Gantz, the Perfect Heir to Rabin

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Benny Gantz speaks during a rally commemorating the 24th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in Tel Aviv, on November 2, 2019. 
Benny Gantz speaks during a rally commemorating the 24th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in Tel Aviv, on November 2, 2019. Credit: \ CORINNA KERN/ REUTERS
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Benny Gantz was anointed the heir of Yitzhak Rabin on Saturday; no one is a more natural heir. The nagging of the Zionist left to let their leaders speak at the rally is becoming more and more tiresome every year. There is no one like Gantz to “be” Rabin.

The exhausting preoccupation with the nature of the rally, whether the word “murder” will be said, whether it is political and above all whether Maor Edri will sing only makes everyone even more sick of the useless ritual of this commemoration. It has never been clear about what it wants to achieve, except to enable participants to let off steam and express a hazy yearning for Rabin without seriously considering what he was. But the decision to make Gantz the main speaker this year is the accurate political statement of the hour.

Gantz could very well be Rabin number 2. A bit different – all at once nicer and less impressive – but like a brother in terms of his world view. The two figures are regarded with greater esteem than they deserve: Rabin as the prophet of peace and Gantz as the hope for redemption and cleansing after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet just as Rabin was not the prophet of peace he was made up to be, Gantz will not bring about the long-awaited redemption.

A general view shows people attending a rally commemorating the 24th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in Tel Aviv, Israel November 2, 2019. Credit: \ CORINNA KERN/ REUTERS

The two have a shared narrative: Peace will never be established with the Palestinians. Negotiations – yes, partial agreements – definitely, but not trust, not recognition that they are a people with equal rights in this land, not even recognition that they are equal human beings, exactly like the Israeli Jews.

Decent and honest, Rabin and Gantz understood that it is impossible to continue to live only by the sword forever. They certainly would have found a common language between them: The need to do something. But this something was frighteningly unsubstantial and partial for Rabin, exactly the way it is for his heir, Gantz.

They both have a lot of blood on their hands. It is hard to believe that Rabin was tormented when he was about to shake Yasser Arafat’s hand, at a time when he himself was responsible for a great deal more Palestinian bloodshed and suffering.

The hands of his heir, too, the IDF chief of staff during Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, are stained. Out of the horrors of war, Rabin declared that he had turned to peace. Gantz has done the same. And just as Rabin failed to create it, so will Gantz.

It is hard to deal with hypothetical situations: What would have happened if not for the murder. Rabin’s image would certainly have been less mythic. He would probably not have been reelected, and would have been even less likely to achieve any progress beyond Oslo. The Accords were tailored for Rabin’s measurements: A small step forward, and that’s it.

It was no accident that Oslo did not touch the most fateful burning fire, the settlements, as if it was the most marginal of issues. It was not by chance that Rabin did not expel the unruly settlers from Hebron immediately after the Baruch Goldstein massacre. He had reached the limits of his ability and courage then.

Just two weeks ago, Haaretz in Hebrew published a fascinating Yehuda Litani piece imagining a conversation with Rabin about a moderate Palestinian leader. “Moderate? There is no such thing," Rabin says, irritated. "Coexistence, moderates, pro-Jordanians. Everything is ridiculous and you’re talking nonsense … Who you see as moderate, I see on the Kastel with a pouch of bullets on his chest, killing my soldiers in 1948. We heard about them, about these moderates.”

Anyone who knew the sullen and raging Rabin knows how authentic these words are. And that of course is not how you build peace.

The trust Gantz has for the Palestinians is no greater. He too speaks only about renewing the negotiations as a goal. And what is the final objective, what is the end game? There is none. Where are we going? We aren’t, we’re only playing for time and trying to calm things down. It’s not Netanyahu, but it’s also not peace.

That’s exactly the reason why Gantz is now the great hope of the peace camp. That’s all we want. Only a little peace and quiet, meetings with Mahmoud Abbas, another summit and more interim agreements, maybe even a few more truckloads of supplies for Gaza.

There will not be any more than that, there was never any more than that.

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