical exploitation of Jewish law for goals that are alien to Judaism.”

But, did Yigal Amir really kill Rabin? Here is where things get a bit wacky. Although there is clear-cut evidence that Yigal Amir murdered Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin in cold blood on November 4th 1995 with eye witness testimonies, a confession and even an amateur video of the assassination itself, there are still people, surprisingly, that question the events that took place that fateful evening. As in many cases when major events take place, the magnitude of the events captures peoples’ imaginations and conspiracy theories are developed. With both left wing and right wing conspiracies out there, here are some of the claims brought up by some of the conspiracy theorists out there:

  • One claim states that the three police officers who had been present during the shooting testified that “when Yitzhak Rabin was placed in the car, he showed no visible wounds. Also, they claim that no blood was seen coming from Rabin at the scene, despite wounds to his lung and spleen, nor was any found later in the same location. Alternatively, witnesses described seeing blood “gushing” from a chest wound upon Rabin’s arrival at the hospital.
  • Another claim says that Rabin’s wife, Leah Rabin stated that a security guard told her immediately after the incident that the bullets shot at her husband were “blanks”. She also stated that she was told by an Israeli security chief that she “should not worry as the whole thing had been staged.”
  • Others claim that the drive from Kings of Israel Square to the hospital was abnormally long despite the fact that the roads had been blocked off

In 2019, well-known Israeli professor from Bar Ilan University Mordechai Kedar unleashed a political earthquake when he claimed that Yigal Amir was not the man to kill Rabin and that the assassination was orchestrated by a senior politician against the backdrop of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. After facing major public pressure to apologize for his comments, Kedar said he would rather resign from his position than apologize for asserting Amir’s innocence.

According to a poll released in 2018 by an Israeli tv channel, only 60% of Israelis fully believe that Yigal Amir assassinated Yitzchak Rabin. Crazy, right? Well, not really. Whenever major assassinations take place, there are conspiracy theories that arise, like the assassination of JFK, the slaying of legendary hip hop artist Tupac Shakur, or even the murder of Michael Jordan’s father, James Jordan. If you watched the show “The Last Dance”, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Ironically or maybe the better word is fascinatingly, Hagai Amir, Yigal’s brother who was also arrested for his part has explained away these conspiracy theories. “The problem with the conspiracy theories,” Amir insists, “Is that they take away the whole ideological statement [we] were trying to make by killing Rabin.”

Yes, conspiracy theories capture our imaginations by placing just a seed of doubt and allowing us to distrust the authorities…They can indeed be fascinating but in the case of Rabin, it kind of serves against Yigal Amir’s whole point. Right?

Ultimately, this story is interesting for lots of reasons, but it is so important because of how it impacted Israeli society with religious and secular Israelis feeling torn from one another. Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, the head of the Har Etzion yeshiva in Gush Etzion, showing his colors as a powerful leader, bravely lamented:

The circumstances of [Rabin’s] cold-blooded murder… are a source of great pain and distress for us… We should feel deep shame that this method of supposedly solving conflicts has become part of our culture.

But naturally, this shame should be felt by our camp, the National Religious camp, more than any other. Here was a man who grew up in the best of our institutions. A day before the murder, he could have been cited as a shining example of success and achievement, and a source of communal pride… But if a day before the murder we would have said proudly, “See what we have produced,” we must say it now as well — “See what we have produced!” It is indefensible that one who is willing to take credit when the sun is shining should shrug off responsibility when it begins to rain.

Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun, another leader from Yeshivat Har Etzion went even harder, saying “The problem is these Torah authorities (you know, the three I mentioned earlier), without whom no kid would have dared such a thing.”

From my understanding, these rabbis certainly did not mean anyone should commit this heinous act of violence, but Bin Nun saw it differently. He was shaken up. This event shook everyone. The peace process, which had already been vulnerable, was now barely holding on.

It leads me to ask What if!?

What if Rabin chose not to show up that fateful night?

What if Rabin had never been murdered?

Would Israel have made peace with the Palestinians?

Would the Jewish State no longer exist because of Palestinian terrorism?

Was Amir’s assassination a “two for one” deal in which he killed both Rabin and the peace process or was the peace process going down the drain anyway, doomed to failure from the beginning?

It’s the ultimate What if. It’s speculation and conjecture to come up with a definitive answer, but I think these questions are worthy of exploration.

Five Fast Facts

So that’s the story of Yitzhak Rabin’s Assassination. here are your five fast facts.

