- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

Honoring Rabin

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called Yitzhak Rabin a soldier who took a major risk for peace, as he joined Washington officials and foreign ambassadors on the eighth anniversary of the assassination of the Israeli prime minister who tried to end the conflict with the Palestinians.

“Rabin was not some mystic preaching peace in the abstract,” Mr. Kissinger said at a memorial service at the Israeli Embassy this week.

“He was not some academic who had studied the art of negotiation. He was a soldier who knew better than most the complexity of Israel’s dilemmas.”

Mr. Rabin, a former commander of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), was assassinated on Nov. 4, 1995, by an Orthodox Jewish Israeli enraged over the Oslo Peace Accords he signed with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in 1993.

Mr. Rabin was chief of staff of the IDF during the Six-Day War in 1968 and shortly afterward served as ambassador to the United States. He was prime minister twice — from 1974 to 1977 and from 1992 until his death.

“As a peacemaker, he overcame his doubts in fulfilling his people’s dreams,” Mr. Kissinger said. “The Oslo agreement … represented a major risk of which no one was more aware than Yitzhak Rabin.”

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon said the 300 guests at the memorial service came to honor Mr. Rabin, not mourn him.

“It is already eight years since this tragic murder took place when a despicable murderer cut short the life of a great Israeli, a great hero and a great leader,” Mr. Ayalon said.

“The memories are so fresh and are tragic. And the pain and grief that all of us in Israel feel are just as vivid as they were on that day eight years ago. …

“The murder was not only of a beloved Israeli hero, but also it was an attack against our core institutions and our democratic values. We were shaken to the core, but we prevailed. We prevailed because of Yitzhak Rabin’s legacy. …

“We come today not to mourn Yitzhak Rabin. We come to honor and salute him.”

Belarus ‘perception’

The State Department regularly describes Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko as an authoritarian leader who rigs elections and runs a government with a “very poor” human rights record that is only getting worse.

However, as the ambassador from Belarus sees it, his country has a “perception” problem.

Ambassador Mikhail Khvostov called for the normalization of relations between the former Soviet republic and the United States when he appeared recently at a forum sponsored by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

He said the U.S. policy of “selective engagement [with Belarus] should be replaced with constructive engagement.”

“We are not so different from other [former Soviet] countries and not so different from other Eastern [European] countries,” he said.

Mr. Khvostov believes the strained relations with the United States are based on what he called a “problem of perception.”

A diplomat’s tribute

Congress paid tribute to Ambassador Odeen Ishmael of Guyana before the dean of the Caribbean and Latin American diplomatic corps departed Washington last week.

Donna M. Christensen, the congressional delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, praised “his commitment and dedication … not only to issues affecting his home country, Guyana, but also to issues and concerns of all of the countries of the Caribbean.”

She said Washington “will greatly and surely miss his insightful, quiet leadership, as well as his earnest friendship.”

Mr. Ishmael, who served here for 10 years, was the fifth most senior foreign ambassador out of a diplomatic corps of more than 170.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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