“Killing a King, the Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel” by Dan Ephron

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Temple Micah.

 Micah reader in April 2017 by Brenda Levenson

Published in 2015, Dan Ephron’s book Killing a King, the Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel” is a study in complexity rich in details. The biblical connotation of the word “king” evokes Saul, ancient Israel’s first monarch, a king who was to be different from all others by being neither a tyrant nor a dictator, a man modest and humble. The Rabin that Ephron brings to life fits that image.

The Israel that Rabin left is a country in which “extremists are in control,” noted our readers. Yigal Amir, the young man who killed Rabin, belonged to such a group. Rabin’s agenda for Israel was vast but unlike the current administration of the country, “he was immune to territorial fixation…unless security was involved,” writes Ephron. Rabin was not a religious man, nevertheless Jerusalem was important to him, but he was also more interested in infrastructure inside the country than in creating more settlements. Education was among his priorities, a topic that our readers raised, in terms of changes that were made more recently to texts used in Israeli schools, in attempts to lessen bias and write the nation’s history in more realistic terms.

The issue of the settlements and of lands that had belonged to Palestinians was discussed. The word “occupying” has taken an increasingly controversial meaning and presents a moral dilemma for Israel. Historic precedents throughout the world abound. Yet, it is important to single out two groups, Jews expelled from the Arab countries in which their roots dated centuries, and the Armenians who survived genocide in Turkey in late 19th and early 20th century. Both are examples of people who found asylum elsewhere and adjusted as well as assimilated to other cultures. Neither became permanent “refugees” as do large numbers of Palestinians kept in camps for political reasons feeding into their return to the properties left behind, noted one person. The  conversation led us to the emotional attachment to the land of Israel that Jews and Arabs share, a difficult issue.

Is peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors possible, our readers questioned? Optimists among us cited Egypt and Jordan, both of which were led by personalities, such as Anwar Sadat and King Hussein, who realized the economic asset peace would provide. The threat that Iran presents to Middle East states has created a bond of sorts between them and Israel, however, none has gone so far as to recognize Israel as a nation.

The fate of Rabin’s killer, Yigal Amir, drew astonishment in our group for the lenient treatment he has been given. Even though he is serving a life sentence in prison, he got married, receives conjugal visits 2 or 3 times a month, and has even fathered a son. The “negligence of the security cost Rabin his life” writes Ephron. More than two thousand people attended the funeral, a number that included Arab leaders from Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia and Mauritania. Bill Clinton is said to have been “in awe of Rabin.” King Hussein eulogized Rabin as “a “brother, a colleague and friend–a man.”

Our readers mused about how different the fate of Israel might have been had Shimon Peres not assumed the role of Prime Minister after Rabin’s assassination, and had followed the advice of his entourage to run immediately for election, which instead took place  six months later when seventy percent of the population voted and Benjamin Netanyahu won, to the surprise of many.

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