  1. Yitzchak Rabin was the first Israeli prime minister to be born in the country.
  2. Rabin orchestrated the successful pre-emptive attack in the 1967 war that led to Israel’s victory.
  3. Rabin was prime minister during Operation Thunderbolt when he oversaw the rescue of hostages in Entebbe.
  4. Rabin was assassinated immediately following a peace rally in Tel Aviv at Kings of Israel Square, later renamed Rabin Square.
  5. Rabin’s assassination led to deep rifts in Israeli society, between right and left and between religious and secular Israelis.

Those are the facts, but here is one enduring lesson as I see it. We know that Rabin’s legacy is a complicated one, a profound one. Paradoxes abound. Savvy military man. Israel’s most well-known peace seeking icon — a winner of the nobel peace prize. Anxiety-ridden in private but bold and respected on the world stage. So, sure, we can call him paradoxical. But another way to look at Rabin is as a man who evolved over time and adapted to different political eras, to his benefit or to his detriment, depending on how you look at it. He was not just a paradoxical man, but someone who was willing to learn, to change, to evolve. In regards to magnitude and impact, Rabin’s assassination is the Israeli equivalent of the JFK assassination or 911 for the younger generation. He was a man who Jordanian president King Hussein described as a brother, colleague and friend. President Bill Clinton described Rabin as “my partner and my friend.” I admired him so much.” Like Rabin or not, if you walk the streets of Israel, you are sure to get many different opinions. But, I can tell you one thing: When you walk the streets of Israel and ask people to remember where they were when they got the news of Rabin’s assassination, they’ll recall in detail. Putting the kids to bed. Watching TV. Out with friends. Everyone remembers. As I said at the start, as a 10 year old boy in my basement in Baltimore, I remember too. May his memory be a blessing.

From a firm 'No' to the Oslo peace process

After a tenure as prime minister in the 1970's, Rabin, leader of Israel's Labor Party, held the post for a second time in 1992 and formed a Labor-led coalition government. At that time, at least officially, there was no talk of peace with the Palestinians. "We used to parrot the party line that we would never talk to the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) because the PLO is a terror organization", says Dromi. "I remember my shock when I woke up in the morning to find out that Rabin authorized the secret channels in Oslo to reconcile with the PLO."

The Oslo peace talks failed to provide the ultimate breakthrough to achieve peace

Behind the scenes, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had gathered in the Norwegian capital Oslo to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On September 13, 1993, Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat ratified the Declaration of Principles (or Oslo I Accord) at the White House in Washington, under the auspices of US president Bill Clinton.

"On this specific flight to Washington he couldn't sleep. He was restless. He knew he was going there to do something which was against everything he stood for. He had fought the Arabs all his life," remembers Dromi. But he concluded that making peace with the Palestinians will promote Israel's security, although "he wasn't sure it was going to work." In Washington, Rabin ended up writing history with the words: "We who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you today in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears. Enough."

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In the wake of Yair Netanyahu&rsquos remarks, Labor-Gesher held a protest at Tel Aviv&rsquos Rabin Square that drew around 100 participants.

&ldquoThe Netanyahu family never left the balcony,&rdquo Peretz told the crowd, referring to Benjamin Netanyahu&rsquos appearance at Jerusalem&rsquos Zion Square a few weeks before the assassination. &ldquoYigal Amir won&rsquot murder another person. He will spend the rest of his life in prison. But many Yigal Amirs are reading the tweets, hearing very clearly the absence of reservations [expressed by] their leader, the father, and understand what they must do.&rdquo

What if Israel's Assassinated PM Yitzhak Rabin Had Lived?

Tel Aviv, Israel: Would Israelis and Palestinians now be living in peace with one another if a Jewish extremist had not assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin 20 years ago?

That question, and thoughts on the nature of today's Jewish state, are on the minds of many Israelis as the anniversary of the November 4, 1995 assassination highlights the gulf between visionary hope and stark reality.

Tens of thousands of Israelis as many as 100,000 according to some media reports gathered late Saturday for a memorial rally in the Tel Aviv square where Rabin was shot dead and which now bears his name.

Rabin, who headed the victorious Israeli armed forces in the 1967 Six-Day War, as premier chose instead the path of peace, sharing the 1994 Nobel Prize with domestic rival Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for their roles in forging the Oslo peace accords.

Twenty years after that time of euphoria for the Israeli peace camp, the mood at Rabin Square on Saturday was sombre.

Merav, 44, a regular at the annual event, said it was the largest turnout for years, but she also felt further than ever from the spirit of the murdered politician.

"I have not had hope since November 4, 1995. Our innocence was also killed on that evening," she said, agreeing with the many who say that the Oslo agreements died alongside Rabin.

"Rally of Despair" was the heading to a commentary on the event in the Israeli daily Maariv "Rally to Nowhere" was the headline in the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot.

