Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who earned the admiration of not just the Israeli people but the world when he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “efforts to create peace in the Middle East,” along with long-time political rival Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The Israeli military General turned politician and statesman was assassinated 25 years ago on November 4, 1995, when a Jewish extremist fired two bullets at a peace rally in Tel Aviv.
After finishing school, Rabin joined the Palmach – the elite strike force of the Haganah underground defense organization during the period of the British Mandate for Palestine.
After seven years of his service in Palmach, the force was disbanded. After the establishment of the State of Israel, Rabin joined the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
He served for over two decades in the IDF and became a Major-General at the age of 32. He developed the training doctrine and the leadership style for the command.
In 1962, he was appointed Chief of the General Staff and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General. He was known for developing the IDF fighting doctrine – based on movement and surprise which was used in the Six-Day War in 1967 against the Arabs. A year later, in 1968, Rabin retired from the military.
Following his retirement, Rabin took up the role of Ambassador to the United States and played a major role in developing strong bilateral ties between the two nations. After his return to Israel in 1973, Rabin entered politics and was elected as a member of Knesset (Israeli Parliament). In the following year, he became the first native-born Prime Minister of Israel.
As Israeli’s leader, Rabin displayed a willingness to take forward the peace negotiations with Arab nations along with the Palestinian group – the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Red Army Faction (a West German radical leftist group). Given Rabin’s rich military career and a diplomat, he had earned a certain public trust in his peace negotiations with the adversaries.
Rabin ordered a freeze on new Israeli settlements in the occupied territories while his administration was secretly negotiating a peace accord with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that culminated in the Israel-PLO accord. Under the accord, Israel recognized the PLO and agreed to gradually implement limited self-rule for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In 1994, Rabin concluded a peace treaty with King Hussein of Jordan.
Rubin faced severe opposition for territorial concessions given to the PLO, which was considered a terrorist organization due to their violent approach to Palestinian rights.
Bill Clinton, the former US President honored Rabin in his column for The Atlantic saying: “He was a brave soldier, principled patriot, skilled strategist, and a keen judge of character who understood how people thought and felt, and why they did what they did.
He grew into a masterful political leader able to navigate diplomatic negotiations and domestic politics, including an extremist opposition wing that slandered and attempted to delegitimize him.”
Clinton further revealed the details of the Israel-PLO accord that was signed in the White House. “When Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat traveled to the White House in 1993 to sign the Declaration of Principles, it was a leap of faith and act of courage on both sides,” said Clinton.
He further added that before shaking the hand of the man he [Rabin] had long considered his mortal enemy, Rabin spoke directly to the Palestinian people, making clear why he thought the risks were worth it:
“We have come to try to put an end to the hostilities, so that our children, our children’s children, will no longer experience the painful cost of war, violence, and terror … [We] are destined to live together, on the same soil in the same land … We, like you, are people—people who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, live side by side with you in dignity, in affinity as human beings, as free men.”
Clinton said that both the Israeli Prime Minister and the leader of PLO knew that they are risking their lives by signing the accord and Clinton assured both of them that the United States would try to keep them safe.
However, on November 4, 1995, a peace rally was organized in Tel Aviv to garner more support for the Israel-PLO accord and was attended by more than 100,000 people. At the end of the rally, as Rabin was exiting, a 25-year-old Jewish extremist Yigal Amir shot the prime minister.
“Twenty-five years after his assassination, I continue to believe that, had Rabin lived, we would have reached a comprehensive agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians in the next two or three years. If we had, the past two decades would have been very different,” Clinton emphasized adding that the best long-term solution is a two-state solution, that Rabin gave his life for.