This is a guest post from Israelinurse
Seth Freedman has got something right. In his latest article on CiF he rightly says that all Jews remember exactly where we were on the evening of November 4th 1995.
I was at home in the Golan having coffee with a dear friend when her husband called to tell us the awful news. We never did finish that conversation.
But from here onwards, Freedman descends into the realms of fantasy, stating that “with three bullets, assassin Yigal Amir managed to irreversibly derail the peace process” and claims that the entire region’s political journey abruptly changed course as a result of that tragic event.
In actual fact, the Oslo Accords continued to be implemented. On January 20th 1996 agreements were made regarding the IDF redeployment from areas to be passed over to PA control, the election of the Palestinian Council and the head of the Palestinian Authority. The 23rd October 1998 saw the signing of the Wye River Memorandum and on September 4th 1999 the Sharm El Sheikh Memorandum was agreed.
Just as the peace treaty with Jordan, signed just over a year before Rabin’s murder, did not fall apart , so the agreements with the Palestinians went ahead. But on July 11th 2000, the Camp David negotiations fell through and just over two months later the second Intifada began, shaking Israel to its core.
Freedman chooses to ignore the fact that the extremist who derailed the Oslo Accords may have had the same initials as Rabin’s murderer, but his name was actually Yasser Arafat.
Even whilst Israel was still reeling from the effects of the second Intifada the Israeli government still accepted the Roadmap on May 25th 2003 and executed the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, continuing to try to secure peace for its people.
Freedman claims that Amir managed to “drive a wedge through the heart of the political system, splitting left from right and religious from secular in an unparalleled act of division”. My own experience of the aftermath of Rabin’s death was very different. There was a new-found sobriety and a sense of responsibility which led people from differing camps to consider what they had in common rather than focusing on the differences.
Freedman also asserts that in the last 14 years “the country has swung decisively to the right”. Those of us who remember the euphoria of Ehud Barak’s election in 1999 and the feeling that peace was now in our grasp may well dispute that claim. In fact, Israel has – like much of the democratic world – become more centrist. Just as it is difficult to identify any major differences between Labour and the Tories in Britain, so the divides between the Likud, Kadima and Labour in Israel have become increasingly blurred.
Unfortunately for Freedman, he fails to comprehend that opposition to the Oslo Accords was not an opposition to peace itself and that the vast majority of those who criticised Rabin at the time had nothing whatsoever to do with his death.
On September 9th 1993 Yasser Arafat declared on behalf of the PLO that, amongst other things, it recognised Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, committed itself to a peaceful resolution of the conflict and renounced terrorism and other acts of violence. Given the hindsight we have all gained over the past 16 years, can we seriously declare that the people who were sceptical about this agreement at the time were way off the mark?
In the period after Rabin’s murder a new movement arose in Israel called ‘Dor Shalom’ – ‘generation of peace’. Many will remember their bumper sticker: ‘A whole generation demands peace’. These were people who like many of us had come of age listening to Abie Natan’s ‘Voice of Peace’ radio station and spent decades singing ‘Shir Lashalom’ and David Broza’s ‘Yihiyeh Tov’. For me at least, the second Intifada brought a new understanding that it is not enough to demand peace only from our own government; if we ignore the fact that there needs to be a desire to work towards peace on the other side too, we are no better than a toddler trying to impose his will upon an adult by throwing a tantrum.
“[T]hese remain dark days for anyone finding themselves on the receiving end of the far right’s wrath” declares Freedman, but I can assure him that being on the receiving end of the far left’s shrill denounciations and demonisations is no less intimidating. It was a concentrated campaign of demonisation on the part of a small number of extremists which gave birth to the atmosphere in which the assassination of a prime minister could take place. To my taste, there is little to choose between that demonisation by the far right 14 years ago and the demonisation of the right in which the far left is engaged today and which Seth Freedman so enthusiastically peddles in the foreign press. Will someone please pass him a mirror?
Striving for peace is a worthy goal, but if the price paid for that peace is the making of certain sections of our society into loathed enemies, then we will not benefit from it for long. I for one learned from Rabin’s death that such a price is not worth paying.