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November 10, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9634

Egyptian Journalist: Yitzhak Rabin Truly Wanted Peace; Had He Lived He Would Have Implemented The Two-State Solution

November 10, 2021
Egypt, Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 9634

On the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Sanaa Al-Sa'id, an Egyptian media figure and journalist, published an article about an interview she did with him in 1994. Al-Sa'id was visiting Israel at the time as part of delegation headed by then Egyptian foreign minister 'Amr Moussa. She writes that the visit itself was not an obvious matter for her, because she hated Israel at the time and attacked it at every opportunity. Therefore, she had planned for her interview with Rabin to be confrontational. But to her surprise she discovered a courteous and humble man, whose statements caused her revise her opinion and regard him as "the Israeli politician who most truly strove for peace." She writes that today, on the anniversary of his death, she regrets his absence, because she feels peace could have been achieved had he not been assassinated.  

The following are translated excerpts from Al-Sa'id's article: [1]

"November 4, [2021] was the 26th anniversary of the death of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995 during a rally in support of peace… when an extremist Jew named Yigal Amir shot him to death… The anniversary reminds me of my visit to Israel in September 1994 [which took place] although I had never imagined I would set foot in that oppressive entity which trampled international resolutions and formulated an aggressive policy against the countries of the region.

"During the first week of September 1994 [Egypt's] foreign minister at the time, 'Amr Moussa, made an official visit to Israel and I happened to be part of the team of journalists that accompanied him. I was initially reluctant to join the team because I hated Israel and had long been attacking it in my articles in numerous Arab newspapers and on the BBC, but the minister persuaded me. He convinced me to come along [saying] I might have the opportunity to interview [Israeli] politicians and confront them with all the criticism I had of their positions on Middle East issues. And so I went, and I did have the opportunity to conduct interviews with [Israeli] president Ezer Weizman and foreign minister Shimon Peres. But the highlight was my meeting with prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, one of the most important Israeli figures to play a significant role in the history of the Arab-Israel conflict. On the day of the interview I decided to attack him with provocative questions, especially since in July of that year he had made declarations in which he threatened Syria with fierce war. When the Egyptian ambassador to Israel at the time, Mohammed Bassiouni, learned that I was about to interview Rabin, he warned me on that very day, saying, 'Don't ask provocative questions, because Prime Minister Rabin is known to be irritable and is likely to terminate the interview the minute you do.'

"I went to interview Rabin at his office in Jerusalem. He welcomed me in the early hours of the morning.  Intending to seem hesitant at the start of the interview, and I said to him, 'Two things: First, they warned me not to ask you provocative questions so you wouldn't terminate the interview; second, your bureau chief has given me only a half hour.' At that point Rabin smiled and said, 'Ask whatever you like, I promise I won't terminate the interview. And take as much time as you like.' I saw a completely different Rabin from the one I had perceived in the past. He was friendly, calm, and very humble, and it was enough that he gave me sufficient time to conduct the interview , which was published in Al-Ahram on September 10, 1994.

"Most [of the interview] focused on his declarations against Syria and his threats to propose a [new] order of priorities and budget a great deal of funding for the IDF so it could prepare for a war against it. I told him, 'At first glance, your threats seem to indicate that you haven't changed out of your aggressive military uniform and are still playing the role of a general in the operations room, not of a prime minister who plays a political role under the auspices of the international system that grants international legitimacy.' In his response he explained exactly what he had meant by his statements, and said that he wanted, by means of the interview with me, to convey an open message to president Assad, that Israel was truly interested in peace with Syria and that peace would benefit both countries. He declared his willingness to go to Damascus immediately, if Syria made this possible, as an expression of goodwill and to turn over a new leaf with [that country].

"The interview [also] touched on international resolutions that Israel had scorned and with reports at the time about secret contacts between Israel and Iraq. Rabin denied this, saying that Israel supported the American policy on both Iraq and Iran, based on containment and restraint. Addressing the issue of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the possibility that Israel would agree to inspection of its [nuclear] reactor, Rabin said that Israel supported the region being free of nuclear weapons, but did not support international inspection and did not believe in it. He said Israel focused [first of all] on attaining peace, and that later, [once peace was achieved], it would urge all the countries of the region to sign bilateral agreements with it to ensure a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. This, he said, would be accomplished under the auspices of mutual, bilateral monitoring and oversight bodies – i.e., Israeli-Egyptian and Israeli-Syrian ones –  and not under international oversight.

"On the day I met Rabin, I felt he was possibly the Israeli politician who most truly strove for peace. And we will not forget the part he played in the Oslo Peace Accords that  gave rise to the Palestinian Authority and granted it partial control over the Gaza Strip and the [West] Bank. That is [precisely] why the hysterical extremist Zionist Yigal Amir aimed his treacherous bullets on November 4, 1995 at Yitzhak Rabin… and brought down the curtain on a prime minister with whom and through whom it would have been possible to achieve a solution to the Palestinian issue based on two states existing side by side in historical Palestine: the State of Palestine and the State of Israel, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 242. This day [the anniversary of Rabin's death] reminded me of my meeting with Rabin, who left me with an impression that was completely different from the one I had previously had of him and had caused me to hate him. But today I regret his absence, because he gave the impression of a man who strove for peace, which could have been realized had he gone on living."

 

[1] Al-Wafd (Egypt), November 5, 2021.

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