Here, in extracts from a new BICOM book to mark the 20th anniversary of the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, leading Israelis recall the late prime minister’s achievements and legacy
Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel:
Tzipi Livni, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leader of the Opposition until 2012
Omer Bar-Lev, Israeli Labour Party politician
Yitzhak Rabin’s outstanding contributions were in his last year’s as prime minister. He made the very important and difficult decision to reach a compromise with the Palestinians and sign a peace agreement with Jordan.
These were both events in which I was personally involved. I was in the IDF at that time and part of the Israeli military team that negotiated the first agreement with the Palestinians after the Oslo Accords – the Gaza-Jericho Agreement – and was also part of the Israeli military team that negotiated the military aspects of the peace agreement with Jordan. I was very much involved in the details and the tactics.
Of course the details of the agreement are very important, but in the end these are all tactics and the big strategic decision Rabin made – to come to an agreement – was because of his military background and time as IDF Chief of Staff.
It meant giving up some of our long-held beliefs and putting them aside because the peace and the security of Israel are more important. He understood that, in the end, peace is the most important and essential part in the security of the country and the only way to achieve it is to negotiate and – even to compromise – with your enemies.
I believe that he did it – apart from his personal belief that as a human being every one of us wants peace – from Israel’s security point of view and this is what led him and our strategic decisions. Rabin understood peace is part of the security of Israel because there is no complete security as long as you have enemies trying to destroy you.
Michael Herzog, retired IDF general
Rabin was a commander of a brigade in the Haganah during the war of independence, which played an essential role in securing the road to Jerusalem and ultimately allowed Israel to keep its capital in Jerusalem. He then had a long military career before becoming the Chief of Staff of the IDF.
Rabin was not only a warrior and a commander; he was a force builder who played a major role in the build-up, composition and training of the IDF. He had a deep understanding that for a military to win a war it had to be professional and to train constantly. He really contributed to this becoming a part of the IDF’s DNA, leading to the unprecedented victory in the Six Day War.
When Rabin became prime minster he made another significant contribution in trying to reconcile Israel’s security needs and interests with an effort to bring about peace agreements with the Palestinians and complete the cycle of peace with our immediate neighbours. He signed a peace agreement with Jordan in 1994, securing peace on our longest border, and tried very hard with Palestinians and Syrians.
He epitomised a very unique combination of seeking peace while guarding Israel’s security interests. I think he had a deep understanding of the relationship between peace and security.
He understood that peace does not automatically produce security, and it has to be fortified by solid security arrangements. At the same time he understood that solid security arrangements contributed to peace. That combination makes him different to any of his successors.
Einat Wilf, a former MK and academic Extracts from a new book published by BICOM’s academic journal Fathom, entitled ‘The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin’ which can be downloaded at www.fathomjournal.org from 4 November.
Where Rabin was in relation to the Palestinians was not close to a place where peace was possible – certainly a permanent agreement that would end the conflict.
Because Rabin was assassinated, we tend to fetishise the notion that, had he lived, we would have peace. In fact he was less forthcoming than Barak in 2000 and Olmert in 2008.
Uri Dromi, former Foreign Press Spokesman to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
Sara Hirschhorn, a Sidney Brichto fellow in Israel studies at Oxford University
Rabin certainly had a long and illustrious career in civil and military service. What stands out for me is his assertion that you don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies.
He was honest about the difficulties of the process and gave both the people of Israel and the Palestinians an opportunity to have to reckon with each other – understanding they had to go forward based on a very difficult history – but that there was a path to peace in the future.
Unfortunately, I think his most outstanding contribution, at least for my generation, was more in death than life.
He symbolised the hope and the understanding that peace could be within reach. When I visit his grave on Mount Herzl I see young people who might not even have been born during Rabin’s tenure, flocking to the site to light candles and to pray for peace. They really still see him as the symbol of what may have been.