Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Honoring Rabin's Legacy

Today marks 20 years since the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The Prime Minister was shot moments after speaking at a peace rally in downtown Tel Aviv. In the years following his death, tensions between Israel and the Palestinians led to the Second Intifada, numerous wars, and the stagnation of the peace process.

Rabin's death strikes pain among a young generation of Israelis who, unlike today's youth, knew a real hope for peace. Rabin's assassination was a dream deferred for Israelis who hoped that in 20 years time, Israelis and Palestinians could have peaceful if not amicable relations. Instead of hope, a cold cynicism grips Israeli society today. Israelis see no realistic alternative to a constantly deteriorating status quo, endless rounds of violence, and leadership which cannot or will not take action to change course.  

Hope did not die along with Prime Minister Rabin. During the 2011 protests, for example, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in support of social change. Across the political spectrum, the people assembled in support of a sustainable future. They reaffirmed the idea that the State of Israel is an important achievement - one worth protecting, improving, and preserving. 

Yet it also cannot go unnoticed that certain aspects of Israel's politics are simply unsustainable in the real world. Israel's government continues to fund a settlement project which diverts money away from young families, Holocaust survivors, security needs, and economic growth. It has no plan for changing a military presence in the West Bank that is economically and politically unsustainable. It continues to under-serve the poorest members of Israeli society. Its antics in the international community create more isolation at a time when international support is critical.

At the heart of the Rabin legacy was a vision for the future. While there is reasonable debate over whether the vision is achievable, it was a vision nonetheless. On this somber anniversary, Israel's leadership can best honor Yitzhak Rabin by adopting the same long-term outlook that created the Oslo Accords and the Israel-Jordan peace treaty that pays dividends to this day. Long-term planning in the Middle East is never easy. But a long-term vision of what Israel ought to be as a state is a critical element of its future survival.

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