Movers and Shakers Impotent in the Face of Middle East History
Michael Sheridan Diplomatic Editor, The Independent (London, England)
Jerusalem - There was a powerful, yet curiously impotent symbolism about the array of world leaders who came to make the trek from Tel Aviv up through the bare hills of Judaea to bury Yitzhak Rabin in the hillside cemetery reserved for Israel's national heroes.
As the streets of Tel Aviv lay deserted as at no time since the missile alerts of the Gulf war, the procession of dignitaries came to reaffirm the international community's commitment to the process of peaceful negotiation that Rabin set in motion. Behind the scenes of the funeral's religious theatre there were hard-headed exchanges about how best to preserve the political dialogue between Israel and its one-time Arab enemies.
One by one, the jets landed from around the globe at the airport, closed for the day to civilian traffic. There was President Bill Clinton's jumbo and a tiny executive jet from Qatar.
There was a presidential aircraft of Georgia's Eduard Shevardnadze and the Ilyushin that brought the leaders of modern Russia to the airport through which so many of their Jewish former citizens have flowed to the promised land. The scene was lent an eerie imagery of military strength by the unexplained coming and going of enormous US military transports.
All the members of the Group of Seven industrialised nations were represented. So were small new countries and states that had held Israel in contemptuous isolation for most of Rabin's life. But symbols and public displays in the Middle East often serve merely to comfort the foreign observer rather than to resolve the innermost conflicts which continue to divide the region.
The Israeli government appears, for the moment, firmly resolved to continue the peace process under the interim Prime Minister, Shimon Peres. But the assassination, having opened so many raw wounds in Israeli society, has defined the terms of Israel's violent political debate so starkly that the assumption of Jewish solidarity no longer applies. This fracturing, this lethal retribution visited upon a figure who had been thought to combine warrior and guardian in his own person, means that any successor to Yitzhak Rabin will tread a more cautious path.
Practical steps are bound to come at once. President Clinton will feel bound to relaunch and reinvigorate the process of negotiation to which he has committed …
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Publication information: Article title: Movers and Shakers Impotent in the Face of Middle East History. Contributors: Michael Sheridan Diplomatic Editor - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: November 7, 1995. Page number: 2. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.