Reviewing Itamar Rabinovich’s recent biography of Yitzḥak Rabin, Efraim Inbar praises it for correcting the misconception that the Israeli general and statesman was far more concerned with achieving “peace” than with issues of security; in reality, his entire career was focused on security. At the same time, however, Inbar faults the book for errors of both fact and interpretation:
[Rabinovich criticizes] Rabin for not making “bold” decisions or taking on more “diplomatic initiatives,” terms favored by Israeli leftists who find the status quo vis-à-vis the Arabs untenable. Yet, gaining time and waiting for the Arabs to change and accept Israel has been the Zionist strategy from David Ben-Gurion’s time. Moreover, Rabinovitch offers little criticism of the security risks taken by Rabin in accepting the Oslo agreement, which was described by his disciple Ehud Barak as having “a lot of holes. It’s like Swiss cheese.”
Similarly, Rabin’s willingness to withdraw to the 1967 line in his negotiations with Syria elicits [from his biographer] no discussion of its potential repercussions, particularly when the current Syrian predicament, with both Shiite and Sunni radicals pressing up against the Israeli border, is so evident. Finally, the author’s dislike for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and for religious Zionists (a much more diverse group than [Rabinovich implies]) is fairly strident and echoes the frustration of Israel’s left with changes in Israel’s society and politics that it can no longer control.
The author also misreads Rabin’s approach to the first intifada and the Palestinian issue. Rabin never believed that the only way to deal with these issues was by finding a political solution. For Rabin, any political solution was predicated upon Israel’s superior military power and its occasional use. In Rabin’s mind, military power and diplomatic efforts were not disconnected.
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