Rabin in 1976 Interview: Settlements Are a Cancer

The late prime minister also warned that Israel would become an apartheid state if it continued to rule over the population of the occupied territories.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Yitzhak Rabin and Bill Clinton survey Jerusalem from at the King David Hotel in 1994.Credit: GPO
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called the settlers "a cancer" and warned against Israel's becoming an apartheid state in an interview recorded during his first term as prime minister in 1976.

The recording was included in segments of a new film, titled "Rabin in His Own Words," which were screened on Israeli TV on Thursday night.

In the interview, parts of which he defined as "off the record," Rabin referred to the Gush Emunim movement, which began campaigning for Jewish settlement in the occupied territories in 1974.

"A settlement movement which is like a cancer in the social and democratic tissue of the state of Israel," Rabin said of Gush Emunim. "A group that takes the law into its own hands."

In other recordings, Rabin is heard warning against the potential damage that settlement could cause to Israel.

"I can't say with certainty that we won't need to evacuate them," he said. "Because of the [Arab] population. I don't think it will be possible to [settle] over time, unless we want to get to apartheid, with a million-and-a-half Arabs inside the state of Israel. On that, I'm prepared to go to elections."

"With a historical perspective, people will question what Israel was doing in 1976. And in what a lousy and unimportant place. A mystical debate focused on the existential problem of the existence of Israel. It's unbelievable what is settlement anyway? What sort of struggle is it? What means?"

The film "Rabin in his own words," which will be screened on the twentieth anniversary of Rabin's assassination. They were recorded by Rabin's press secretary Ron Patir.

The interview isn't the only known instance of Rabin referring to the settlements as "cancer." In his 1979 memoir, "Pinkas Sherut" ("service book"), Rabin referred to the Gush Emunim group as a "cancer in the body of Israeli democracy." 

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