It’s been 18 years since Israeli Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin was murdered at the altar of peace. Since that horrific day in Israeli history, the promise of the path he set forth has been badly shaken but not altogether shattered.
Despite efforts to portray the nation otherwise, the majority of Israelis still seek peace with their Palestinian neighbors. Over the weekend, an estimated 35,000 citizens gathered at the Tel Aviv square where Rabin was slain to mark the anniversary of the Hebrew date of his assassination. Rabin was shot by Yigal Amir, a right-wing Israeli radical, during a peace rally on Nov. 4, 1995.
A second memorial event this week, at the residence of President Shimon Peres, drew poignant words from Rabin’s son, Yuval, who decried those who say that pursuing peace was a dangerous and foolish pipe dream. “Yitzhak Rabin was neither naive nor a dreamer,” Rabin said. “The dangers and threats were not unknown to him, but the command to turn over every stone, to check every lead and every option guided him.”
Today, he added, “we are facing exactly the same fateful decisions. Giving up in advance or blaming others — that was not Yitzhak Rabin’s way.” Referring to ongoing terrorism, he said, Israel must not succumb to those who seek to derail peace through terror and must heed his father’s words: “ ‘Fight terrorism as if there is no peace process and work for an agreement as if there
is no terror.’ There is no other real way for those who genuinely want to reach an agreement.”
It would be easy to abandon the quest for peace, given the Palestinian violence, intransigence and rejectionism over the past two decades. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who ironically headed the political opposition during Rabin’s tenure, has embarked on a new U.S.-led effort to reach an agreement with the Palestinians.
He, too, made an impassioned plea this week, speaking at a Knesset ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. He cautioned that no peace agreement with the Palestinians could prevail without neutralizing the radical forces that seek Israel’s destruction. “We want real, sustainable peace, not fake, not temporary. I want peace that will last. That’s why I demand the things necessary for a changing reality.”
He vowed not “to miss this opportunity” and prayed that he would succeed.
There is no guarantee that the current Israeli-Palestinian talks will be any more successful than past ones, but we owe it to the memory of Rabin and the will of the Israeli people to take Netanyahu at his word and support those efforts.