On November 4, 1995 right wing Israeli extremist Yigal Amir assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin after a peace rally in Tel Aviv.
The region was on track towards a peaceful solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Rabin had already begun to normalise relations with other Arab Nations such as Jordan, Turkey and Morocco and to improve relations with Egypt. He was intent on seeing peace between the Israelis and Palestinians as part of the Oslo Accords.
In 2000, after refusing to negotiate the offer made by Ehud Barak at Camp David, the Palestinians embarked on the current intifada. The intifada effectively put an end to the Oslo Process and to the dreams and legacy that Rabin had left the region. It was a well-orchestrated and well-planned strategy implemented and encouraged by the leadership of the PLO. This was not a popular uprising against oppression or the desperate act of a people who had been dispossessed. It was a chilling preference for war over peace.
It was just moments before his death Rabin gave his final speech in front of a crowd of tens of thousands of people in central Tel Aviv. As part of his speech Rabin emphasised something that to this day the government and people of Israel continue to try and convince the world of. Rabin said, "There are enemies of peace who are trying to hurt us, in order to torpedo the peace process. I want to say bluntly, that we have found a partner for peace among the Palestinians as well - the PLO, which was an enemy, and has ceased to engage in terrorism. Without partners for peace, there can be no peace. We will demand that they do their part for peace, just as we will do our part for peace, in order to solve the most complicated, prolonged, and emotionally charged aspect of the Israeli-Arab conflict: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."
At the time, of course, Rabin was talking about the likes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad who had continued their terror attacks on Israeli civilians in an open attempt to disrupt the Oslo Process.
One shudders to think how Rabin would be feeling today in the knowledge that the self same Palestinian Liberation Organisation that he had so trusted has once again become a destructive and destabilising force in the region. In Rabin's words, the PLO has once again become an enemy of peace.
At Rabin's funeral Egyptian President Mubarak eulogised, "The untimely loss of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at this important juncture in the history of the Middle East has dealt a severe blow to our noble cause. We must, therefore, redouble our efforts and reaffirm our obligation to continue the sacred mission to achieve a just and lasting peace. We must deprive those treacherous hands hostile towards our goal from reaping the rewards of their vile actions. Only through our unwavering commitment to this objective can we truly honour the memory of this fallen hero of peace."
As we look back at the last 4 years of violence in the region, we need to ask ourselves some questions.
Can anybody argue with Rabin's remarks that without partners for peace there can be no peace? Can anybody argue with Mubarak's remarks that we must deprive those who are hostile towards peace from reaping the rewards for their vile actions?
In physical terms, by building a security barrier and by looking to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip, the Government of Israel (with the overwhelming support of the Israeli people) has acted on both Rabin's and Mubarak's words. Israel cannot allow the terrorists to reap rewards for their actions. With no peace partner among the Palestinians, Israel needs to block out the suicide bombers, and give the peace process a kick-start by leaving the Gaza Strip.
Let us hope that Rabin's legacy can once again be revived and that the Palestinian people, a people that have been so badly let down by their leaders, will be able to find a person of the stature and courage of Rabin to bring them real peace and a sustainable future alongside Israel.
Let us learn from Rabin's legacy.
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