Making peace with Jordan

A nation in grief (1)

A nation in grief (2)

October 21, 2010 – The Rabin I Choose to Remember

I was a reconnaissance sergeant in the “Shaked” Battalion, a well-known infantry unit of the Israel Defense Forces. It was March 12, 1985 and we were in the Tyre area of Lebanon. Early that morning, I set out with my Battalion commander and fellow soldiers on patrol, riding in 4 open jeeps in the area of the Kasamiya Bridge. It was the most northerly and most dangerous front of the IDF at that time: south central Lebanon.

Suddenly, we heard intense shooting and explosions. It turned out that a platoon of ours had been ambushed by 4 Hezbulla terrorists, about half a mile away from us. We quickly joined the other men and began an hour long chase, which yielded nothing.

The result was painful: 2 of our men, Dani Moshitz and David Cohen, were killed on the spot. They were only 21 years old. Two other men were injured.

We convened inside the nearby post for a debriefing. The atmosphere was harsh and moral low. Our Division Commander, Col. Gaby Ofir, and our Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Zion Gazit, ordered us to reorganize and leave the post immediately for more walking patrols in the area.

We started immediate preparations for a day that would clearly be long, tiring and dangerous. At that point, we got a message that Minister of Defense, Yitzhak Rabin, was on his way to our post. Rabin, who was in a meeting at the Northern Command in northern Israel, decided to come to the post which had just been attacked an hour ago.

As soon as his helicopter landed at our post, Rabin joined the commander of the Northern Command, Gen. Ori Or, and the other officers I mentioned. Around them, soldiers were sitting all around, cleaning their weapons, and checking their gear. About 40 feet away, we could all see 3 soldiers sitting on the ground very close to each other and crying. These soldiers were childhood friends of Dani and David, who were killed just an hour ago. The sight of the two Armored Personnel Carriers driving off with the bodies of their beloved friends tore us all apart, but they were especially broken.

Yitzhak Rabin noticed the 3 soldiers weeping. He broke away from the circle of high ranking officers and walked towards them. They noticed him, and immediately stood in respect for him, wiping the tears off their young faces. Rabin did not slow down. He walked right “into” them and wrapped his arms around all three soldiers, who, at that point, literally collapsed into tears in his arms.

After a long moment, Rabin pulled away from them and said quietly: “I am very sorry. But we have to press on”. When he turned away and walked back to the circle of high ranking officers, everyone noticed that Rabin’s eyes were wet with tears.

Until this day, 25 years later, I get teary reminiscing on this very moment. Sometimes I feel that what moved me most was the great pride I felt in belonging to such an army, that has such leaders and commanders, who are able to show such empathy and emotion. Even 20 years after serving as Chief of Staff, even at his high position as Israel’s Minister of Defense. This was the Rabin I loved and admired.

There are many more things I liked about Rabin: his being the youngest Division commander in the IDF ever, at only 26 and leader of opening of the road to Jerusalem in the 1948 War of Independence; how as a Chief of Staff, he meticulously planned and executed the massive strike against 3 Arab armies and defeated Syria, Jordan and Egypt in just 6 days (1967); as the liberator of the Golan, Samaria and the Old-City. I admired how as our Ambassador to Washington, he literally created and shaped, the unique strategic relations between Israel and the USA, an achievement Israel benefits from every day; how as Prime Minister in 1976, he sent our commandos to Entebbe to release 104 hostages and bring them home, and how he asked for permission for this mission from his cabinet ministers when the airplanes were almost in Entebbe.

Yitzhak Rabin was an honest politician and didn’t hesitate to resign as Prime Minister, over the silly little scandal of his wife having a bank account in the United States ( which was illegal in Israel back then). I loved how he never hesitated to approve new “Settlements”, as Shamir’s Minister of Defense in 1988. Rabin did not know the terms “freezing settlements” or “illegal outposts”. He knew that his job was to resettle the Jewish people in the Golan, in Samaria and in Gush Katif. During the “First Intifadah”, he did not hesitate to use an Iron fist in the “territories”, while he encouraged the IDF : “Don’t hesitate. Win!” . How he befriended world leaders in a Tennis game, or offering to share a cigarette away from the cameras.

In the 1992 elections a new, different Yitzhak Rabin emerged. I did not vote for Rabin in 1992, nor did I like his new ways and new policies as Prime Minister, the second time around. I demonstrated and wrote articles against him and against his policies, and I am still upset about many of the things that he did. But even in all those disagreements, I respected him greatly, his authority and dedication for our country, and I miss him, like so many of us here in Israel do.

Yitzhak Rabin was the DNA of Israel. It is heartbreaking that he ended his life in such a terrible, ugly, violent and unfair way, a way that has stained Israel and our society, forever.

Raanan (Rani) Levy, Israel

[Rani Levy was Advisor to Prime Minister Sharon, and author of “Land For Peace, A Century of Failure”. ranal@netvision.net.il , http://www.landforpeace.co.il]

Next: Dr. Dvora Teitelbaum