Out Loud

Rabin’s Legacy in Today’s Israel

2 November 2017

I write to you from Israel where on Wednesday the country held its official remembrance of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It was 22 years ago this week that he was assassinated.

It was a pivotal moment in Israel’s history. Rabin had put Israel on a path towards peace with its neighbors, towards normalization on the world stage, and, domestically, was basing his policies on an understanding that Israel needed to stop burying its resources in West Bank settlements and to start investing in the people who lived in Israel.

That vision, sadly, is a stark contrast from today’s Israel. And that was the point made by Yitzhak Rabin’s son, Yuval, at the official commemoration ceremony. Taking a page from the playbook of President George W. Bush and Senator Jeff Flake, Yuval Rabin didn’t mention any of Israel’s current leaders by name.

He didn’t have to:

“The instrument for incitement and division that was used against Yitzhak Rabin continues to swipe at us. Rabin didn’t earn praise from the High Court or extra-parliamentary NGOs. Rabin and his wife were not darlings of the media. But he didn’t initiate new laws. He didn’t act to limit the democratic rights of his opponents, and he did not try to silence them. He never fled from responsibility and he never whined… Even when he was exposed to waves of the most terrible incitement, he was the prime minister for everyone.

“That is not how things are today. The list of traitors grows longer every day — from heads of the military, to the chiefs of police, to the leaders of institutions whose opinions are uncomfortable to those individuals in power. And there is no one to say, ‘Stop this madness.’ It is time for a statement from the [Prime Minister’s] house on Balfour Street that calls for the total elimination of violence and hatred from our home.”

Yuval Rabin is not the only one making this case. As Isabel Kershner wrote in the New York Times this week, new voices are coming out to challenge the anti-democratic moves of those now in power, and these voices come from the president, from within the security establishment, and even from within the Likud.

As more and more Israeli leaders sound the alarm, we are reminded that the vision of Israel that Rabin showed us was possible is not lost.