The son doesn’t forgive
Yuval Rabin remembers his father’s Israel
From the archives …
(Originally appeared in The Tulsa Voice)
It’s September 20, around 3 p.m., and Yuval Rabin is sitting on a white sofa in the lobby of Circle Cinema. He’s between interviews, on his cell, still suffering from jet lag, and the day isn’t even half over. He’s in Tulsa to promote “Rabin In His Own Words,” a documentary about his slain father, former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
But the movie is just part of it.
It’s Trump he’s asked about most these days, the parallels between countries, then and now, the warning signs. He wrote in USA Today: “Trump’s words are an incitement to the type of political violence that touched me personally.”
I start by asking about a rumor.
“I know my mother didn’t shake his hand at the funeral or when the coffin lay in state,” he says when I ask about how Likud leader (now Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu was received.
“And I don’t think he came to the Shiva.”
Yitzhak Rabin, elected as Israel’s fifth prime minister in 1974 and again in 1992, was fatally shot twice on November 4, 1995, by a gunman, an Israeli, during a peace rally at Kings of Israel Square (now Rabin Square). He had won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his hand in the Oslo Accords, and was killed for the same reason.
Shimon Peres, the late Israeli president, was at the rally.
Before it, we were given the words of the song, and he put it in his pocket. The bullet hit the song together with his body. You can tear a song. You can hit a body. You cannot kill the noble and great idea of peace.
The bloody lyrics, literally, found in his breast pocket.
Arafat asked three times whether Rabin was dead. Arafat then broke down in tears. Arafat then told Abington that making peace with the Palestinians had cost Rabin his life.
“But your mother didn’t greet Netanyahu?” I ask. “That’s amazing to me.”
The son has no patience for this.
“Why?” he asks me.
“Because the history of Israel is so short and because its leaders, I’ve always imagined, had a bond, even if they disagreed.”
“I don’t call him a leader,” he says of Netanyahu. “He stood for nothing.”
Our conversation ricochets.
“Was he the Trump of the day in Israel?” I press. “Is he still?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I think by putting Trump in perspective, we make ourselves somehow feel better,” I say.
“If Netanyahu is going to make you feel better about Trump, then we have a disagreement.”
“I don’t mean feel — “
“Look,” he interrupts. “There are things I find very strange about the Republican nominee for president, but I don’t think there’s a value in this comparison. When you talk about a bond, how can there be a bond when you call someone a traitor, a murderer, and you stand in a rally where people are burning placards with my father in a Nazi uniform and a PLO uniform — there’s no bond!”
After each attack, Christie … polled the convention for a response. “Guilty!” was the loud reply.
One vendor selling Trump-themed souvenirs across from the convention site said he had an obvious best seller: a T-shirt reading “Hillary for Prison 2016.” “We didn’t order enough,” said the vendor.
“When Trump spoke about McCain,” says Rabin, “I thought, ‘You were not in the service. How dare you speak about Senator McCain’s service to this nation, especially as a Republican.’ Not only was he not penalized, but rewarded.”
“So there are echoes?”
“We reached a conclusion, under [Ariel] Sharon, that we gotta build a fence. The fence was invented in my father’s time,” he answers.
We will build a great wall along the southern border… and Mexico will pay for the wall. 100%.”
“With Sharon and [Menachem] Begin, Likud and Labor, there was a civility, though, yes, between your father them?”
“Political disagreements have always been there, but at the end of the day — again, I don’t pretend to be objective — but my father held the standards of opposition and coalition to the highest degree. For instance, when people from the left called Begin a traitor [after Camp David], my father stood up and said, ‘Wait. No way. This is out of the question.’”
Republican Donald Trump called President Barack Obama and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton the “co-founders” of Islamic State.
The unthinkable. Were Obama or Clinton to be assassinated by those in this country who encompass the same kinds of unleashed, unhinged anger, would those who ginned up that vitriol be held accountable, as well?
“Do you blame Netanyahu for your father’s assassination?”
“There is no doubt in my mind that Likud was behind it.”
A Donald Trump supporter told reporters at campaign rally last week that Hillary Clinton “needs to be taken out” and that “she should be in prison or shot.”
In Israel, there is a law that states any gathering of more than 50 people requires a permit.
“So for weeks and months, repeatedly, every Friday afternoon, they had 49 people protesting in front of my parents’ home. They were out there in minutes. Of course the ties were never proven, and there’s no question they will never be proven, but if you ask me, there’s no doubt Likud was behind it.”
“I hear these horror shows, and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us,” [Trump] said last week to a nearly all-white crowd in northeast Pennsylvania. “And everybody knows what I’m talking about.”
After Yitzhak Rabin signed the treaty that would give the Palestinians self-rule in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank, he said, “We who have fought against you the Palestinians, we say to you today in a loud and clear voice, enough of blood and tears, enough.”
At the White House Rose Garden, there was the handshake. “It’s not so easy,” Rabin said at the time.
“Is it true?” I ask Yuval. “The first handshake is always the toughest?”
“It’s pretty false what you’re saying, pretty wrong,” he retorts. “When you choose your partners in foreign policy, you choose the least worst in an effort to achieve progress to fend off the worst. Not, ‘He’s bad, he’s good, he likes us, he doesn’t.’ The Palestinians — like it, don’t like it — you have to resolve it. You can’t go on for 50 years managing the lives of population about your size. You can’t. Doesn’t work. There is a price to be paid.”
“Bomb the shit outta them. I’d just bomb those suckers,” [Trump] continued. “I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left.”
In the documentary — Yitzhak Rabin narrates throughout — there’s Yuval and his sister, Dahlia; Leah, his mom, who died in 2000; and of course Yitzhak — young and gorgeous, a soldier, a prime minister, a weary statesmen, a dad playing ping pong.
“The threats against your father, were they taken seriously?”
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd began to boo. He quickly added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
“My biggest regret is that I didn’t realize how dangerous the situation was. If you had told me a minute before he was shot that he would have been killed by a fellow countryman, I would have said ‘No way.’”
The story goes that after John Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Washington Post columnist Mary McGregor said to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “We’ll never laugh again,” to which he replied, “Heavens, Mary, we’ll laugh again; we’ll just never be young again.”
“Did Israel lose its innocence on November 4, 1995?”
“It was the repercussions,” he says, the effects on the executive, judicial, legislative, branches, even the belief in the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] that were most striking.
“That was devastating to me.”
He remembers a visit.
“My father refused to wear a bullet-proof vest, refused to drive in bullet-proof car. At the time, I was dating my future wife. We came to my parents home, first time, for dinner — was the Friday before — and coming up, they lived in a flat — in the elevator, she said, ‘Sorry to say, the security is a joke. Anyone can come in.’ My answer was, ‘You don’t say these things. You don’t doubt the security services. If they think it’s enough, it’s enough. Who are you to challenge the best security force in the world?’
“Boy, was I wrong.”