We Need a Rabin Party

Missed are his responsibility and seriousness. Missed are his good judgment and sobriety. Missed is Rabin's true path, which tried to combine security and peace.

This week was Rabin Week. The head of the Kadima government, Ehud Olmert, exploited Rabin Week to commit to two ideas to which Yitzhak Rabin was vehemently opposed: withdrawal to the 1967 borders and dividing Jerusalem. The late prime minister's son, Yuval Rabin, exploited Rabin Week to hint that he would support the man his father considered a bitter rival: Benjamin Netanyahu. A group of politicians from the Labor Party's dovish wing exploited Rabin Week to announce that it was about to desert to the party with which Rabin disagreed: Meretz.

Anyone who was not aware of it in the past was well aware of it this week: Friend or not, Rabin is missed. Missed are his responsibility and seriousness. Missed are his good judgment and sobriety. Missed is Rabin's true path, which tried to combine security and peace.

Rabin was not only the Rabin of the Oslo Accords. He was the Rabin of the siege of Jerusalem in 1948 and the expulsion of the Arabs from Lydda in the summer of 1948. He was the Rabin of the great fear in May 1967 and the great victory a month later. He was the Rabin of the interim agreements, of the dollar account and of breaking the Palestinians' bones. He was neither a genius nor a saint, but he was a Tel Aviv sabra who assumed responsibility for the country's fate.

As the person responsible, Rabin tried to pave a path for the country in a tempestuous and dangerous neighborhood. As the person responsible, he didn't just see a leftist or rightist reality, he saw an overall and complex reality. So he could not tolerate belligerent nationalists and bleeding-heart leftists. His core truth was adhering to reality: Rabin detested the self-righteous and simplistic; charlatans and frauds.

Rabin preceded Ariel Sharon in deciphering the code of the Israeli center. Labor under Rabin received a mandate for peace because the public believed that Rabin's peace would be peace with security. Most of the public supported Labor under Rabin's leadership even with the Oslo Accords, because they believed that Rabin was entering the diplomatic process without illusions.

Had Rabin heard about the Annapolis conference, we can assume he would have rolled with laughter; had he heard about Olmert's fruitless unilateral concessions he would certainly have been angry. Rabin did not believe that it was possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinians to end the conflict. Nor did he believe in hollow and inexperienced leadership. On the other hand, he dismissed out of hand the right's suggestions to sit tight and do nothing.

He understood that the occupation was corrupt, corrupting and useless and sought any way possible to end it with a long-term interim agreement. Rabin disliked messianic settlers, but he did not trust the Palestinians either. As a faithful representative of the Israeli center he sought a road map that would patiently and cautiously advance the two nations toward the two-state solution.

This week proved that there are almost no successors to Rabin. The Likud of Netanyahu and Benny Begin is not Rabin because it will not evacuate settlements and will not divide the country. Olmert's Kadima is not Rabin because it is a phony, and Tzipi Livni's Kadima is not Rabin because it is not decisive. Meretz is not Rabin because its unadulterated faith in the Geneva Initiative contradicts everything Rabin believed in. That leaves the Labor Party. Ehud Barak's Labor is clearly Rabin's party. But is Labor still there? Is there any hope for Labor?

Maybe and maybe not. But there is no question that Israel needs the Labor Party. Israel needs the party that built and preserved the state; a party that tried to find a balance between security and peace and between a free market and social justice. Israel needs Rabin's party.

It's true that Labor is annoying and infuriating. Labor also erred and disgraced itself. But Barak's party did not cling to power any more than Livni's party did. The party of Ofer Eini and Shelly Yachimovich is no more petrified than Haim Oron's party of Hakibbutz Ha'artzi, the movement of the left-wing kibbutzim. Therefore the tendency to treat Labor harshly is exaggerated. Labor must renew itself and recover, but there is no justification for the attacks against it. In the final analysis, just as Rabin was a responsible leader, Labor is a responsible party. We must not give it up.