Since the beginning of October, Israelis and Palestinians have been embroiled in a new wave of violence that has seen nine Israelis, 67 Palestinians and an Arab Israeli killed, raising fears of a new Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

The two sides have not talked peace for more than 18 months.

Two states concept 'dead'

Former US president and friend of Rabin Bill Clinton urged the Tel Aviv crowd on Saturday "to complete the final chapter in the story" of Rabin's quest for peace.

But as he spoke, Ofir Akunis, science minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, the most rightwing in Israeli history, was saying elsewhere that the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel "is dead", Maariv reported.

Given this atmosphere, many people are asking: "What would have happened had Rabin not been killed?"

If he had lived to serve another term, "We would have reached a permanent agreement with the Palestinians and perhaps peace with Syria," Uri Savir, Israel's chief negotiator at talks leading to the Oslo Accords, told AFP.

After the assassination the left was defeated in a general election and Netanyahu was elected premier for the first time.

"He has worked to meticulously dismantle everything that was foreseen," Savir said.

"Do you think we have a magic wand? No. Must we always live by the sword? The answer is yes," Netanyahu was quoted as telling a parliamentary committee last month.

Some on the left doubt if Rabin would have been able to pursue his goals to their hoped for conclusion had he lived.

'A respectable leader'

"If Rabin was alive he would be a retired but hyperactive nonagenarian like Peres," said Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist for the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.

"Netanyahu would nonetheless be prime minister and would continue to explain why everything is the fault of the Palestinians."

Rabin's daughter, former MP Dalia Rabin, says that there was no real glue between her father and Arafat and that he could not have brought about lasting peace on his own.

"There is a feeling that a sort of relationship of trust was built between Arafat and Rabin, but it was, on the whole, very fragile," she said.

A poll published by the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom said that 76 percent of respondents considered Rabin "a respectable leader" and he was missed by 55 percent, but only a third approved of the Oslo Accords.

Palestinians also have mixed feelings about Rabin, recalling how as defence minister during the first Palestinian intifada that erupted in 1987 he called on soldiers to "break the bones" of rioters.

Arafat's successor, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, referred in a September speech at the United Nations to the "cancer" of Jewish settlement.

Today, for the Palestinian public, both its own leadership and Rabin are emblematic of the failure of the Oslo process.

Opinion: Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination 25 years ago was an intelligence failure

THE ASSASSINATION OF YITZHAK Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, on the evening of November 4, 1995, by an extreme right-wing Jew was one of the most traumatic events in the history of the State of Israel. Contrary to the public perception that the assassination happened as a result of a security failure and poor management of the Israel Security Agency (ISA), I argue that the murder was mainly due to an ISA intelligence failure.

“The Shamgar Inquiry Commission”, as it was known because it was chaired by Meir Shamgar, former president of the Supreme Court, submitted its report in March 1996. This commission found significant failures in the security measures taken by the ISA to protect the late Prime Minister. But, in my opinion, its findings were seriously wrong, as it avoided diving into the major intelligence failure that led to this tragic incident.

On the evening of November 4, 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was killed by Yigal Amir, a 27-year-old student who was known as an extreme rightwing activist. Amir was waiting for the prime minister next to his car and shot Rabin three times from a close distance, in spite of the fact that four of Rabin’s bodyguards were surrounding the prime minister. Amir claimed to have done it “for Israel, for the people of Israel and the State of Israel”. He was found guilty and was sent to serve a life sentence in prison.

The progress in the peace process with the Palestinians, known as the Oslo Accords of 1993, allowed the political breakthrough of a peace agreement with Jordan in October 1994. Rabin was awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres, for their role in the creation of the Oslo Accords.

The Accords greatly divided the Israeli society, with some seeing Rabin as a hero for promoting the cause of peace, and some seeing him as a traitor for giving away land viewed as rightfully belonging to Israel. Many rightwing Israelis often blamed Rabin for Jewish deaths in Palestinian terrorist attacks, attributing them to the Oslo agreements. There was wild incitement by rabbis and politicians from the right (including Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu), disobedience by far-right organizations to the police and the rule of law, and rabbinical rulings that saw Prime Minister Rabin as a traitor because he approved to the two-state solution with the Palestinians.

The protests against the government, and especially against Prime Minister Rabin, himself, intensified in 1995, as a result of the violence that accompanied the beginning of the implementation of the Oslo Accords. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad objected to the Accords and targeted Israeli citizens with severe suicide attacks. Yet, Rabin’s policy was to continue the peace process as if there were no terrorism, and to fight terrorism as if there were no peace process.

