Democracy and Rabin

star-Rabin_150Part III in the 20 yrs from Rabin series

The keyword in the twenty year commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination was democracy.

I get it. Assassination has no place to play in the liberal democracy that Israel aspires to. The problem is that not one of the speakers could admit how much Oslo was an assault on that same democracy.

Isn’t the lesson of Rabin’s legacy that we will never again hold secret talks designed to bypass the checks and balances that parliamentary democracy gives us?

Two questions come up or should come up on each anniversary. The first is fairly simple. If Rabin had survived the assassination attempt what would have happened?

Eitan Haber didn't believe that Rabin trusted Arafat

Eitan Haber didn’t believe that Rabin trusted Arafat

The only honest answer must be that no one, least of all Rabin, knew. It took Yossi Beilin, Oslo and Geneva Initiative architect, twenty years to admit that Rabin only planned two weeks ahead. Eitan Haber, Rabin’s closest aide for twenty years, said something similar two years ago that he wasn’t sure Rabin ever trusted Arafat as a partner.

Rabin killed the IAI Lavi

Rabin killed the IAI Lavi

My personal theory is that Rabin, who showed with the Lavie that he could shut a project down, would have declared Oslo dead due to Arafat’s malfeasance. Of course, I have not proof of that but it is at least as probable as the claim that Rabin through strength of his character would have held the Accords together. All may have been moot. Labor could, IMHO would have lost government in the next election.

The second question is less asked, even after twenty years. What did the supporters of Oslo, learn from the assassination? Is it just that pasting Rabin’s head on a Nazi uniform is a bad thing? That assassinating prime ministers is a bad thing? That Netanyahu/Jewish residents over what was the Green Line/the Dati (religious) are bad things?

Organisers of this event tried to make it inclusive. Still for some, it would seem that the only lesson is libel.

Clinton, Rabin, Arafat

Arafat May 10,1994
Mohammed had accepted it and we are accepting now this peace offer. But to continue our way to Jerusalem, to the first shrine together and not alone.
We are in need of you as Moslems, as warriors of Jihad

Twenty years is enough time for Israel’s ‘Left‘ to accept that the Oslo Agreement failed first as democracy, as good governance and management before it simply failed as a peace treaty, of sorts. Rabin’s last major act was in complete contempt of democratic governance that may have produced a better accord or avoided the negative consequences of the one that was forced on us.

1992 elections

1992 elections
Israel waits for Rabin

It’s an open question whether Rabin quite consciously lied to the Israeli people about his intentions.

Just before those elections I was taking a professional course and we stopped to discuss the 1992 elections. The consensus and certainly part of the Labor electioneering was that voting Labor was less of a risk because Mr. Defense would keep the lid on Peres and Beilin.

My strong feeling is that had Rabin openly announced he would enter into negotiations with the PLO he would not have been elected even with the bribery of two members of Raphael Eitan’s party to change sides.

Begin and Sadat

We knew Begin and Sadat were negotiating

If he, as Beilin has claimed, not intended to do this at the elections he could, as did Menachem Begin about Sadat, have put it to the Knesset to authorise open negotiations because of changing circumstances. Begin, by contrast, had the decency when he came to agreement with Sadat to put it to an open vote in the Knesset.

I doubt Rabin realised how severely he had damaged the Labor Party by altering long established policy virtually overnight and strong arming support. Ironically some say that the current Likud policy is Labor pre-Oslo – and they are winning.

Perhaps if Oslo had succeeded these fails need not have mattered. The lesson from Rabin’s assassination may be this. Never, ever, bypass democratic procedure. 

Extra credit

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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