In memory of the late Yitzhak Rabin
ISRAELI AMBASSADOR LIOR KEINAN
There is not a single Israeli who does not recall vividly the moment he heard the news of Rabin’s assassination during a peace rally in Tel Aviv on 4 November 1995.
I remember the unravelling of that evening precisely. I recall feeling sheer disbelief at how a politically-motivated murder could take place in our Israel.
We had heard of plenty such murders around the world throughout history, yet no one could quite believe such a murder could ever happen in Israel.
The assassination was, and is, one of the few breaking points in the life of the young Israel in its brief modern history. Israeli democracy faced a concrete threat, just as Rabin outlined throughout his last speech: “Democracy can and must accommodate differences in ideology and belief, yet can never allow itself to resort to violence that eats away at its foundational core.”
Much to our collective relief, Israeli society valiantly overcame the crisis, and has never had to, and hopefully will never have to, deal with or witness another politically-motivated murder in our country.
It is my sincere hope that Rabin’s murder serves as a painful lesson in the minds of Israelis. This will ensure that our democracy can persist in being a beacon of light and inspiration to neighbouring nations.
Since that fateful day, many have contemplated Rabin’s legacy, and his personal, historical importance as an Israeli leader. In Rabin’s case, particularly in comparison to other Zionist and Israeli leaders, it is slightly more complex to do so.
Rabin did not leave behind many books, memoirs, speeches, or opinion columns articulating his state or military doctrine. Rabin was reputed to be a man of action, preferring his behaviour and decisions to do the “speaking” on his behalf, rather than promises and big statements.
Consequently, and not so surprisingly, he was perceived to be representative of the “Tzabar” Israeli identity – direct, few in words, a man of action with a burning drive to succeed at any price.
There is no doubt that Rabin was a major influence in two of the most momentous historical events in Israeli history. First, Rabin served as commander-in-chief of The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) during the six-day war in 1967. That defensive war resulted in our biggest military achievement to date, and the recapturing and union of Jerusalem. Second, this time as prime minister, was the signing of the Oslo Accords together with The Palestinian Authority in 1993, and the peace treaty with Jordan a year later, cementing his status as a leading statesman.
In a country like Israel, which since its re-inception has been forced to strike a careful balance between security and state needs, it is crucial that its leaders reflect that balance through experience in the field of national security and a pioneering statesmanship. Rabin was a refined embodiment of such ideals, a unique fusion of a daring military commander leading his army to victory coupled with a brave and trailblazing statesman securing security and peace for his nation and his people.
There is still progress to be made in bringing to life Rabin’s efforts, in reconciling our differences with our neighbours, and ensuring security for all of Israel’s citizens. Nevertheless, undoubtedly, Rabin advanced his noble plight significantly through quiet leadership and uncompromising persistence.
Today’s Israel, an island of democracy, a pluralistic society, and a thriving economy, remains heavily indebted to him. May his memory be blessed.