THE TRUE LEGACY
OF YITZHAK RABIN

By Avi Davis

The crowd that gathered in Yitzhak Rabin Square in Tel Aviv this week, was smaller than in the past.. While political leaders mounted the stage and delivered their usual encomia to the slain leader, there was a sense that the annual ritual was losing some of its meaning. For years, throughout the Jewish world, communities have remembered Yitzhak Rabin's slaying as a dividing line between peace and war. It should be unsurprising then that since 1995, his commemorative services have come to resemble more campaign rallies for the peace process than dedications to the man himself. This has resulted in a curiously Jewish form of beatification: Yitzhak Rabin as patron saint of peace.

All of which, would have made Rabin sick to his stomach. A man who was both short on ceremony and suspicious of praise, he would have had no patience for the sycophantism that obsesses so many on the left whenever his name is mentioned. He would have been equally flustered by the projection of his policies into the future. It is well known that before his assassination, Rabin had already experienced grave misgivings about Oslo and the logic of the process he had initiated. Said to have described the Oslo Process as "the bastard child I was forced to adopt," Yitzhak Rabin was too smart a military man to ignore the calamity that awaited Israel if his gamble on Yasser Arafat's bona fides failed.

Five years down the line, not only has it proven ill founded, it has left Rabin with an image for bone headedness, not sagacity. Hoodwinked by both Peres and Yossi Beilin into an unjustifiably optimistic vision of peace, Rabin is a man who resembles the farmer who bought the hen , only to discover later that it was a hawk. Today's situation reflects his worst nightmare : Heavily armed Palestinians, who, in many cases, received their weaponry from the Israelis, can now shoot into Jewish homes on the edge of Jerusalem; Jewish holy sites are remorselesly sacked and dismantled; suicide bombers spread carnage in the heart of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. And more telling than all of this, not one iota of evidence exists that the kind of peace contemplated by Oslo has received its acceptance in other parts of the Arab world - where anti-Zionism and anti-semitism are more virulent as at any time in the past.

Rabin's apologists are quick to point out that Oslo was the inevitable consequence of the Israel- Egypt Camp David peace treaty and that the hope that the secular Arafat's relative moderation would be a foil to the extremism of Islamic fundamentalists. How misguided that view looks in retrospect Arafat's moderation was a guise for his open contempt for the peace camp. His many speeches in Arabic over the past seven years revealed the terrorist behind the peace maker, a leader willing to harness the extremism of Islamic clerics for his own political purposes. It is not surprising that Arafat now bestows approval on acts of martyrdom and tacitly supports terror. By counting on Arafat's moderation, Rabin's failed entirely to assess his potential for a relapse into a mode of behavior that at one time won him prestige in the Arab world. Today , Arafat's language and conduct suggest that Israel is facing an enemy as implacably committed to its destruction as at any time in the past. The difference this time is that the enemy is within the gates, not outside them.

It is not very fashionable to take a jaundiced view of Rabin's political career, but in the light of recent events, this is inevitable. Future historians may well look back on Yitzhak Rabin as an Israeli leader who took extreme risks with his country's security by betraying his own well honed instincts and pursuing a policy of appeasement. To posterity, this irony will overshadow Rabin's heroic role in both Israel's founding and in his brilliant (?) military successes. It will be the price the former prime minister and general will have paid for the mistakes of Oslo.

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Avi Davis is the Senior Fellow of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies and the senior editorial columnist for Jewsweek.com.



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