Israel, Politics

Remembering Yitzak Rabin on Election Day

Although his official rememberance day is Monday, November 10th, today is the 13th anniversary of Yitzak Rabin’s assassination, which we consider as violent settlers increase their “price tag” intimidation and as Likud campaigns to end all negotiations. All this in the shadow of American elections. The symbolism is layered within the American Jewish community, and complex.
Today is the day where Americans choose to renounce or continue the path of the Bush administration. In Israel, elections could land a pro-negotations Tzipi Livni or an anti-concessions Bibi Netanyahu. And in Palestine, Hamas threatens not to recognize Mahmoud Abba as President past December, demanding new elections. All three reset buttons have been hit.
To wit:
The new leaders of America, Israel and Palestine-to-be must look at the legacy of the Israeli man who made unpopular political choices and paid for it. They must consider the heavy weight of confronting our own, internal and personal fundamentalists — Christian in America, Orthodox Jewish in Israel, and Islamic in the territories. They must know the risks of waiting again are heavier than any personal risk or political gamble.

The Jewish citizens of Israel are paralyzed in fear that one day they will have to answer a bullet from a Jew with another bullet. The prospect of Jew-on-Jew warfare tears the heartstrings of us all. Removing the settler extremists by force and escorting the reluctant but non-violent protestors is deeply frightening. But we, American Jews and Israelis, have been waiting for a leader with the determination to do it for over 13 years. The cowardace and footshuffling of “waiting” for a perfect partner has allowed the fundamentalists to strengthen, arm and entrench.
The Palestinians have responded beyond expectations (admittedly, Palin-level expectations) to clean their streets of terrorists gangs in Jenin and Nablus, and maybe next Hebron. But with the open wound of Gaza/Hamas-West Bank/Fatah warfare not so recently past, the fear of confronting the strongest of the fundamentalists, the ones who will never put down their weapons no matter the Israeli offering, still rides high. New elections in early 2009 will also spell a referendum on peace or more ostrich-playing. It enables the emergence of a new leader…or a retreat into hooliganism.
In America, the ring-wing Israel lobby has taken new hits in this year and without a Republican-dominated Congress and Administration, it is hopeful to imagine policy towards Israel will be more fair-minded and long-term in scope. The American president, despite campaign promises, can decide to wait for Year Seven like Bush before substantively leveraging America’s influence over both parties. Carrots and sticks lie piled ceiling-high, unused. Naysayers in the American Jewish community already tried to scare Jews away from the more peace-inclined candidate; our establishment is overly conservative. The new President can act with decisiveness and force the Israelis and the Palestinians to the table…or can let more of them die while waiting for a correct moment to selfishly forge a “legacy.”
We’ve been waiting for leaders — an Israeli, a Palestinian, an American — with moral vision, pragmatism and a willingness to look the violent minority in the face and say, “No more.”
Yitzak Rabin wasn’t the angel he is frequently remembered for; his and his party’s policies represent the bulk of the political mistakes which fed and enabled the settlements and the settlers. But we don’t need angels. We don’t even need blameless people. We just need leaders who, as the Bush administration never intended it to be said, will look into the eyes of the fundamentalists and not blink. Their own fundamentalists.
Sign the Brit Tzedek v’Shalom “Time to Choose” petition. If you’re a rabbi, cantor or rabbinical/cantorial student, sign the Rabbi’s Letter.

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