Israelis mourn Rabin, and lost hopes of peace

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The Independent Online

Aharon Barnea, the Channel Two presenter, was on duty outside Tel Aviv's Ichilov hospital when Mr Rabin's right-hand man, Eitan Haber, announced that the Prime Minister had died from the terrible gunshot wounds inflicted by his extreme rightwing Jewish assassin, Yigal Amir.

Mr Barnea, who was seen choking back tears as he took the microphone from Mr Haber, in an image that still defines the tragedy for many Israelis, said yesterday at the scene of Rabin's murder that "nothing has happened in the political process" in the subsequent 10 years, which saw the collapse of the Camp David talks in 2000 and the subsequent Palestinian intifada.

Mr Barnea, who was the network's Arab affairs correspondent at the time of the rally, which was in support of the Oslo accords sealed with Yasser Arafat, added: "Amir wasn't only trying to kill Rabin. He was also trying to halt the peace process. And if we are true to ourselves we have to admit that he succeeded."

Making a television film as part of a series of events to commemorate the assassination over the coming days - including a public rally in Rabin Square on 12 November that will be attended by the former US president Bill Clinton - Mr Barnea acknowledged that withdrawal from Gaza by Ariel Sharon's government represented "progress". But he added: "This was a unilateral step, not a bilateral or a multilateral one."

Mr Barnea was merely the best known of a steady stream of Israelis who passed by the simple stone memorial at the foot of the steps to Ibn Givrol Street yesterday. Daniel Topaz, 58, from Jerusalem, said: "Whenever I come to Tel Aviv I try to come here for one or two minutes to pay my respects."

About the murder, he said: "I feel furious; I feel very angry. When I hear of the threats to [Ariel] Sharon I am very worried it will happen again."

Mr Topaz added of Mr Rabin: "He was a very good politician with a far-sighted vision. Even if they are doing some things now like pulling out of Gaza, the Palestinians are still not 100 per cent free. I am not saying they are 100 per cent OK but a lot of limitations are placed on them. I want peace but I don't see it coming."

Na'ama Aloni, 36, a Labour supporter who was at the deadly rally, said the murder changed her life, inspiring her to help found the Generation for Peace organisation and start a liberal, secular kindergarten in the poor Hatikva neighbourhood of south Tel Aviv, which is still flourishing. But Ms Aloni added that it was a "bit naïve" to assume that "everything would have been better if he had lived".

Miriam Raunstein, 65, broke into tears as she recalled how she wept watching the news on television 10 years ago. "My son, who was 15 at the time, had never seen me crying before."

Mrs Raunstein, who worked as an assistant in the Prime Minister's bureau at the time, added: "I adored [Yizhak Rabin], I admired him. I really loved him."

For all the retrospective criticisms of Oslo from left and right, Mr Barnea, at least, is emphatically one of those who thinks that history would have been different had Mr Rabin lived.

Wryly, he said: "I went with Rabin to eight Arab capitals with an Israeli passport. I can't do that now."