It’s important to take a moment to consider the legacy of a leader whose pursuit of peace cost him his life, as the world watches the ever-intensifying conflict between Israel and Hamas. Twenty-eight years ago, on November 4, 1995, a Jewish extremist Yigal Amir killed former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin’s assassination also dealt a blow to an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

The Oslo Accords, a series of accords signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in the early 1990s, were the driving force behind Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. These Accords attempted to build a foundation for peace and a two-state solution. Rabin was a visionary, an architect of the Oslo Accords, who dared to reach across the seemingly unbridgeable divide between Israelis and Palestinians in pursuit of a two-state solution. His commitment to peaceful coexistence made him a target for extremists who saw compromise as betrayal.

In the wake of his assassination, the peace process was hit. Hamas, staunchly opposed to these accords, seized the moment, launching a series of attacks that aimed to dismantle any progress made. Fast forward to today, and the Israel-Hamas tensions remain at the forefront of global concern. Rockets streak across the sky, lives are lost, and the cycle of violence seems endless. But amidst this chaos, what would Rabin have done? How might his leadership and diplomatic acumen have altered the narrative?

Rabin was a realist, who understood the intricacies of conflict. In facing today’s crisis, his legacy might offer a different trajectory.

Looking for a solution

He might have championed the need for direct talks, emphasising the importance of understanding the aspirations and concerns of both Israelis and Palestinians. Rabin’s strength lay in acknowledging the gravity of the conflict while striving for solutions that were both pragmatic and sensitive to the hopes of both sides.

The Oslo Accords, although not perfect, laid a foundation for dialogue and mutual recognition.

But the question remains, how might Rabin have navigated the current Israel-Hamas tensions?

One plausible scenario involves revisiting the Oslo principles. He might have urged the leaders to reaffirm their commitment to a two-state solution, emphasising the significance of concessions for lasting peace. Rabin understood the necessity of addressing core issues such as borders, security, economic cooperation, and humanitarian concerns.

In a hypothetical dialogue involving Rabin, Arafat, and contemporary leaders, the discussion could revolve around finding common ground. Rabin, known for his pragmatism, could advocate for territorial compromise while respecting security apprehensions. Arafat, on the other hand, might highlight the importance of socio-economic development and human rights in the pursuit of stability.

Their dialogue might have served as a catalyst for rekindling talks based on mutual respect, understanding, and a collective vision for a peaceful future. Their legacies, intertwined with the Oslo Accords, could have inspired a shift away from confrontation towards meaningful diplomatic initiatives.

At present, Rabin’s absence is profoundly felt in the ongoing Israel-Hamas tensions. His vision, rooted in dialogue and compromise, could have potentially steered the conflict towards a different trajectory. Rabin’s legacy remains a beacon of hope, reminding us of the transformative power of leadership and diplomacy in the pursuit of peace.

The writer is is a post-graduate scholar at SOAS, University of London