The security philosophy of Yitzhak Rabin remains valid today: in order to arrive at a solution to the conflict between us and our neighbors that is right for Israel, Israel must negotiate with her partners from a position of power.
Members of the Rabin Family,
Rabin’s decision to adopt the Oslo Accords in September of 1993 changed the course of our lives and his own destiny. This was not an obvious decision. It did not reflect the natural course of his political way until that moment. It was a torturous decision, difficult, and filled with doubts; it forced Yitzhak Rabin into a soul-searching that only a few of his predecessors ever faced.
I did not support his decisions then – I voted against them in the Knesset, in this very hall. I thought differently, but I admired his courage to accept it with clear-headedness, with no illusions, and be prepared to pay its price.
And indeed it was a heavy price, a price without precedence. His life.
Not once I wondered, especially during these past two years, what led him to that decision? What convinced him to go with the Oslo Accords?
I imagine that it was conviction. A conviction that as Prime Minister he must secure the well being and future of the State of Israel, "the precious trust" as he called it, that the citizens of Israel have placed in him. And that in the long run, the best way to achieve these goals is to walk the road of peace, strewn with obstacles, dangers, and uncertainty – as it indeed was and perhaps will always be.
Yitzhak Rabin never excelled in delivering empty peace slogans of the type we are used to hearing from those who proclaim themselves to be messengers of peace and its exclusive representative. He endured a long and torturous process, filled with internal conflicts and doubts before committing himself to diplomatic actions that were intended to change our political and security reality.
Not once did I hear from him words of reservation concerning those that always knew all the answers and saw all the chances, but did not know how to calculate the dangers, difficulties, and price of the peace process. Even after deciding, he did not do so blindly. He took measured, cautious, steps, while clearly seeing the obstacles on the road, the weakness of the partners, and the jealousies of his rivals. But he never hesitated to move forward.
He never flinched. He never lost hope. He came to a profound understanding which stood in contrast to much of what he did in his life, that there is a moment when you alter a course and take chances, great chances – because a definitive step towards peace must be so.
But of course, not at any price. "Any price," was never his way – but when he could see the opportunity ahead, he would have been ready to take the risk.
The security philosophy of "Mr. Security" Yitzhak Rabin remains valid today. It is a simple philosophy: in order to arrive at a solution to the conflict between us and our neighbors that is right for Israel, Israel must negotiate with her partners from a position of power. In order to move enemies from the battlefield to the discussion table, we need to have a large deterrent army. Peace, if achieved, will, at least at the first stage, be an armed peace – and for that, the IDF’s strength must be maintained. If we must take an unavoidable risk, we will minimize it as much as possible.
At the ceremony of the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles on September 13, 1993, Yitzhak Rabin stated:
"We have come to try and put an end to the hostilities, so that our children, and our children’s children, will no longer experience the painful cost of war, violence and terror. We have come to secure their lives, ease the sorrow and the painful memories of the past to hope and pray for peace."
A month from now, in Annapolis, an international meeting will take place under the auspices of which we will try to find a way that will lead, I hope, to an end to the conflict between us and the Palestinians. We will attend the meeting having learned from experience and with no illusions.
I do not know if the time for peace is ripe, but I do know that as Prime Minister it is my duty to take every action in order to reach that moment or at least to bring it closer, as Yitzhak Rabin believed and desired. That is why we will be there, in Annapolis. We will be alert, prudent, and cautious – but ready for any chance of deliberations between us and the Palestinians.
We already know: peace is not made at international conferences – peace is not made on a piece of paper, elegant as it might be – peace is built from good will and genuine readiness to accept the existence of another, while understanding his needs and fears.
Here, I would like to say clearly: the 60 years of this state are filled with our painful afflictions that continue to weigh us down and shape our opinions day by day. The Jewish people, citizens of this state, tens of thousands of families live a constant agony that cannot be imagined, and memories and yearning over those lost. Never will we forget the pain and suffering with which we had to live, they will always be an inseparable part of our lives, and will always accompany the decision making process related to the effort to end the conflict.
In all fairness I feel an obligation to say that those whom we are facing also dealt with the pain of separation, of loss, and hardship.
We are sure and strong enough in our righteousness to recognize the pain of the Palestinians and say to them: "We are not indifferent to the feelings of indignity and hardship that a great many of you feel. There is only one way to solve this problem – to make peace."
Peace is not made with a magical act and shortcuts.
This is why we will conduct this negotiation with the Palestinians cautiously and responsibly – but also with determination. A two-fold determination: a determination to carry on, to exhaust every possibility of reaching an agreement, but also a determination to guard the vital interests of the State of Israel, and to ensure the well-being and safety of its citizens.
We are going to Annapolis because even after these 14 years – filled with hopes, disappointments, and frustration – we still believe we have a partner, and that the majority of the Palestinians want to live in peace; just as a majority of the Israeli people wish to change the reality that has formed and solidified these past 40 years, a reality that casts a threatening shadow over the State of Israel being a Jewish democratic state.
We know that the forces opposed to the way of peace in Palestinian society are stronger than we thought, and that those on the other side desiring peace are not always ready to take the necessary steps against the enemies of peace.
We know this, but the old Jewish dictum says: "Love peace, and pursue it." Don’t just love, but pursue peace – because peace must be pursued, not idly waited for.
Rabin’s murder was a painful moment of disenchantment for Israeli society. During the time before the murder, we were living in a fool’s paradise.
We lived in a naive belief that it will not happen to us. That while our society has violence – and there are extremists and fanatics – the rules of democracy are engraved upon the hearts of Israeli society, and there is no real fear of a political murder. In essence: a Jew will never do such a thing.
The murder of the Prime Minister proved how na?ve and irresponsible we were. It opened our eyes, showing us that the young Israeli democracy still suffers growing pains.
On that terrible night we all vowed: "Never again – we shall not forget, we shall not forgive," because we have never before had such a murder.
The man who murdered Yitzhak Rabin fired three bullets into the back of Israeli democracy – which in effect was what he plotted to eliminate. He acted to prove that Abraham Lincoln was wrong when he said: "The ballot is stronger than the bullet."
That is the reason why recent polls are so disturbing. They show an increase this year again in the number of people who believe that the murder of a Prime Minister should be treated as any murder, and that the punishment should be limited to 20 years in prison and then he should be released. These alarming polls prove that 12 years after the murder, Israeli democracy has not yet overcome all its weaknesses.
It has not yet dried the swamps and cleared away the bad.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Knesset,
The Memorial Day for the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was set in the calendar of Israeli society to serve as a day of reflection, of a deep self-examination in the mirror – to find those weakening flaws that besmirch our image as a society.
It is a necessary step to take in order to correct the flaws, in an effort to make ourselves closer to the image of our dreams.
Yitzhak Rabin was characterized in human sensitivity, which is so Jewish. "There are in our public," he used to say, "quite a few who suffer from an obstruction in the heart. I do not know why or how. There are not a few of us in whom the spark of humanity has lessened. I find too much hardheartedness, too much strife and quarreling. Not enough concern for others."
And I will add: that instead of it being ‘man is humane to man’, many of us abide by ‘man is a wolf to man.’"
Such a wolf, stricken with hatred, brought death to Rabin. But he did not succeed, and will never succeed, in erasing him from our hearts.
May his memory be blessed.