The Third Assassination of Rabin

The far right is portraying Rabin as a criminal in every way, branded as 'the criminal of Oslo' who was drawn into 'hallucinations of peace.' The subtext? 'Thank God we got rid of him.'

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Monday is the 18th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. It is important to stick to the Gregorian (not Hebrew) calendar date, since the efforts to erase it are strongly linked to what will be said later in this article. Rabin was shot in the back three times, but over the years it turns out that he was also assassinated three times. In his twilight years, he was known as a strong man; indeed, he keeps being brought back to life so he can be murdered again.

Rabin was assassinated for the first time in a classic operation of fundamentalist suicide terrorism. An ideologically-motivated assassin, fired by waves of incitement that came from politicians armed with religious rulings from nationalist-Haredi rabbis, shot him to sabotage the peace process. All he had to do was take advantage of the public indifference to penetrate the Shin Bet’s circles of security. The mission, as it turned out, was far from impossible.

The second assassination began immediately after Rabin was buried. His successor as prime minister led it, unwittingly, at first. Acting prime minister Shimon Peres bent over backwards to unite with the political camp from which the assassin had emerged and sketched out the guiding line: unity above all, reconciliation, the entire nation of Israel friends. But somebody had to pay the price. Rabin, of course.

He was assassinated the first time as a controversial political leader, speeding roughshod toward the strategic goal he had set himself. He intended to withdraw from the occupied territories and evacuate settlements. People cannot embrace and become unified around such a figure. So they made him into an exemplary family man who met his end on the 12th day of the Hebrew month of Heshvan. His legacy would run along the tracks of consensus: a Palmachnik, the chief of staff during the Six Day War, a lover of the Israeli folk song “Re’ut” (“Friendship,” about the bonds between fellow soldiers). Even the whiskey and cigarettes were swept aside. So were the terrace in Zion Square in Jerusalem, din rodef and halakhic rulings.

The third assassination is the outcome of the past several years. It seems amazing and even more unreasonable than its two predecessors, but perhaps it is the natural continuation, the next level. The far right, with its activists and propagandists, is leading this assassination in the face of the silence and shrugs of the apolitical, drugged majority. In this incarnation, Rabin is presented as a criminal in every way, branded as “the criminal of Oslo” who was drawn into “hallucinations of peace” of the “moonstruck left wing.” Read between the lines, and we get: Thank God we got rid of him.

This process is happening right now, before our eyes. The completion of the work requires a backward revision of history as well, not only of Rabin’s term as prime minister. After all, logic says he was a habitual criminal. So the young Rabin was depicted as a criminal who blew up the Altalena and slaughtered the martyrs of the Irgun’s general staff. And the adult Rabin is not the architect of the 1967 victory, but a failed chief of staff who collapsed on the eve of the great battle. And so, in an amazing revision of Israel’s history, it turns out that the milestones of Rabin’s public career (the Palmach, the Six Day War, his terms as prime minister) were actually crime scenes. The murder victim is actually the murderer.

This reversal is stirring and rewarding for its insolent, impassioned adherents. Far right-wing leader Naftali Bennett can compare the political criticism leveled at him to the “harsh criticism leveled at Netanyahu during the Oslo period,” and nobody says a word. So what if the harsh criticism during the Oslo period was directed at Rabin, and Netanyahu was the ringleader? But when the other side is gripped by despair, fatigue and emptiness, the world can be turned upside down. Bang bang bang, blank blank blank — and the job is done.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton wave after the signing of the Israeli-PLO peace accord, at the White House, 1993. Credit: Reuters

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