Today marks fifteen years since the murder of Itzhak Rabin.
I feel that I should say something, but it’s hard to make the words come. Twice in twenty years of a “peace process,” there may have been a real chance at peace; twice, the chance was taken away, once by the angel of death, once by Apollo’s arrows. How did peace become so fragile and evanescent a thing, that such a small action could end even its hope?
I heard about his death on the way home from doing research in the CU library in Boulder, going past NIST. First they said he was shot, and my heart caught. A few sentences later they confirmed he was dead. Then there was that terrifying minute of wondering who had killed him, which side he had come from and what the consequences might be. A mixture of relief and anger when they said it was an Israeli, a right-wing extremist. Relief, because had it been a Palestinian, there would have been nothing that could have stopped a war and a terrifying bloodshed; anger, that one of our own would do this, would try to destroy our last hope for peace. It took days for the consequences to sink in; so many people thought that perhaps now, in honor of his death the peace process would have to go through. I remember hearing an angry settler on the news, cursing Igal Amir for killing him and “giving the peace process, which should have died on its own, the authority of the Angel of Death,” and hoping — but not quite believing — that he was right.
And of course, he wasn’t. Shimon Peres was no Rabin. He couldn’t make his own government move forward in a straight line, much less negotiate a peace. Then Bibi, with his slick lies and nasty populism. By the time Barak was in office and could try for peace, the opportunity had passed; Arafat wasn’t really interested, and the Camp David negotiations went down in flames. It wasn’t until 2005 that there would be a chance again, and then we lost that, too.
Why are the best of us always taken first?
Bill Clinton has a eulogy and remembrance of him in today’s Times. He and Rabin were friends, and there is perhaps no-one better to speak on his behalf today.