The Magazine


Nov 20, 1995, Vol. 1, No. 10 • By RUTH R. WISSE
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In calling Israel's strategic withdrawal a "peace process," the Labor government has tried to camouflage the harsh political realities of decisions it believes its citizens would not otherwise accept. Like the leader who promises bread to a land of famine, or water to a people in the desert, politicians who promise Israelis peace are appealing to a craving so great that it can sweep reasoned doubt away. But preying on a people's hunger is politically irresponsible. As long as the government of Israel cannot control the supply of peace, it should be required to debate all initiatives and policies with full disclosure of the possible and probable risks they involve.

Following the murder of Yitzhak Rabin there has been a good deal of talk in Israel and abroad about fulfilling his legacy. Some take this to mean that concessions to the Palestinians and surrender to the Syrians should be made even more hastily and secretly than before, lest the democratic electoral process interfere with what the Labor party has decided to impose on Israel's citizens. Some within Rabin's party intend to use the tragedy to stifle political debate even further.

But if Rabin leaves a true legacy to Israel, it should include all he did for his country and what he stood for most of his life. As a soldier and citizen, he took part in one of the most heroic achievements in human history, the transformation of the Jews from a homeless people into a sovereign nation. But that sovereignty has not ended the particular hatred for the Jews that found its ultimate expression in the Holocaust, a hatred that still -- still -- finds expression in the attitudes of the Arabs who surround Israel and still -- still -- desire its obliteration. Nor has the creation of a Jewish state ended the harsh differences among Jews themselves.

For the sake of all that Rabin devoted his life to creating and preserving, for the sake of its sovereignty and its unity, the nation's future should not be the province of only one camp, only one faction, only one party.


Ruth R. Wisse is professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard University. Her most recent book is If I Am Not For Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews.