Faces on Faith: Remembering Rabin
Twenty years ago on Nov. 4, 1995 then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was gunned down at a peace rally. The assassin was Yigal Amir, an ultra-nationalist Israeli who was motivated by zealous opposition to negotiations between the Israeli government and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation).
This past October 31, tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to commemorate Rabin. Among them was Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and our former President Bill Clinton.
President Obama addressed the crowd with a recorded video message.
Clinton helped broker the 1993 Oslo interim agreements between Israel and the late Yasser Arafat.
Those agreements started a formal negotiation process between the two parties.
On September 13, 1993, Rabin and Arafat stood on the south lawn of the White House after signing the Oslo Accords. The obligatory photo-op handshake followed, about which Rabin later said, “Of all the hands in the world, it [Arafat’s hand] was not the hand I wanted or even dreamed of touching.”
Indeed, Rabin had previously supported Israel’s maintaining control of the West Bank and Gaza.
He had rejected negotiating with Arafat and the PLO. But pragmatism, along with a profound understanding that peace was ultimately the only solution, brought him to the White House lawn and that handshake. Rabin famously said, “Peace you make with your enemies, including despicable enemies . . .”
Two years later, in September 1995, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed Oslo II, an expanded version of the original agreement. There was fierce opposition in Israel.
Rabin’s opponents ran ads showing him wearing a Nazi SS uniform. Some called him a traitor, even a murderer.
He responded with a public speaking campaign to promote the treaty. And that is what he was doing on the night of November 4, when before more than a 100,000 people at a Tel Aviv rally he was assassinated.
Recent months have seen a new wave of violence and killing between Israelis and Palestinians.
Rabin’s pragmatic peace initiative remains a distant dream. Yet his bold steps toward peace stand as example for leaders in Israel and throughout the world.
In the words of Psalmist, “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” (Ps. 37.37)
May the memory of Yitzchak Rabin be for a blessing and may his courage be an inspiration that echoes across the world.