HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

October 29, 2007
Remembering:
The 12th Year Anniversary of the Assassination of Peace

James Adler


As we near the 12th anniversary, on November 4th, 1995, of the assassination of Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz asks its readers whether, if Rabin had not been cruelly assassinated, he would have been able to forge peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

We can't know for sure. But peace was never more likely. It was before the Second Intifada. Before 9/11. Before the spread of Islamic extremism. Before the ascendancy of Hamas.  The Israeli public was less cynical, less skeptical, less tired, less beaten down, and was for giving peace a chance. The giant peace demonstrations in (now) Rabin Square show how much the Israeli "silent majority" wanted peace.

Unlike Abbas today, Yasir Arafat was the strong unchallenged leader. His total power went unchallenged by Hamas or Islamist extremism, so that he could have delivered.  The handshakes in front of the White House were high-profile and world-famous, and the world pressure was visible and massive and intense.

The Gulf States and Saudi Arabia were in recent deep debt to the United States and Western powers and Arab coalition for the First Gulf War and liberation of Kuwait.  Even Syria had fought for the allies in the war, and the strong Hafez Assad was still in power, more able to make peace.  Russia was still in the height of its hopeful Boris Yeltsin days and was as pro-Western and helpful as it has ever been before or since.

The high-stature King Hussein of Jordan was on the scene as a powerful and major and trusted moral force and conscience for peace in Jordan and just as much in Palestine and Israel.  President Clinton was at the height of his power and influence, still in his first term with a second to go, and as far from being a lame duck as you could get.

All the dominoes were lined up for peace and security for Israel and Palestine.  Both sides would have likely made the further needed concessions-- for example Israel about division of Jerusalem, and Palestinians about getting no more than a face-saving but only symbolic and token right of return.

There were even some ingenious possibilities being floated as trial balloons, such as God being declared sovereign of Jerusalem and the Israelis and Palestinians making a division of Jerusalem into merely pragmatic administrative districts, and God recognized as in charge of an officially united Jerusalem.

Maybe that specific idea wouldn't have worked, but it shows the creativity and optimism and spirit of peace of that era.  Tens of thousands of ordinary Israelis held a massive peace demonstration in central Kings of Israel Square, led by the Prime Minister of Israel himself.  And then a brutal fanatical right-wing assassin destroyed the hope and the possibility.


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