Yitzhak Rabin
Making History
Israel is waiting for Rabin.” – Labor Party campaign center, 1992
(L-R) Rabin, Clinton, and King Hussein

STRIVING FOR PEACE - In early 1990, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin was not a happy man. The Labor-Likud coalition government, under the Likud prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, had been spinning its wheels endlessly on several peace initiatives that Rabin felt were crucial to Israel’s security. Having already shot down meetings with Jordan’s King Hussein, Shamir infuriated Rabin at a March cabinet meeting by stubbornly rejecting any proposal for Palestinian representation at upcoming peace talks. This finally drove Rabin to back his longtime rival, Labor head Shimon Peres, in dissolving the coalition. Peres, however, soon lost Rabin’s already-reluctant support when his cobbled-together Labor coalition fell apart from a mess of political defections and rejection by Orthodox rabbis, actually allowing Likud to gain power again. Rabin immediately blasted the entire plan as a “stinking maneuver”, and decided to take things into his own hands. By June of 1992, he had won Labor Party leadership along with the Israeli general elections. The stage was set for three turbulent years of groundbreaking change. Yet to many, the biggest shock was Rabin’s grudging reconciliation with Peres, largely due to their shared interest in peace.

Rabin and Hussein sharing a light moment

Rabin now held the reins of power in Israeli government along with a majority in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, that was big enough to defeat any Likud attempts to stall his initiatives. He would need every ounce of leverage for the upcoming months – a mercilessly frenetic scramble to forge lasting peace on two fronts, simultaneously, against countless obstacles outside and inside Israel’s borders. The peace negotiations with Jordan were a prime example of these problems. After long months of dragging out the talks, the Jordanians finally signed the Israeli peace agenda in September 1993. Rabin visited King Hussein in his private yacht to seal the agreement – only to see Jordan nearly pull out of the entire plan. In his excitement, Shimon Peres had come close to inadvertently leaking the secret date of the formal treaty signing to the Israeli press. Rabin would now have to wait until May 1994 to pick up where he had left off. He and his team worked with Hussein and the Jordanians in London well past midnight, paving the way for Shimon Peres to become the first Israeli minister openly received in Jordan when he flew in on June 20th. In his usual manner, Peres proclaimed that his trip “took only 15 minutes, but it crossed a gulf of 46 years of hatred and war.” Watching him, Rabin fumed that Peres was stealing his place in the spotlight. At their final meeting in October 1994, Rabin and Hussein toiled from 9:00 in the morning to 4:00 the next morning. With U.S. President Bill Clinton watching, Rabin and Hussein finally signed the formal treaty on October 26, 1994. It had been a long, exhausting road. The most grueling work, however, was still ahead.


Making History // <striving for peace> <the road to Oslo> <winning the peace prize>

Yitzhak Rabin