Yitzhak Rabin

March 4, 2003 //
Interview with Ms.Nancy O’Malley, a distinguished humanities teacher at Boston Latin School

How do you think Yitzhak Rabin would feel about the situation in Israel today? In your opinion, what would he want to say to Yasser Arafat, who won the Peace Prize with him in 1994 yet has done little to help peace recently? To Ariel Sharon, whose harsh policies against the Palestinians run directly against what Rabin espoused?

I think he’d be brokenhearted … secondly I think he would be weeping for the people on both sides because of their mutually bad leaders, both of whom represent the most intransigent views of their respective peoples. Palestinians don’t have the chance for peace, and Israelis who want peace don’t have the chance. [He would say] to Arafat: You missed an opportunity with Clinton, a crucial opportunity ; to Sharon, your policy of not resuming peace talks until all suicide bombings stop actually encourages them. Secondly, the fact that he is allowing more and more settlements to be built actually encourages more bombings. Obviously Rabin wouldn’t condone suicide bombings, but he would encourage Sharon to stop his oppressive policies which make the Palestinians unable to stop the extremists from taking over.

Do you find it strange that people today rarely refer to his accomplishments? Has the constant violence in Israel numbened people to the idea of peace?

I think that unfortunately our memories are short, and we forget that it was only a while ago that Rabin held out the very real prospect of peace, but ever since Sharon instigated the last intifadah by visiting the Temple Mount, there’s been so much violence and bloodshed, oppression and reaction to oppression, that it wiped out the memory of what Rabin had done.

What do you feel was unique about Rabin that set him apart from other leaders?

What was so sad about his loss was that he seemed to have empathy for both sides ; he understood and seemed to have a sense of the pain on both sides, and that’s what we need now.

How would you respond to people who say that the current conflict shows how Rabin was wrong to seek peace? That the Palestinians never wanted peace at all?

The actions of the settlers bulldozing houses and taking more and more land for the Jewish settlements, that’s a form of extreme oppression and a form of political violence that people seem to forget. We hear all about the suicide bombings, which we should, but we hear very little about bulldozers going in and razing villages to raise compounds for Jewish settlers, and creating more refugees. Does it prove extremists are right? No, it just shows how tragic his loss is.

Do you feel his achievements with the Oslo Accords were just a lucky fluke, or that the possibility is still there for the same thing to happen today if someone took a stand as he did? Or has the violence simply shattered the two peoples’ readiness for peace?

I don’t think his contributions were a fluke – I think he was a voice for reason. I don’t think there’s any hope right now because both sides are so entrenched, and I feel badly because there seem to be so few people speaking out for the rights of the Palestinians.
Rabin had a balanced view, and right now it seems to be one extreme against the other, so I don’t have much hope. It seems to be politically incorrect to mention that the Palestinians have rights also – [the fact that] you can only have that conversation in limited groups of people, that shows how far we’ve come from the days of honest discussion about the rights of both sides.

Yitzhak Rabin