Rabin v. Peres: Greenlighting Assassinations

By Jeffrey Rudolph (April 2017)

The analogy commonly made between ISIS terrorism in France in 2017 and Hamas terrorism in Israel in the mid-1990s is flawed. While the former terrorism was likely intended, in part, to benefit the far-right in an election, the latter was an unambiguous response to an Israeli provocation.

The following piece presents the clear evidence of Israel’s provocation during the term of Prime Minister Shimon Peres, while also demonstrating the superior leadership of Peres’s predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin.

The right-wing “demonstrations created the perception that Israelis overwhelmingly opposed [Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s] policies….[Therefore, Rabin’s advisors decided to hold] a rally against violence…and in favor of peace.” The rally would also serve to recast “the regional conflict as a dispute between moderates and extremists, whether Palestinian or Israeli.”

   On the afternoon of the day the rally was to be held, November 4, 1995, Rabin “had denied the army’s request to target a certain Lebanese militant whose location intelligence analysts had suddenly pinpointed. [According to Rabin, the] potential retribution seemed to outweigh the benefits of the strike.”

   Tragically (and ironically), Rabin was assassinated at the rally by a fundamentalist Jew. (Dan Ephron, Killing A King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel, W. W. Norton, New York: 2015, 165-166. Hereinafter, “Ephron 2015.”)

“Toward the end of [1995], Israel completed its withdrawal from each of the cities in the West Bank except Hebron and from many of the towns and villages. Oslo II…was quietly taking shape.” While the withdrawals occurred, “in the final days of 1995, another issue vied for [Prime Minister Shimon Peres’s] attention: Yahya Ayyash, Hamas’s master bomb maker, was finally in Israel’s sights.”

   “Ayyash had headed Israel’s most-wanted list since 1992. He excelled not only at engineering but also at persuading young men to become suicide bombers…” However, the decision whether to kill him was complicated.

   “Hamas had not carried out a suicide attack in more than four months, the longest stretch since the [Baruch] Goldstein massacre [of twenty-nine Palestinians in Hebron on February 25, 1994]. Whether killing Ayyash would reinforce the trend or trigger a new wave of bombings and undermine Peres’s political standing was anyone’s guess. In effect, Israel would be gambling on the idea that Ayyash alone possessed the skills to engineer large deadly attacks. If he had trained others, a reasonable assumption, they would certainly want to avenge his death.”

   “[P]eres seemed to have had motivations beyond the immediate battle with Hamas, including a drive to match Rabin’s security record. And he needed a standout achievement…In late December [1995], he authorized the strike.” Ayyash was killed in early January 1996.

   On February 25, 1996, a bus exploded in Jerusalem killing 26 passengers. “Within days, Shabak [the Israel Security Agency] pieced together a chronicle of the attack. Soon after the strike on Ayyash, a Hamas operative had slipped out of Gaza and crossed to the West Bank to plot the group’s revenge….A second suicide bomber…blew himself up…an hour after the Jerusalem attack but managed to kill just one person other than himself….[One] week after the Jerusalem bombing, the cell struck again – on the same bus line. This time, the assailant killed…nineteen…”

   “[T]he psychological impact of the third suicide attack in a week was devastating. Israelis who had withstood wars and sieges now talked about staying away from buses and public events. The government had sealed off the West Bank and Gaza, and yet Hamas continued its campaign.”

   “The day after the second Jerusalem attack, a suicide bomber [at an intersection in Tel Aviv]…detonated the forty-four-pound nail bomb he had strapped to himself, killing thirteen people.”

   As a result of the bombings, according to polls, “Netanyahu had closed most of the gap between himself and the prime minister.” During the campaign Netanyahu, “the terrorism expert”, exploited fear. Peres lost the May 29, 1996 election. The rest is history. (Ephron 2015, 218-228)

Jeffrey Rudolph was the Quebec representative of the East Timor Alert Network and presented a paper on its behalf at the United Nations. He was awarded the prestigious Cheryl Rosa Teresa Doran Prize upon graduation from McGill University’s faculty of law; has worked at one of the world’s largest public accounting firms; and, has taught at McGill University. He has prepared widely-distributed quizzes on Israel-Palestine, Iran, Hamas, Terrorism, Saudi Arabia, US Inequality, the US Christian Right, Hezbollah, the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox, Qatar, and China. These quizzes are available at: https://detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com/

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