Newsletter : 6fax0111.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Jan. 11, 1996 V4, #4
All the News the Big Guys Missed
For subscriptions or back issues, please contact POL management
1995's Top Story: Rabin's Assassination
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
The assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
last Nov. 4 was one of the major worldwide news stories of
the year. It also had a significant impact on Israeli society
and the Middle East peace process.
It was a warm November night in Tel Aviv. The crowd gathered
slowly. First teenagers in workshirts. Then young parents with
small children. Retirees found seats along the edge of a planter.
It had the feel of a 1960's peace rally, and in a way it was very
much the 1990's equivalent.
A normally silent segment of Israeli society -- supporters of the
government's plan to grant autonomy to Palestinians in much of
the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- had come out to be counted.
Officials spoke, entertainers performed, they got the prime
minister to join in singing a song. Then, as he left in a jovial
A 25-year-old Jewish law student had been waiting for Rabin near
his car, ignored for still unknown reasons by the legions of
security officers in the area. He shot Rabin twice, at nearly
point-blank range. The prime minister died in his car on the way
to the hospital.
Rabin's closest aide, Eitan Haber, announced his death to a shocked
crowd outside the hospital, and to a shocked nation and world.
The outpouring of sorrow and condolences was remarkable. Leaders
came to Jerusalem for his funeral from more than 40 countries,
including several Arab states. Jordan's King Hussein referred to
Rabin as "my brother." Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak called Rabin
a courageous leader and a man of vision.
President Clinton called Rabin his partner and his friend, and
urged Israelis to heal the rift in their society which had led to
the murder of the prime minister by a young man opposed to his
"Your prime minister was a martyr for peace, but he was a victim of
hate. Surely we must learn from his martyrdom that if people can
not let go of the hatred of their enemies, they risk sowing the
seeds of hatred among themselves."
Just two days after the assassination, that theme was already
prominent in Israel. Initially there had been a strong backlash
against the Israeli right, which was accused of bringing the
rhetoric of hate into the political debate, and creating a
highly-charged atmosphere which some said inspired the killing.
But as the weeks went on, a more balanced view emerged, with
plenty of blame to go around for extremists on both the right on
the left, without tainting moderates on either side.
Sociology Prof. Moshe Lissak of Hebrew University says when the
recriminations stop, there will be at least one remaining impact of
the Rabin assassination -- a kind of loss of innocence. But Lissak
says although Israelis now worry their society is not immune to
political violence, they have also taken steps to moderate the
political debate and to increase communication between supporters
of the right and the left, in order to at least try to reduce the
likelihood anything like this will ever happen again.
"It became almost a sort of a ritual now. Every second day you
have another symposium, another seminar, another informal meeting.
I was invited at least to five or six of this kind of meetings.
And I mean this kind of meetings were very rare before the
assassination. It was almost a sort of absolute segregation or
detachment from each other. So there is soul searching, and I must
say that I am a little bit optimistic. But you can not expect that
it will happen rapidly from today to tomorrow, because it is a long
Meanwhile, the state commission investigating the assassination
is continuing its work -- having identified serious security
lapses which made it possible for the gunman to succeed in his
mission. The trial of confessed assassin Yigal Amir began Dec. 19,
But was recessed until late this month.
The Rabin assassination appears to have given new momentum to the
peace process. The new prime minister, Shimon Peres, implemented
the initial expansion of Palestinian autonomy on schedule. Rabin's
death provided an opportunity for a re-examination of the stalled
Israel-Syria talks, by both sides, and a decision to renew them.
If that is among his legacies, Yitzhak Rabin would likely be
pleased. He made this statement when he received the 1994 Nobel
Peace Prize. "Despite the toll of murderous terrorism, despite the
fanatic and cruel enemies of peace, we will pursue the course of
peace with determination and fortitude. We will not let up, we
will not give in. Peace will triumph over all its enemies."
At Rabin's funeral, his successor Shimon Peres said the
general-turned-peacemaker had been at his best in wars, but at
his greatest in peace.
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