Op-ed: In his final Knesset address, Rabin rejected two-state vision, return to ’67 borders
This Saturday night the Rabin Square will once again be the site of the ritual rally marking Yitzhak Rabin’ assassination. Notably, it will take place under the theme “Remembering together; Preserving the Hope” – a slogan that could hardly be more inappropriate and misleading.
For as PM Netanyahu pointed out in his speech in the Knesset on the 15th annual commemoration of Rabin’s assassination, in which he cited portions from Rabin’s final parliamentary address, much of his political credo has been forgotten – and givens today’s reality, it would have induced little hope for any settlement with the Palestinians.
Unfortunately however, Netanyahu did not seize the moment with adequate force. Regrettably he let slip the chance to drive home several points of critical importance that would have contributed greatly to dispersing the deceptive fog of misconceptions the shroud what has become know, as “Rabin’s Heritage.”
There is indeed much in “public memory” regarding that “Heritage” that is in dire need of clarification – particularly in view of how it has been cynically distorted for partisan ends that diverge strongly from the positions Rabin himself stood for to his very last days. It is thus crucial that the public in Israel, and beyond, be reminded of the contents of this speech, for nothing else can more be more legitimately deemed “Rabin’s Heritage.”
This need is particularly acute as roughly half the today’s population was not yet in its teens at the time and has no real personal recollection of realities that prevailed at the time – except of course what was provided by highly misleading media reportage. But no less than the substance of the speech, it is important to recall both the time at which, and the context in which, it was delivered.
The address was made on October 5th, 1995 exactly a month prior to Rabin’s assassination. As such, it was his last major policy statement and final articulation of his vision of the “permanent solution” with the Palestinians. Those believing that he would have abandoned it for a less conciliatory course might feel that their case was considerably strengthened by the recent declaration from his daughter that “on the eve of his death…he was considering a u-turn” and “stopping the Oslo Accords because terrorism was rampant, and… Arafat was not delivering on his promise.”
As for the context, the speech was delivered after Rabin was awarded the Nobel Peace prize and after he was hailed as a courageous champion of peace. Significantly, the address was made during the debate on the Oslo II Accords for which Rabin was seeking Knesset ratification. At the time, the vision he set out was considered an unprecedented dovish/”leftist” prescription for far-reaching Israeli concessions and a doctrine which produced such dismay and dissension, it divided the nation into two roughly equal camps.
Rejecting 2-state solution
In that address, Rabin, the recently announced Nobel Peace laureate, rejected the two-state formula. In his view of the permanent solution regarding the Palestinian entity, he stipulated that this should ” …be an entity which is less than a stat… and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority.”
Referring to the final frontiers of the country, he was unequivocal: “The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six-Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.”
As for what was to be included in Israel’s permanent borders he prescribed that, at minimum, four elements must be ensured: A united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty as the nation’s capital; the Jordan Valley as Israel’s security border; the incorporation of existing settlements across the 1967 “Green Line” into the sovereign territory of Israel; and the establishment of new settlement bloc across the Green Line like those later destroyed in the Gaza disengagement.
No less noteworthy – especially given the current ballyhoo over the “building freeze” – was Rabin’s position on issue of construction in the trans-Green Line settlements. Before the Israeli parliament and public he declared: “…we committed…ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.”
These were Rabin’s last recorded commitments to the nation. However, today if anyone were to adhere verbatim to the very prescription articulated by Rabin at the end of his days – he would certainly not be lauded by the folks in the square as Rabin’s successor, but, paradoxically, condemned for abandoning “Rabin’s Heritage”…and dismissed as an unrealistic extremist
Crucial lessons emerge from this anomalous and ludicrous state of affairs, which the Israeli public will ignore at its peril. Firstly, even though the positions espoused by Rabin were considered excessively concessionary, inducing fierce repudiation by many, Israel has retreated from every position set out by him in his vision of a “permanent solution.”
Yet despite this dramatic erosion of every single principle enshrined in Rabin’s last legacy, Israel is still accused of intransigence – not only by its foes but by those who feign friendship. Still it is pressed for ever more far-reaching concessions – now not even to reach a permanent settlement, but merely so the Palestinians might deign to resume negotiations.
This situation clearly reflects catastrophic defeat for Israel’s public-diplomacy and a scathing indictment of those responsible for conducting it.
But even more ominous is the imperceptible accumulation of dangers that this continuous capitulation entails for the nation. This is perhaps best conveyed by the by the parable of the “boiled frog” portrayed in Daniel Quinn’s The Story of B:
“…if you place (a frog)… in a pot of tepid water…, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor …and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.”
Given the relentless retreat in Israeli positions that we have witnessed over the last decade and a half, how far can we be from boiling point?