Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel Ponders the Durability of Rabin's Peace Legacy ; on the Anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's Death, Clinton Invites Mideast Leaders to US

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israel Ponders the Durability of Rabin's Peace Legacy ; on the Anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's Death, Clinton Invites Mideast Leaders to US

Article excerpt

Five years after Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down by an ultra-nationalist assassin, his chief legacy, the Oslo agreement with Palestinians, is in danger of collapsing.

And as a week of Israeli tributes to Mr. Rabin's memory began Saturday night with a rally in Tel Aviv that drew tens of thousands of people, both Israelis and Palestinians reflected on the course of his legacy. The week also coincides with a bid by President Clinton to end more than five weeks of Palestinian-Israeli violence and restart Middle East peace talks.

In the eyes of the Israeli right-wing and much of the public, the intifadah, or Palestinian uprising, has proven Rabin's approach of launching self-rule and then negotiating final arrangements with the Palestinians to be a dangerous mistake.

"The naive idea of bringing [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat from Tunis with his people, arming them, and thinking it would produce peace was absurd," says Naomi Blumenthal, a Likud party member of the Knesset.

Yesterday, two Palestinians were killed during clashes in the Gaza Strip, the first deaths in violence in two days. And over the weekend, a US-based medical rights group, Physicians for Human Rights, blamed the Israeli Army for using excessive force against Palestinian rioters, saying, they aimed "to injure and kill, not to avoid loss of life and injury." Israelis deny such allegations.

Meanwhile, analysts attribute much of damage to the Oslo accord to the fact that both sides consider themselves victims.

While the Palestinians have experienced the violence as an Israeli onslaught and have endured the brunt of the casualties, Israelis, too, feel victimized. And it is this sense of being attacked that right-wing hawks are trying to capitalize on.

Events such as last week's car bombing in Jerusalem that killed two civilians, and the daily shooting by Palestinian fighters into the Jewish settlement of Gilo on the edge of Jerusalem, are all being blamed on the Oslo agreement and alleged weakness by the government.

"Everything has to be halted and we need to reassess the situation," says Ms. Blumenthal. "We need to learn the lessons and to move away from the thinking of those who deluded themselves that they have a peace partner."

Advocates of the 1993 Oslo agreement to launch Palestinian self- rule concede that they are losing more and more ground as the the fighting continues.

"I would say that the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin is now at stake," says Labor Party Knesset member Yossi Katz. "We are at a crucial point, and time is against us. If in the next few weeks there is no Israeli-Palestinian agreement, the activities of the Palestinian extremists will become a daily event, and Israel will have no choice but to establish a unity government [with Likud]. …

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