The Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin

Learning conflicting lessons from Rabin's life.

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-Leslie Susser, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

The depth of the confusion over "the Rabin legacy" could be seen and the commemorations marking the anniversary of his death. Rabin's legacy is the idea of compromise (according to Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg), the Rabin legacy is the eternal unity of Jerusalem (according to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon) and the Rabin legacy is the Oslo process (according to opposition leader Yossi Sarid). The Rabin legacy for advanced students is that it is not nice to assassinate a prime minister and for younger students, the schools simplify his legacy to "it's not nice to hit people."... 

It seems that Israel will flounder around for many more years in the twilight zone between "legacy," which is the real thing a person leaves behind, and "legend" which emerges from symbols and symbolism. In the meantime, rather than "Rabin's legacy" being formulated, the Rabin myth is being built up while using the word, legacy. A myth indeed requires tragic heroes, but a society that claims to be rational does not like to use the word "myth." Legacy sounds much more dignified.

-Lily Galili, Haaretz

But did Oslo "fail"? Obviously in the straightforward sense it did. We're 10 years on from Rabin's assassination--twice the trust-building period proposed--and the peace process appears not much further forward.

But is that true? No one much now denies the obvious truth that the Palestinians must have a place of their own. That was almost unsayable in Jewish circles little more than a decade ago. Interchange with Palestinian leadership is now commonplace. We apparently rely on Egypt to provide us with lulavim [palm branches for the holiday of Sukkot] without embarrassment and we expect Jordan to help out. When the Iranian president urged wiping Israel off the map, the Palestinian leadership dissociated themselves, claiming all they wanted was to add Palestine, not remove Israel.

-Clive Lawton, Executive Director Limmud (UK),

 As time passes, the question of Rabin's legacy becomes more pronounced. The mythological Rabin, posthumously endowed with the characteristics of Left- wing post-Zionism, needs to be separated from the historical Rabin. The myth is also a response, in part, to the vilification of Rabin by extremists on the Israeli Right, that took place before his murder and which also distorted the complexity of his policies and views. Neither extreme characterization does justice to the legacy of the late Prime Minister...

The truth is that Rabin's legacy is very complex, and simplistic slogans do not reflect the work and contributions of over 50 years of public life. No one can speak for him, or claim to know what he would have said or done under any specific circumstances. The members of his family, and the people with whom he worked most clearly have a special role in preserving his memory, but in terms of policies and perceptions, particularly in the security realm, the Rabin legacy is open to many interpretations.

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