It is always tragic when someone like Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, who are fighting for peace, are shot down by their own countrymen. For Israel that man was Yitzhak Rabin, who after years of violence was working towards a true lasting peace with Palestinians.
At first glance Rabin does not seem like someone who would bring peace to the Middle East. He started his career in the military and was part of the force that drove Palestinians from their homes during the 1948 war. He rose through the ranks of the military until he eventually became Chief of the General Staff and was responsible for the crushing defeat of his Arab neighbors in the 1967 Six Days War. He was Israel’s minister of defense during the First Intifada. Rabin used violence to put down the Intifada and was responsible for the controversial deportation of Palestinian of leaders to Lebanon. Yet Rabin also understood the fight and said that as a soldier he felt the Palestinian leader’s courage deserved respect and that they deserved an entity of their own.
In 1993, Rabin would begin secretly meeting with the PLO at Oslo. He later said that he was a soldier who fought when he did not believe any chance for peace, but now believed there was a chance and it must be taken. He was willing to take a chance and work with Yasser Arafat if that meant there could be peace for his nation. He said, “violence is undermining the foundations of Israeli democracy.” Part of the Oslo agreement was for the two to recognize their right to exist and for Palestine to have their own nation.
Oslo would ultimately fail. For one, when they became public there was criticism on both sides. Many Israelis did not want to work with the PLO who they saw as terrorists and felt they were giving too much. At the same time many, Palestinians turned on Arafat for not getting enough. They wanted nothing short complete control of the original Palestine with the “right to return” to their own homes. Rabin would not be able to lead Israel through this peace process as he was shot down in 1995 by an angry Israeli who felt betrayed by Oslo. Working for peace is still happening in the Middle East and much of what is being debated in the Holy Land is dealing with what Rabin began.