The Hawk Dressed as a Dove Why, given Yitzhak Rabin’s decades of staunch defense of Israeli security, did he agree to the Oslo Accords? Elliott Abrams reviews “Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman” by Itamar Rabinovich. see note
Sorry folks, Rabin who should have lived to see the disastrous legacy of his handshake with vermin Arafat…was neither dove nor hawk….he was a rat who dressed as a mouse. He was callous to the terror that followed the infamous Oslo surrender and abandoned the settlers that he encourage in 1967 stating, after a series of terrorist incidents….”let them spin like propellers in the wind” and he called the victims of the unprecedented terrorist incidents which followed Oslo- children in mangled strollers, women in markets, passengers on buses, soldiers at stations, diners at cafes- the “casualties of peace,”rsk
More than two decades have passed since Yitzhak Rabin was shot to death by a right-wing extremist in November 1995, and in the years since his assassination he has become a potent icon for the Israeli peace movement. Rabin’s signing of the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization and his famous handshake with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in 1993 have made him, as Itamar Rabinovich writes in analogizing Rabin to John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln in the first chapter of his biography, “the subject of a new mythology.”
But the truth, as Mr. Rabinovich convincingly argues, is that “it is wrong to remember and commemorate Rabin as a dovish leader.” Rabin’s primary concern throughout his life was Israeli security—and throughout his long career in the military he proved himself capable of carrying out extremely tough action.
By Itamar Rabinovich
Yale, 272 pages, $25
Born in Jerusalem in 1922 to parents who had emigrated from the Russian empire, Rabin joined the pre-independence Jewish security forces in 1941 after an interview with a young officer named Moshe Dayan. During the years until Israel’s independence in 1948, Rabin rose through the ranks, working first with, and then against, the British who ruled Mandatory Palestine; he was even jailed by them for five months in 1946.
It was Rabin who, as a senior officer in the new Israeli Defense Forces in 1948, gave the order (under instructions from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion) to fire on the Altalena, a ship carrying arms to the rival militia led by Menachem Begin, in what remains one of the most hotly contested incidents in Israeli history. It was Rabin who signed an order to expel Arab residents from Lydda in what has become a deeply controversial episode in Israel’s war of independence. Later, it was Rabin who, as minister of defense, put down the First Intifada—the violent Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the West Bank—with considerable force.
Mr. Rabinovich, the distinguished Israeli scholar and diplomat whom Rabin selected to be Israel’s ambassador to Washington, served in that post from 1993 to 1996, and was president of Tel Aviv University from 1999 to 2007, easily establishes that the prime minister was a man of great complexity. As a military officer, he lacked charisma and was “an excellent number two” and an “unusually efficient staff officer” rather than a bold commander. He was “unusually shy and introverted, awkward with unfamiliar people,”—hardly the makings of a successful politician.
How, then, was he twice elected the country’s leader? Here, luck took center stage. Rabin had been chief of staff during Israel’s smashingly successful Six Day War of 1967. After serving as ambassador in Washington from 1968 to March 1973, he returned home—and, when Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria in October of that year, he held no government or military position. Though Israel recovered from the surprise attack and went on to victory, the shock of the war and very large losses discredited those who had been in power. Rabin was remembered for the 1967 triumph and “untarnished by the October setback,” as Mr. Rabinovich puts it. So the Labor Party chose him as its candidate in April 1974, ahead of Shimon Peres, after Golda Meir resigned as prime minister.
Rabin’s first tenure as prime minister, from 1974 to 1977, was not a great success and, as Mr. Rabinovich writes, it “ended in disgrace” over an illegal bank account belonging to his wife and his unseemly acceptance of various fees while serving as ambassador to the U.S. His second term as prime minister, from July 1992 to his murder on Nov. 4, 1995, was far more consequential: This was when he signed the Oslo Accords. Under the Accords, Israel recognized the PLO as the sole voice of the Palestinian people, allowed Arafat to return from exile in Tunis and began negotiations on a Palestinian “entity” that would eventually become a state.
The mystery of Rabin is why, given his decades of staunch defense of Israeli security, he agreed to the Oslo Accords and, more, why he actively sought a deal with Hafez al-Assad to give the Golan Heights back to Syria.
Rabin had pledged to the Israeli public that he would do neither. As early as 1977, writes Mr. Rabinovich, he had told President Carter that he desired no negotiations with the PLO, no Palestinian state and no negotiations with Syria. In a 1989 speech, he called for negotiating with local Palestinian leaders rather than the PLO, and reiterated his opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan. During his election campaign in 1992, he came out against giving back the Golan.
So what happened? According to Mr. Rabinovich, the pivot point was the outbreak of the First Intifada in 1987. Rabin was defense minister then, and the Palestinian terror campaign led to “a radical change” in his “outlook and policy.” Mr. Rabinovich does not really explain why—nor, more strikingly, did Rabin explain it to Israelis at the time, nor in 1993 during his secret negotiations with Assad (via the U.S.), nor when he permitted his party rival Shimon Peres to open secret talks with the PLO in Oslo. CONTINUE AT SITE
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