A Coffin Above Ground

For a brief moment, the authentic political arena actually did reappear in Rabin Square on Saturday night.

Like a never-ending funeral, the leftist camp has been going around for the last 12 years carrying Yitzhak Rabin's coffin and does not know where to lay it down. There is a dignified grave on Mount Herzl, there is the Rabin Center for Israel Studies and dozens of places named after him, and an annual memorial rally fills the square that has also been named after him. But a suitable place has still not been found that will grant proper rest to both the victim and to those who bear his coffin.

At a time when other memorial days - including those for the Holocaust and fallen Israel Defense Forces soldiers - are undergoing a process of privatization, it is hard to create a collective memory that satisfies everyone on an issue that by its nature is the most divisive of all. This is not exactly fertile ground in which to plant the declaration that the prime minister issued yesterday: "Yuval Rabin's statements [at the memorial rally for his father] represent what the entire nation ought to feel."

For 11 years, this unease has taken various forms. First, the left sought to lay the coffin at the collective door of the entire right. But this effort failed, because it contained no internal truth. Then, the left sought to isolate those truly responsible from the rest of the large rightist camp. But the individuals in question shook off this responsibility as if it were so much dust, and even succeeded in climbing the political and public ladder. Moreover, the changing political and party arena left very little room to maneuver. If, in the past, there were two distinct camps, making it possible to exchange mutual recriminations, now a third party has entered the picture: Kadima, which is comprised of elements from both camps, and it shelters each from the other.

For a brief moment, the authentic political arena actually did reappear in Rabin Square on Saturday night. The only senior Kadima members present were former Labor Party members; their new partners still belong to another tale. Shimon Peres, the president of the entire nation, was appropriated for a moment by the left. He, the elder statesman of a party that is not identified with the camp that thronged the square, filled the youngsters with the hope that he himself has never lost. But Ehud Barak, who officially heads this camp, was not wise enough to turn himself back into its authentic leader. "We will not forget and we will not forgive" is a slogan that the left primarily applies to its leaders. Yet it is quick to forgive Ehud Olmert and wrap him in cotton wool.

Amid all these developments, the route of this ongoing funeral procession is slowly shortening. Now, the coffin is already being laid at the door of the murderer - and of his new baby.

This is not due solely to the pursuit of ratings, which is what gave birth to the obsessive preoccupation with the murderer's personal life; it also reflects the frustration of a large camp that has abandoned its role of advancing the peace process and has not found its place in the new reality.

That is why leftists keep mouthing the empty words "we have learned nothing from the murder," though no one says what we were supposed to have learned. The uniform profile of those who fill the square might imply that in their view, what really shows that the lesson has not been learned is the very fact that the left has lost control of the government, despite the murder.

This year, the situation became even more complex. The left was offended by what it perceived as a betrayal by the High Court of Justice, which permitted the murderer's infant son to be circumcised in his prison.

After all, it has grown used to hearing that it controls the legal system. One can only imagine what the response would have been had a rightist rally hurled criticism at the Supreme Court such as was heard at the memorial rally on Saturday night.

"In this fashion, Rabin Day will not last very long," wrote Adam Baruch in Maariv. "What is 'this fashion'? When it is more or less organized by fiat, when it is virtually the business of a single elite."

Exactly 12 years ago, Russian-speaking intellectuals made similar statements, and reaped abuse and contempt for their lack of understanding of democracy. Perhaps it is now time to return to fundamental truths such as "a temporary visitor sees every flaw," to make do with one central memorial event, to allow the left to fulfill its true role in society - and to leave all the rest to thinking and feeling individuals.