The Murder That Stopped Everything

The 100,000 people who came to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv Saturday night mourned the man, but also mourned peace, which has become a dirty word in recent years.

Yes, it was a political demonstration. The 100,000 people who came to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv Saturday night mourned the man, but also mourned peace, which has become a dirty word in recent years.

We can talk about disengagement and convergence - but not about peace. We can talk about walls and separations - but not about dignified, fair negotiations with the other side to bring quiet and peace to this troubled land.

The rally's organizers said it was a "non-political" gathering, but they were wrong. Yitzhak Rabin was killed because of a political plan, the Oslo plan. Every gathering in his memory has been a political gathering of peace supporters, of people who want to save this nation from its ceaseless plunging toward war, toward more victims.

Some people tried to belittle the rally. They said that only a few would come (after all, it's been 11 years), and even if they did come - it would only be to hear Ninette Tayeb and Aviv Gefen. But the tens of thousands, including many teenagers, stood in silence, hanging on to every word in the long and chilling speech of David Grossman. He laid before them an entire plan of action - yes to speaking to the Palestinian people, and yes to Bashar Assad's peace feelers.

Many people dismiss the entire Oslo process with astonishing levity. The more meticulous among them call the agreement's initiators "Oslo criminals." According to them, even had Rabin not been murdered, the agreement would have exploded and the confrontation with the Palestinians would have occurred - because the Palestinians want only one thing: to throw us into the sea. Consequently, we will fight by the sword and die by the sword, and there is no one to talk to.

Rabin thought otherwise. He came to the square on that Saturday night in November 1995 with deep misgivings. The rioters against the Oslo agreement pursued him wherever he went, made venomous utterances against him, and gave him no peace even on Friday outside his private Ramat Aviv residence. And the general, silent public kept still and abandoned him and the street to the rioters' mercy.

So Rabin was concerned that the square would remain empty. And this is why his heart warmed and his eyes shone when he saw the masses that arrived, waving the flags and encouraging him with enthusiasm.

The representatives of the silent majority expressed confidence in the Oslo agreement, and Rabin was happy. He received encouragement and strength to continue the process with full force - and would have done so.

On May 4, 1994, Rabin signed (with Yasser Arafat) an agreement in Cairo outlining the timetable for the final-status agreement with the Palestinians. The agreement said that on May 4, 1996, negotiations for the final-status agreement would begin, and end three years later, on May 4, 1999. Indeed, on May 4, 1996, the negotiations began, with Shimon Peres as prime minister.

Following this, Arafat undertook to handle the terror infrastructure forcefully. That was the Palestinians' "Altalena." Arafat acted against Hamas with all his power: he arrested, killed and oppressed Hamas activists. His people, headed by Mohammed Dahlan, even shaved the beards of some of the imams in the mosques - as a mark of humiliation and contempt. Arafat's rule was stronger than ever, and Hamas and terror were weaker than ever.

This was an ideal opportunity to continue the process - but Peres lost the elections, and Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister.

Netanyahu's aim was clear: to smash the Oslo agreement; and he did so thoroughly. In September 1996, he opened the tunnel in Jerusalem (at Ehud Olmert's advice), and therefore, the two of them set Jerusalem and the territories on fire. Netanyahu invented the cliche "if they give, they'll get" to create a complete standstill. He rejected the incremental process, but instead intensified building in the settlements, Har Homa and East Jerusalem.

He did not permit safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, and did not release Palestinian prisoners. Thus the Oslo agreement was indeed smashed. On May 4, 1999, nothing happened. The final-status agreement retreated even farther, and the second intifada started to take shape.

Had Rabin not been murdered, the Oslo agreement would have continued and the final-status agreement would have been signed. We could be living today in a completely different world, one in which the national effort would be for the good and prosperity of all of society, and not for raising the defense budget. Rabin knew that time was not on our side, that Israel was a sick society, and that only peace could win the time to heal its wounds.