- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

This week marks six years since the tragic assassination of former Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin. From his days commanding the Israeli victory in the Six Day War of 1967, through his famous handshake with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in 1993, Rabin will be remembered as a heroic soldier whose greatest battle was the struggle for peace. As Israelis remember the loss of a leader gunned down by a political fanatic, we all must grieve for his failed vision of peace.

There is a misconception that Rabin's legacy is that of sacrifice in the name of peace. Having worked with Rabin for many years in the defense establishment, I wish to clarify that Rabin believed in peace, but not at any cost. Rabin dreamt of peace, but his primary goal was ensuring Israel's security and defense. He understood that there was a threshold for achieving peace it can only come in the absence of terror and violence.

I am reminded of one poignant moment in Israel's history that exemplifies this fact the Entebbe mission. In 1976, then-Prime Minister Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres directed the rescue of a hijacked Air France plane diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, en route from Paris to Tel Aviv, with 230 hostages on board. Despite domestic pressure to succumb to the hijackers' demanded release of 43 international terrorists, Rabin ordered an unprecedented military raid that freed the captives and thwarted the hijackers' plans. The basis of this operation epitomized Rabin's belief that acquiescing to terror ultimately sacrifices all prospects for peace. Rabin understood that if terrorism is perceived as lucrative in its "pay-off," its perpetrators have no motivation to cease their abominable acts.

In his second term as prime minister, Rabin, once again in partnership with Mr. Peres, worked to create a framework for negotiations with the Palestinian leadership, contingent upon their complete abdication of terror. Rabin demanded that the negotiations could only happen if the Palestinian leadership unequivocally renounced terrorism both in word and in deed. Accordingly, in a letter written to Rabin dated Sept. 9, 1993, Mr. Arafat formally declared that, "the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators."

Following Rabin's assassination, the world has witnessed Mr. Arafat's blatant violation of the promises made in 1993. After rejecting Israel's unprecedented proposals for peace at the Camp David Summit in the summer of 2000, he has sustained a 13-month campaign of incitement and violence against Israel. It is clear that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has made the strategic decision to utilize terror as a means of gaining what it failed to achieve through negotiation.

Mr. Arafat demonstrated his contempt for his agreement with Rabin following last month's assassination of Israeli Minister of Tourism Rechavam Ze'evi, when he failed to punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime, or hinder the terrorist infrastructure that facilitated their actions. The PA has subsequently refused to extradite Ze'evi's assassins or arrest other known terrorists, demonstrating its blatant unwillingness to reign in the terror and fulfill its basic commitment to peace.

On Sunday, Oct. 28 the day Israel pulled out of the West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Beit Jala two Palestinian policemen affiliated with the Islamic Jihad opened fire from their vehicle on a crowded bus stop in Hadera, killing four Israelis and injuring 44. The PA's employment and arming of known terrorists demonstrates their active toleration of avowed terrorist networks operating candidly under their control.

Had the PA taken resolute action against terrorism in accordance with all previously signed agreements, including the recent Mitchell and Tenet recommendations atrocities such as these would not have occurred. In shirking his fundamental obligation to prevent terror, Mr. Arafat bears the ultimate culpability for the murder of innocent civilians.

The events of the past year would have saddened Rabin, but I am confident he would concur that negotiating with sponsors of terror is inherently counterproductive to the onset of peace. Until Mr. Arafat abandons the use of violence as a political tool as he promised Rabin in 1993 Israel must defend its vital interests and protect its citizens from harm. As demonstrated at Entebbe, Israel will not reward terror or succumb to its wrath. This is the true legacy of Yitzhak Rabin.

David Ivry is the ambassador of Israel to the United States.


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