November 5, 2010
This week marks the fifteenth anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Israel has changed a great deal since then and I cannot help long for those times. The first years of Oslo were filled with excitement, optimism, and overall change. There clearly was an alternative to war and there was partner to speak with. In fact, the partner had always been there. I am not talking about Yasser Arafat but rather the Palestinian people. They were always there even if Israel did not want to see them.
A long 15 years have passed and when I watch the nightly Israeli news I am overcome by a feeling of déjà-vu. The stumbling blocks of the years before Rabin, then under Prime Minister Shamir, are back in place. Is the peace process today once again falling victim to the question of freezing the building of settlements? Is the Israeli government once again blocking the entrance of moderate Palestinian politicians into Jerusalem’s city limits? 20 years ago the controversy was over the Orient House and Faisal Husseini; today, it is over whether Prime Minister Fayyad can enter and be present at Palestinian ceremonial events.
A few months ago, in late August I wrote about why I was avoiding writing on the peace process, which once again was about to convene. Why waste my ink! Well, two months have passed and I am happy that I did not waste both my ink and my thoughts. What we see is that it is just more games and more stealing time. It is really hard to make sense out of the current Israeli government. How does a Prime Minister not punish a Foreign Minister that does and says as he wishes? How does a Prime Minister cave into a minority settlement movement? How does a whole generation of Israelis let petty politics of miniscule politicians ruin their future?
Now, the Palestinians have time on their side and let us hope that they will also be able to overcome their differences. The divide between the PLO and Hamas seems irreconcilable. While the West Bank culturally and economically is on the upbeat, Gaza remains under an Israeli blockade and culturally blockaded by Hamas. Of course, the former is much more critical; however, the latter also needs to be mentioned. If they are able to overcome these differences, the time would be right for a serious attempt at unilaterally declaring statehood. This has been done in the past however it seems that the world is more than ever ready to accept such a move. This move might even awaken the Israeli left who lays dormant somewhere in the beautiful upper class neighborhoods of Tel Aviv.
Lastly, the huge loss to the Democratic Party in the mid-term elections has left Barack Obama weaker than ever leaving even less hope for change. What more needs to said. So, once again I have painted a bleak picture. While I did not vote for the Labor party in 1992, it seems like no Israeli leader since Yitzhak Rabin has been willing to take the future in his/hers hands and set an ambitious agenda. As long as there is no real peace, with every passing year the memories of this period will become more painful. In other words, only when there really is peace will me and many others be able to leave Rabin’s memory to the past.