Politicians are nearly always pragmatic creatures. When Yitzhak Rabin decided to recognize the Palestinian national movement and sign the Oslo Accords with its leaders, it wasn’t a sudden rebirth of the old general as a peacenik. He had made a clearheaded assessment that Israel was secure
The Israeli left shrunk to a tiny marginalized shadow when, shunning all others, it went down an ideologically pure rabbit-hole. When U.S. Jewish progressives urge AOC to shun Rabin, they’re following the same forlorn path.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Oslo Accords, September 13, 1993, an agreement between Israel and the PLO that spelled out potential Palestinian self-rule, scholars and diplomats who worked back then have written dozens of articles, published interviews, and participated in video documentaries praising and criticizing the Accords (a partial listing of those publications maybe found on the CIE site in contemporary readings for August and September 2018). Not surprisingly, almost all analyses of why the Oslo Accords were good or bad rests on expectations of what was anticipated. For those who opposed any partition of the land of Israel into Jewish and Arab states, it was “obviously” a dismal failure; for others who believe now as they did then, that only a two-state solution will bring peace to Israel, have not given up on the notion of separating Palestinians and Israelis. Diplomats involved at the time have provided stirring recollections of how the Accords unfolded as well as occasional acknowledgements of their personal failures in the negotiations and implementations of the Accords. To our knowledge, none of the recent publications, oral interviews or videos commemorating the Oslo Accords, tried to explain why Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Accords with PLO leader, Yasir Arafat. There is a record of why he signed the accords.
Three days before his assassination, on November 1, 1995, Rabin told his speech writer Yehuda Avner, why he signed the Oslo Accords with Yasir Arafat on the White House lawn. Rabin did not like Arafat, nor did he trust the PLO leader. ‘Distaste’ might not be too strong a term to describe his feeling for the Palestinian leader who had spent a life-time killing Israelis and Jews and seeking to undermine Israel’s existence. However, Rabin was a pragmatist. He preferred Arafat’s secular oriented PLO to the theologically dominated Hamas, supported in part by Iran. Rabin believed that failure to bolster the secular stream in the Palestinian national movement would only elevate Hamas. Further, he believed a secular national conflict over territory could be resolved but a Jewish-Islamic theologically based conflict would go on for decades. 25 years after Rabin made that decision, the PLO secular wing and leadership remains in a continuous struggle for the hearts, minds, and direction of the Palestinian future. Rabin’s decision, unacceptable to many at the time, contained good strategic sense and so far has lasted in time. It provided an outline for Israeli-Palestinian agreements, though not fully implemented nor fully observed by both parties, it remains the accepted international framework for political discussions between Israel and the West Bank Palestinian leadership. There is no doubt that the Accords provided Israel with enormous economic and trade openings to India, the Far East, and the rest of the world.