On the second anniversary of the Rabin assassination, it is plain that leaders of the Israeli left still demand an ongoing soul-searching from the right. But they seem to be having trouble doing this themselves. Perhaps recalling some of the more important facts can help them get started.
The theme, now a permanent part of the country's political folklore, is that poisonous rhetoric and verbal violence eventually created a climate in which assassination seemed acceptable. If so, then the sanctimony on the left should give way to some introspection on their part, for certainly there was no lack of violent and hateful rhetoric on the left side of the political spectrum. Moreover, no one's rhetoric was more poisonous than that of the late prime minister himself.
Those who opposed his government's policies were no less than "enemies of peace." When Arab terrorists murdered Israelis, it was the fault of the opposition, called "partners of Hamas," and "murderers of the peace." Or it was the victim's fault.
During 1995's demonstrations on the hills in Efrat, we saw Peace Now on television at a public solidarity rally in the neighboring Arab village of El Khadr with Arab leaders, including Hamas. It does not seem to have occurred to the left that they might be the partners of Hamas, not even when Peace Now folks were shoulder to shoulder with their Arab brethren, stoning our vehicles.
Eyewitnesses testified before the Shamgar Commission that, at those demonstrations, one Yigal Amir spent days trying to incite Efrat residents to attack police. Numerous people who did not do so were arrested. Amir was never arrested. Why not?
The Rabin-Peres government never recognized the slightest legitimacy in complaints of the residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza over their safety and their fear of abandonment.
Rabin assured the Jews who live in Judea, Samaria and Gaza that "we will not dismantle a single settlement." This was repeated numerous times by other Cabinet ministers.
Shimon Peres was quoted in a similar vein about a year later, and Rabin, in the spring of 1995, answered a similar question by explaining that the Israel Defense Force is pulling out, the PLO is coming in and he promised that "we will do our best to take care of the wounded."
On the other hand, compensation for the residents who choose to leave places to be turned over to the PLO was considered out of the question because they will still own their homes in the Palestinian Autonomy, "the same as Americans own homes in France."
Clearly then, what the honeyed words "we will not dismantle a single settlement" mean is that "we will abandon the settlers."
Professor Moshe Zimmerman of Hebrew University compared the Torah with "Mein Kampf," as a racist blueprint for the destruction of other peoples and likened the children of Kiryat Arba, the Jewish community outside Hebron, to Hitler Youth. How was Professor Zimmerman's hateful extremism answered? He was recruited to the Ministry of Education and placed in charge of developing history curriculum for Israeli schools.
In the commemoration of the first anniversary of the assassination, the media recalled the rally at which the photograph of Rabin in a Nazi SS uniform was displayed. I heard no one recall, however, that the person who displayed it and who called it specifically to reporters' attention was Avishai Raviv, a Shabak agent, an employee of the Prime Minister's Office.
The government put out a lot of dramatic press after the assassination about uncovering "Eyal," the putative organization that claimed responsibility for Rabin's murder. But it quickly became clear that Eyal was created by Raviv, who also recruited Amir.
Raviv, speaking for Eyal, took responsibility for the murder of an Arab in Halhul by gunmen wearing knitted skullcaps and otherwise disguised as Jewish settlers. The U.S. State Department called it a "settler execution" and opined that "this is how the settlers treat the Arabs." In the end, the murderers turned out to be Arabs in an ordinary crime, but the damage to the settlers, the religious community and the right in general was done, and it was done by Raviv, a Shabak agent, an employee of the Prime Minister's Office.
Raviv is only the tip of the iceberg. The use of agents provocateurs by the Shabak was first noted by Norwegian observers in Hebron in a report given to the mayor of Hebron and to Prime Minister Rabin. They reported that security personnel, dressed as Jewish settlers, regularly shot out windows and solar collectors and beat up children when people threw stones at them. Why were they doing something that could likely foment a pogrom?
The Rabin government also failed to answer a number of questions, including why they continued to trust our "peace partners" or how it will all lead to peace when in the last stage, Israel will be required to resettle between two and three million Palestinian refugees inside the Green Line or scrap the peace process. Rather, it employed repressive measures: manipulation of the media, disinformation, agents provocateurs, arbitrary arrest and detention, police brutality, show trials on trumped-up charges supported by police perjury, politicization of the police and the army, and public calumnies and incitement by members of the government, first and foremost, the late prime minister himself.
Take administrative detention, for example. The left never failed to denounce Likud governments' resorting to this extreme measure as "fascistic." But in the 13 years of the Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir governments, which included the height of the intifada, they resorted to it no more than five times. In the three years of Rabin's government it was resorted to more than 80 times against Jews, more than 400 times against Israeli Arabs and more than 4,000 times against Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. This goes beyond abuse of power; these were political prisoners, and on a grand scale.
The litany could go on, but this should be enough to kickstart a little soul-searching on the left. It was, after all, the leftist Rabin-Peres government that declared war on the settlers, the religious community and the whole right wing, focusing on Kiryat Arba. Perhaps this can help the left to leave off their sanctimony and find it in their hearts to do something about healing the country's wounds.
The writer is a lawyer practicing in Jerusalem and a former Los Angeles law professor. His practice includes issues of human rights and governmental abuses.