LEADING ARTICLE:A funeral in Jerusalem

Share
Related Topics
Yitzhak Rabin was not a religious nor a sentimental man. But it seemed that after 27 years of waging battle he had adopted the line in Isaiah which speaks of comforting the prophet's people and crying out to Jerusalem that "her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned". His death at the hands of a young Jewish fanatic is a terrible blow to Israel's democracy. But it cannot reverse the gains that Mr Rabin achieved for his people, nor will it extinguish the desire to achieve a comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

Soldier, politician, tactical hawk and strategic dove, Mr Rabin epitomised many of the contradictions that have beset the state of Israel since its foundation. He fought its wars as chief of staff and, as minister of defence, he ordered its dehumanising repression of the Palestinians. Mr Rabin was shrewd enough to recognise the difference between a fight for national survival and an occupation that served only to corrode the values of the occupier. He made the choice for peace, not out of naivety or opportunism, but because he saw it as the best way to ensure the security of the Jewish people. The missiles fired from Iraq during the Gulf war of 1991 taught Israelis that protection could no longer be purchased with a few extra miles of territory. They could choose between a permanent state of war or a risky peace, trading occupied land for political recognition. Mr Rabin had the courage, unenthusiastically, to make that decision and he was rightly honoured for it with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now he has joined the late Anwar Sadat in the upper ranks of those who have paid with their lives for veering away from the purist doctrines of religion and conflict so dominant in Middle Eastern politics. Yet his assassination was an act that simply carried into real life all the vituperative rhetoric heaped upon him ever since the Israeli right realised that its dreams of expansion lay in the dust.

From Binyamin Netanyahu of the Likud, and from its extreme fringes, there came ritual expressions of shock yesterday. They should have been expressions of shame. For too long the "respectable" Israeli right has pandered to its lunatic fringe, legitimising religious fanatics and zealots who spout racist filth about Arabs. These are paranoid minorities in Israeli society, ready even to cheapen the memory of the Holocaust by manipulating painful emotions for their own narrow ends. Theirs is a political culture of violence, hitherto exclusively directed at Palestinians. Now it has claimed an Israeli prime minister.

So let the period of mourning be a time for Mr Netanyahu, for the far right, for the Jewish settlers and their unthinking supporters abroad, to meditate on their future policies. The fact is Mr Rabin's achievement is irreversible without war. Israel will not go back into Gaza, nor retake the towns of the West Bank, nor consign the Palestinians once more to the limbo of a people without land or identity. With luck, firm nerves and concerted international support, Mr Rabin's successor should proceed to negotiate a withdrawal from the Golan Heights and from the martyred lands of south Lebanon. Peace treaties with Syria and Lebanon remain a worthy and attainable goal.

Yitzhak Rabin was denied the chance to see the fruits of his political courage but his funeral in Jerusalem today should not be seen as the end of his achievement. For it is he who has buried forever the possibility of an Israeli state maintained only by military might and sustained by a perversion of the Zionist ideal. Generations of the Jewish people still unborn, and even the descendants of his Palestinian foes, may yet render him their thanks.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
 

At last Cuba is free to become more like the glorious US of A!

Mark Steel
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum