The narrative that the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by extremist Yigal Amir killed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is advanced in the headline of an Oct. 11th Guardian review of a new Israeli film on the 1995 tragedy:
It’s also included in the opening paragraph of the review, written by Anne Joseph:
The murder of an Israeli prime minister by an Orthodox Jew was inconceivable,” says American-Israeli film-maker Yaron Zilberman. “For anyone who was pro-peace, it was beyond anything that we could fathom.” The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by the religious ultra-nationalist law student Yigal Amir, at a peace rally on 4 November 1995, was one of the most traumatic events in Israel’s history. Rabin’s death buried the prospect of peace, further divided an already riven society and left an indelible mark on Israel’s politics.
The Guardian claim doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
First, shortly after Rabin’s assassination, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister. Despite the fact that he was fiercely opposed to the Oslo Accords, on his watch Jerusalem still signed the Wye River Memorandum and Hebron Agreement, which obligated Israel to further territorial withdrawals from the West Bank, including from 80% of the historic Jewish city of Hebron.
Israel’s next prime minister, Ehud Barak, negotiated a final status agreement with the Palestinians that would have created a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and most of the West Bank, with Palestinian control of Arab neighborhoods and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem (including the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which iis Judaism’s holiest site ). Yasser Arafat rejected the 2001 offer, which exceeded the demands of the Oslo Accords, that, let’s remember, never called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Not only did Arafat reject what would have been the creation of the first sovereign Palestinian state in history, but responded by intensifying a violent intifada that preceded the breakdown of negotiations with Israel in January 2001. The Palestinian led violence, from 2001-2005, marked by scores of deadly suicide bombing attacks on innocent civilians, would ultimately claim more than 1,100 Israeli lives.
In 2005, as the 2nd Intifada finally died down, Israel withdrew all of its soldiers and civilians from Gaza, which many assumed would remove the incentive for terror. Instead, the withdrawal was followed by the rise of Hamas, who won parliamentary elections in 2006, and then violently wrestled complete control of the territory the following year. The result was thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli towns, and wars in 2008-09, 2012, and 2014.
Dovish Israeli writer Yossi Klein Halevi, in a an article published at The Atlantic analysing the recent Israeli elections, observed the following about the impact of both Palestinian violence and their leaders’ rejection of statehood offers.
“The second intifada—which began in 2000, shortly after Barak accepted the principle of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and which resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries among Israelis and Palestinians—remains the great Israeli trauma of this generation.
The main political casualty of the second intifada was the Israeli left, which became effectively unelectable. After all, the left had assured Israelis that a two-state offer would bring peace, but the numbing wave of terrorism immediately following Barak’s acceptance of a Palestinian state shattered the left’s credibility.
It was these traumas, the Palestinian rejection of peace offers, the PA-led 2nd Intifada, and the rise the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas following a painful territorial withdrawal, not, as the Guardian claims, the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist, that “murdered the peace process”.
However, as we’ve demonstrated continually, one of the leading factors behind the Guardian’s institutional pro-Palestinian bias is their refusal to take Palestinians seriously as agents of their own fate – a failure to grant Palestinians agency which invariably leads to a mono-causal, Israeli focused explanation that’s fundamentally ahistorical, thus grossly misleading readers on the root cause of the conflict.
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