Peres Takes Over

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"Peres Takes Over"

"Rabin Slain after Peace Rally in Tel Aviv; Israeli Gunman Held; Says He Acted Alone"

Newspaper article

By: Serge Schmemann

Date: November 4, 1995

Source: The New York Times.

About the Author: Serge Schmemann began his career with the New York Times as a metropolitan reporter in 1980. He went on to make his mark as a Pulitzer Prize–winning foreign correspondent, serving as bureau chief in Moscow, Bonn, and Jerusalem. Returning to New York in 2001, he served as senior foreign affairs writer and chief of the United Nations bureau. In 2003, Schmemann was appointed to the editorial boards of both the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.


Soldier, statesman, war veteran, peacemaker—Yitzhak Rabin's life was as turbulent and storied as the land of Israel itself.

Rabin first rose to prominence in the Israeli military, commanding the Harel brigade in its defense of Jerusalem in the War for Independence. Later, as commander in chief of the Israel Defense Forces, he led Israel to victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.

In 1974, Rabin became the youngest and the first native-born prime minister in Israel's history. But it was nearly twenty years later, during his second term as prime minister, that he and Shimon Peres forged what their predecessors and the U.S. government had been unable to accomplish: a way forward through the Israeli-Palestinian conflict toward peace. In a series of secret meetings with representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Norwegian mediators, Foreign Minister Peres hammered out the key details of the agreements, concessions, and timetables that would form the basis of the Oslo Declaration of Principles.

With the signing of the Declaration of Principles in Washington, D.C., on September 13, 1993, the entire world became privy to the results of the secret negotiations. Millions of television viewers across the world were treated to the sight of Rabin shaking hands with Yasser Arafat, formally recognizing the PLO.

In the months after the agreement, extremists on both sides of the conflict did their best to halt the peace process. On February 25, 1994, an Israeli gunman opened fire inside the main mosque in Hebron, killing 29 worshipers. On April 6, a member of Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, became the first suicide bomber to wreak destruction in Israel, killing eight Israelis. Seven days later another Hamas member followed suit, blowing himself up on a bus and killing six others.

Rabin's popularity at home plummeted as the impending concessions outlined in the Oslo Accords stirred fierce debate among the populace. The religious establishment and the Israeli right were vehemently opposed to Rabin's policies. In a series of emotional demonstrations attended by thousands, he was compared to an SS (Nazi) officer and branded a traitor. Opposition leaders Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon used these demonstrations to their full advantage, denouncing the Rabin government's plan as absurd, characterizing them as entrusting Israeli security to Arafat.

Finally, Rabin's supporters responded by holding a mass rally in support of the government and the peace process in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995. After ending his speech and joining with the crowd to sing "The Song of Peace," Rabin left the platform and made his way to his car. As he approached the vehicle, he was shot dead by one of his own countrymen.

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Serge Schmemann, the author of the article, proved to be correct in his assessment of Labor's prospects for victory in 1996 and what that would mean for the peace process Rabin and Peres had begun. Peres would be defeated in 1996 by Benjamin Netanyahu, who ran on the slogan "Peace with Security," promising to slow down the peace process.

As prime minister, Netanyahu was true to his word. Not only was the peace process slowed, but gone also was the conciliatory attitude that Rabin and Peres had brought to the negotiations with Arafat. Instead, Netanyahu delayed the withdrawal from Hebron and the rural areas and took unilateral actions that enraged the Palestinians. Without consulting the Palestinian Authority, he opened a tunnel that ran adjacent to the Temple Mount and emerged at the Muslim Quarter, which set off riots throughout the occupied territories in which seventy-one people were killed. He announced plans to build a new settlement in Har Homa in southern Jerusalem, a move that provoked the condemnation of the Palestinians and the Israeli left and resulted in a United Nations resolution against the construction.

Though Yigal Amir insisted that he acted alone on orders from God, conspiracy theories flourished in the aftermath of the assassination. His brother and two of his friends were ultimately convicted for failing to report his plan. Other people connected to Amir, including settlement activists and rabbis who had publicly called for the death of the prime minister, were questioned but never put on trial.



Bickerton, Ian J., and Carla L. Klausner. A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 4th ed., updated. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2005.

Gilbert, Martin. Israel: A History. New York: William Morrow, 1998.

Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–1999. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.

Web sites "Israeli Family of Rabin's Killer Opens Web Site." <> (accessed June 19, 2005).

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Peres Takes Over

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