November 2015 - Remembering the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
Israel will mark the twentieth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on November 4. His assassin was a religious Zionist who represented those who thought the Oslo Accords, which advocated a ‘land for peace’ program, to be a sin against God, and that Rabin was the seditious implementer. The question is, would there now be a two-state solution if Rabin had survived the attack. I think not. Before the ink was dry on the agreement, opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared the Accords to be deeply flawed. But it wasn’t the flaws in the agreement, or the assassin’s bullet that prevented a resolution, as much as differences in expectations.
Many years ago, political analyst, Thomas Friedman, observed that the central problem in Palestinian / Israeli negotiations is that though both Israelis and Palestinians think that they are playing the same game on the board composed of red and black squares, they are not. One side is playing chess, and the other side is playing checkers. So it was with Oslo. The handshake on the White House lawn exchanged between the president of the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s prime minister demonstrated to Israel that the PLO finally acknowledged the existence of the (Jewish) State. For Israelis, that was enough. But the Palestinians rightly thought that Oslo was not an end, but a beginning, which would conclude with the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.
The Palestinians never got their state, and recognition alone proved to be not nearly enough to make Israelis secure. The killings of the past several weeks are still more evidence that the twenty-two year long stalemate since Oslo has failed to maintain any semblance of even a profoundly unequal status quo. Although Jewish Israelis to the left rejoiced in the possibilities that came with the Oslo, and while right of center Israeli Jews condemned the Accords as delaying the coming of the Messiah, all Israeli Jews, all Israeli Arabs, and all Palestinians living in the territories and in East Jerusalem are paying for the failure to implement them. We are left with the bodies of the innocent and of the guilty that defile the holy streets of Jerusalem and the secular suburbs of Tel Aviv. Israelis and Palestinians are in the midst of an unending tragedy that may well rival the Hundred Years War unless their leaders can rouse themselves from the stupefaction of absolute ideologies and conflicting historical narratives and vomit forth the poison of hatred for the sake of their children. May it come soon in our time.
Still with hope,