On the 22nd anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s murder by a far-right Israeli, journalist Gideon Levy says Israel has become even more hostile to a just peace — one that Rabin himself was never willing to offer
AARON MATÉ: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Maté. This weekend is the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. SHIMON PERES: Yitzhak Rabin was an exceptional person and an exceptional leader. YASSER ARAFAT: I am very sad and very shocked for this awful and terrible crime against one of the brave leaders of Israel and the peacemakers. AARON MATÉ: As happens every year, a large memorial is held at the site of his murder in Tel Aviv, since named in his honor Rabin Square. But this year, the memorial is especially controversial. First, left-leaning groups were not allowed to set up stalls and the word murder was not used in the invitation. This was reversed after a public outcry, but two of the five speakers at the memorial are residents of the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Now, the presence of the settlers is seen as an affront to Rabin’s legacy because he is said to be the Israeli leader who tried to make peace and end the settlements, but that part of Rabin’s legacy is worth comparing to his actual history. Well to discuss this, I spoke earlier Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist with the newspaper Haaretz, and we began by talking about the culture of incitement that preceded Rabin’s murder. So, Gideon, can you talk about that time and that period of incitement before Rabin’s murder? I mean, one of the people who was involved in that was the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. GIDEON LEVY: Yeah, I must just say that today the incitement against the left is much worse than then. Relatively to nowadays, those days were relatively less dangerous and the incitement was much less. There was a bit of fight between two camps then, and the so-called peace camp and the so-called national camp, and the national camp had incited against anything which meant peace, but this became much worse in August. AARON MATÉ: How did it get worse? GIDEON LEVY: I think that the left is much more legitimized than in those days. Today, to be a left is the worst curse that you could use in Israeli vocabulary. This was not the case 22 years ago. Still, people could define themselves as lefties toward peace leagues and not see it as an insult. AARON MATÉ: So my problem with the narrative around Rabin and moving the goal post so far to the right as it has been these days, as you described, is that it presumes that Rabin was actually trying to make a real peace with the Palestinians but in fact, if you look at his record closely, he still expanded those illegal settlements and the occupied West Bank, in fact, more than his predecessor did. And on this front, I wanna go to a clip from the former foreign minister of Israel, Shlomo Ben-Ami. He was on Democracy Now in 2006 and he was talking about Rabin’s real feelings about the Oslo process that many thought about lead to a Palestinian state. Ben-Ami says that Rabin did not see a Palestine state happening. SCHLOMO BEN-AMI: Arafat in Oslo reached an agreement that didn’t even mention the right of self-determination for the Palestinians, doesn’t even mention the need of the Israelis to put an end to settlements. If the Israelis, after Oslo, continued expansion of settlements, they were violating the spirit of Oslo, not the letter of Oslo. There is nothing in the Oslo agreement that says that Israelis cannot build settlements. It was an exercise in make-believe. The Palestinians didn’t even mention self-determination, so a leader like Rabin could have thought that, okay, we will have an agreement that will create something, which is a state-minus. This was Rabin’s expression. He never thought this will end in a full-fledged Palestinian state. AARON MATÉ: So that is the former foreign minister of Israel, Shlomo Ben-Ami, and he is saying that Yitzhak Rabin, who we are all told was this man of peace, never believed that his own peace process would turn into an actual Palestinian state. Gideon Levy, I’m wondering your thoughts on this. GIDEON LEVY: That’s not a surprise for me. I knew Yitzhak Rabin in person and he did change and he created the change but by the end of the day, he was not the man of peace that we all expected, and for sure, he was not the man of peace that he is now portrayed as. And Oslo not a peace treaty. Let’s remember that Oslo today where we look backwards, we see that Oslo led only to a much worse reality. AARON MATÉ: Well can you describe that reality? It includes the fact that the number of settlers in the occupied West Bank, which we all thought, or were told were gonna be removed, have actually doubled. GIDEON LEVY: Not only this. Any agreement between the Israeli and the Palestinians, which does not include the evacuation of any settlement, is not worth anything. Oslo did include this and didn’t even include any freezing of the settlement project and that’s the best proof that Oslo was a trap in a way because by the end of the day, you really can judge the real intentions of Israel only through the settlements project. And if Israel continues to be in settlements, Israel says no to peace and says no to the two-state solution. AARON MATÉ: Right, and you know, one other indication of what Oslo was about is the fact that now you have the Palestinian authority carrying out a lot of the so-called security work that the Israeli military used to do in the occupied West Bank. Let me actually read you a quote from Rabin on that. He said … He was speaking to skeptics of the Oslo court at the time, and he said, “The Palestinians will be better at establishing internal security than we are. They will not allow appeals to the Supreme Court and will prevent groups like the Association For Civil Rights in Israel from criticizing the conditions there. They will rule by their own methods, freeing, and this is most important, the Israeli soldiers from having to do what they will do.” So that’s Rabin in speaking to skeptics of the Oslo Accord in the early 1990s. Can you talk about that, Gideon Levy, how Israel has used the Palestinian authority as essentially a collaborationist force. GIDEON LEVY: That’s almost the only outcome from Oslo Accord, which still remains. This is the collaboration between the PA and Israel, a collaboration, which is aimed only in one direction, to help Israel to fight what’s defined as terror. It doesn’t go the other way around at all. I mean, there is no assistance of the Israeli authorities for the Palestinians. There is also something, which is called security for the Palestinians, but nobody even thinks about it so by the end of the day, the PA is on one hand the institution, which enables many Palestinians VIP to gain a lot of privileges and on the other hand, it enables Israel to collaborate with the West Bank, not much more than this. AARON MATÉ: So finally Gideon, as the Rabin anniversary is marked around the world, if you could advise people how you think this date should be commemorated as we wrap. GIDEON LEVY: First of all, we exaggerated the commemoration. I mean, wouldn’t Rabin be murdered, I don’t think anyone would commemorate Rabin or for sure not in such a way, but I do understand that such a murder is a trauma, is a national trauma in many ways, and should be commemorated but it should be commemorated to try to continue from the place that Rabin stopped. Rabin didn’t go very far but there were some first steps and Israel should continue those steps, instead of getting back into nostalgia, what about going in his way and his way totally stopped them. I’m not sure by the way that wouldn’t he be murdered, he would have gone any further. I think he went as much as he could and he wouldn’t go any further and therefore he’s not a historical leader. AARON MATÉ: We’ll leave it there. Gideon Levy, Israeli journalist with Haaretz, thank you. GIDEON LEVY: Thank you very much. AARON MATÉ: Thank you and thank you for joining us on the Real News.