Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Death of Israel's Everyman

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Death of Israel's Everyman

Article excerpt

I desperately want to write that despite the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel, the peace process between Israel and the Arabs will survive. I am not sure.

The reason is that this is a case where the death of one man really can make an enormous difference. It was only Rabin, among contemporary Israeli leaders, who had the credibility and courage to sell the peace treaty with Yasser Arafat to the Israeli public.

Israel's foreign minister, Shimon Peres, deserves enormous credit for having the initial vision to see the possibility for a breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians, and to push Rabin in that direction. But it was Rabin who, once convinced that Arafat was ready to deal, persuaded Israelis that they could trade land for peace with their mortal enemy. They would not have bought the deal from anyone else.

There are two reasons. One, is that Rabin was the Israeli everyman. He was deeply in touch with the soul of the great Israeli silent majority. His gruff, no-nonsense approach to life epitomized the personality of the native-born Israeli Sabra.

Rabin did not take any flak from anyone. And like the Israeli silent majority, Rabin always made clear that he was making peace with the Palestinians, not because he liked them, but because he believed it was the best way to guarantee a secure and prosperous Israel, because he believed Israelis would never be able to feel at home unless the Palestinians did as well.

The second reason for Rabin's unique credibility was his war record. He commanded the Israeli troops that captured Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Sinai, and the West Bank in 1967, and therefore he alone had the standing to give them back in peace.

Having just spent two weeks traveling through the Middle East, I am convinced that the peace process Rabin so boldly helped to set in motion is very real - but now we are going to find out just how real.

One thing I learned a long time ago is that sometimes the news is in the noise and sometimes the news is in the silence, and the real story in the Middle East since Sept. 13, 1993, when Rabin and Arafat shook hands at the White House, has been the silence with which the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians accepted this peace and wanted to see it go forward. …

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