It was evident that Prime Minister Rabin was becoming the sole target of the extreme right wing in Israel. In a rally in Ra’anana in 1994, Netanyahu, head of the opposition, marched next to a coffin that read: “Rabin is killing Zionism”, which many thought was crossing a red line. The incitement did not stop it intensified. At one stage, two weeks before the assassination, the attorney general summarized a meeting by saying: “I’m worried about a crazy person who will be influenced by the public atmosphere of violence and the de-legitimating of the government and the law enforcement authorities”.

The ISA had two opportunities to stop the assassin, Yigal Amir, prior to the murder of Rabin. Five months before the assassination, the ISA received good intelligence about the intention of a young Jewish terrorist while only a general description was given. But the ISA failed to identify him. Also, the ISA had a valuable agent, in that extreme political group where the killer was active, but this agent was not questioned it that direction. The ISA did not believe that a political murder could happen in Israel, mainly because it had never occurred before and also because there was a strong belief in the quality of the security around the prime minister, if the intelligence were to fail.

The intelligence failure of the ISA was not just in not tracing the killer beforehand, but also in not properly assessing the high probability of an attempt to kill Prime Minister Rabin —an option that was reflected by the public atmosphere and by the strong opposition to the peace process to an extent that had never been seen before. The ISA was fixated on its main concern with Palestinian terrorism, which possibly blocked its capability to see beyond the obvious.

Eventually, this assassination changed forever the history of the state of Israel and the Middle East.

Dr. Avner Barnea is research fellow at the National Security Studies Center of the University of Haifa in Israel. He served as a senior officer in the Israel Security Agency (ISA).

Author: Avner Barnea | Date: 04 November 2020 | Permalink

AOC Pulls Out of Event for Murdered Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, the First to Recognize Palestinian Nationalism

(CNS News) -- House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a self-described democratic socialist, has pulled out of an Americans For Peace Now (APN) event scheduled for Oct. 20 to honor the murdered Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was best known for his peace efforts with the Palestinians.

The congresswoman backed out of the memorial event after a journalist tweeted to her on Sept. 24 that Rabin was “someone who reportedly ordered the breaking of Palestinian bones.”

Ocasio-Cortez was scheduled to speak at the “virtual event” about “fulfilling the courageous Israeli leader’s mission for peace and justice today in the U.S. and Israel.” But AOC announced last week to Al Jazeera that she would not attend APN’s commemoration for Rabin.

Al Jazerra reported that AOC’s “office did not elaborate on the reason behind the reversal, but pointed to a tweet Ocasio-Cortez wrote earlier on Friday in which she said, ‘this event and my involvement was presented to my team differently from how it’s now being promoted.’”

“Americans for Peace Now’s mission is to educate and persuade the American public and its leadership to support and adopt policies that will lead to comprehensive, durable, Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace, based on a two-state solution” according to the group’s website.

APN is a favorite among liberal Zionists because it strives primarily for peace between Israel and Palestine while still recognizing that both deserve sovereignty. In the Israel-Palestine debates, APN would be seen as the moderate position: they oppose Israeli settlements while still recognizing the legitimacy of Jewish claims to the land.

Ocasio-Cortez purports to agree with this position, stating in an interview last year, “The same way that me criticizing Trump doesn’t make me anti-American, criticizing the occupation doesn’t make you anti-Israel, frankly. It doesn’t mean you are against the existence of a nation. It means you believe in human rights. It’s about making sure that Palestinian human rights are equal to Israeli human rights.”

A Sept. 24 tweet from Alex Kane, a reporter for Jewish Currents, about the prime minister apparently pushed Ocasio-Cortez to change her mind:

“So @AOC is doing a memorial event for Yitzhak Rabin. In the US Rabin is viewed as a liberal peacemaker but Palestinians remember him for his brutal rule suppressing Palestinian protest during the First Intifada, as someone who reportedly ordered the breaking of Palestinian bones.”

AOC replied, “Hey there - this event and my involvement was presented to my team differently from how it’s now being promoted. Thanks for pointing it out. Taking a look into this now.”

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is hailed by many as the great peace-maker for the Israelis and Palestinians. He was murdered by a far-right Zionist who opposed Rabin’s support for the Palestinian Nationalism movement. Rabin signed the Oslo Accords and publicly shook PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s hand.

“If getting assassinated at your own peace rally after giving a full-throated speech in favor of the cause is not enough to deserve to be commemorated, hard to see what any Israeli could possibly do to earn a kosher stamp from these people, and hard to see why they would want it,” said Yair Rosenberg, a writer for Tablet Magazine.

“[Rabin] is a figure who should not be valorized and celebrated, no matter what he came to symbolize later on. @AOC’s decision to pull out of the event is a decision to stand on the right side of history,” said Palestinian rights group Adalah Justice Project.


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