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Remembering Yitschak Rabin
Last uploaded : Thursday 28th Oct 2004 at 19:36
Contributed by : Sheila Raviv


Who would have said, just nine years ago, that Ariel Sharon would face the same decisions as Yitschak Rabin and that he would have taken the same path?

Nine years, nine whole years, by the Hebrew date, since that awful day when Israel lost her innocence. Nine years since a Jew killed another Jew because he disagreed with the democratic process.

Yitschak Rabin had a great deal more in common with Ariel Sharon than he ever did with the far left who now claim and distort his memory. Rabin was a firm defender of Israel and Israel's soil, a Zionist of the old school, a military leader of repute and a man who always sought the direct route to solve a problem. Not one for political machinations, such devisive methods made him very angry; he would treat a diplomatic problem as a strategic one, weighing up the advantages and disadvantages, the pros and cons and taking tactical decisions according to the results. He hated politicians! He had no time for their tricks, he wanted to get to the point and discuss it openly which is why great leaders fell in love with him. If he didn't like you, he despised you but?if he cared for you he cared deeply; as I said, no side to the man. Interestingly both men chose to trust one other politician with their most private thoughts: both men picked Ehud Olmert as their chosen ally and friend, knowing that he is capable of great loyalty, rare in politics.

Ariel Sharon has made similar decisions to Yitzchak Rabin but without the left pushing him onto going further than a general should. The chances of Sharon ever needing to shake the hand of Yassir Arafat are very low for three reasons; Bush would not demand it of an ally after the horror of the Intifada; Sharon has chosen the unilateral course and finally Arafat is unlikely to live that long.

The vote was a fascinating pastiche of political manoeuvrings. Shimon Peres had already warned his party not to vote against the Sharon plan and cause its failure just because of party politics; there were many Knesset Members who voted with their conscience and the Arab members of the Knesset were to vote against the plan because they want a treaty, not a unilateral decision on Gaza; Benjamin Netanyahu made a bid for power by standing just outside the Knesset hall, in view of the television cameras, with his inner circle, purposefully avoiding the first call to vote (there are two) intending to enter with his four of five and seal the failure of the plan.

In the meantime however, the Arabs, believing that the vote would fail, abstained. Ehud Olmert sat beside the stoney faced Prime Minister carefully counting the votes; as they passed the number 61 a smile broke out on his face. It had passed the first reading then, when Netanyahu et al came in to vote, they were forced to vote with the Sharon plan or lose their position completely and the Sharon plan for Gaza went over the two thirds votes in favour -- meaning it passed and didn't need to go to further readings. As Yitschak Rabin would have said, underhand never wins.

Jerusalem is filled with tourists and conference participants of those who work for Israel. Keren Hayesod, the Jewish Agency, UJC, Hadassah, everyone busy running from conference hall to hotel and back. Today my friend Jill and I decided to escape the hubbub of Jerusalem and head for the craziness of the Jaffa flea market!!! As we walked from the car park we passed the shell of what was obviously once a fine building which bore the inscription "Shalom al Yisrael" Shalom on Israel. This semi derelict building was once the hotel of Theodore Herzl who came to Jaffa on his first visit to the Holy Land. From this hotel he set out to explore, wanting to borrow a fine carriage as befitted his standing. He looked high and low and couldn't find one to fit his needs. A very stately lady was passing in her own carriage, stopped and gave the beautifully dressed European gentleman a ride. Oh, how I love to walk in the steps of history. Anyway, a pair of shoes, a shakshuka (eggs in tomato and scrumptious) and a Dr Leks ice-cream later we headed back to Jerusalem just in time to get inside before the first and blessed rains.

Israel is poorer for losing Yitschak Rabin, whether one agreed with his policies or not. For me there are still a few special memories like my last hug, in the crowded Rotunda of Washington; the evening in their home as he watched Leah speak at a function to raise money for her favourite charity Alut and that unforgettable moment as he looked everywhere except at Arafat when he realised that Clinton was going to force him to shake Arafat's hand despite a promise to the contrary. For most of us the Rabin moment was as he walked, handsome in his IDF uniform, toward the Kotel in June 1967; for my husband Zvi's Mother Alla, however, he remains the little boy playing in a paddling pool in the garden when she went to visit her cousin Rosa, his mother, when Alla made Aliya in 1934.

I wish the readers Shabbat Shalom and pray that the horror of political assassination will never raise its ugly head again.

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