Yitzhak Rabin and the Wars of Israel
Yitzhak Rabin was born in Jerusalem, on March 1, 1922, to Nehemiah and Rosa Rabin, Zionist pioneers who immigrated to Palestine in their youth. Rosa and Nehemiah actively contributed to their new society. A year after Yitzhak’s birth, Rosa Rabin became a commander in the Hagana- the Jewish underground defense. Nehemiah worked long hours for the Electric Company. Even though Rosa was a sickly woman suffering from a heart condition, she always ran from meeting to meeting and later became a member of the Tel Aviv City Council.
Rosa and Nehemiah sent Yitzhak to an experimental socialist elementary school. Despite his handsome appearance, Yitzhak was a quiet student, self-confident yet introverted. As a teenager Yitzhak gave no indications of his future involvement in the Israeli Defense Force. Yitzhak chose to study agriculture because he felt that being a farmer was the best way to contribute to his homeland. While studying at the Kadoori Agricultural High School, Yitzhak’s mother, Rosa, passed away. He continued his studies, despite his tragic loss.
In 1936 Palestine was shaken by bloody riots. The British authorities of Palestine ordered the closure of the school. Young Yitzhak joins the Hagana Armed Force of the Jewish Agency, and starts his military training. His task is to help protect the Jewish settlements. During this time, Rabin manages to graduate with honors and receives a British scholarship to study hydraulic engineering in Berkeley, California. Yitzhak decides to choose his duty to the Hagana over the scholarship to America.
With World War II brewing in Europe, Yitzhak joins the special assault unit of the Hagana, known as the Palmach. In 1940, the British authorities need help against Hitler’s French Allies that were heading towards Palestine via Lebanon. Rabin and his unit cross the border to Lebanon, some 50 kilometers by foot, and clash with French units. With the advancements of General Romell’s Nazi forces, the Jewish authorities in Palestine called for men to volunteer to fight. Thousands volunteer, but Rabin prefers to continue his elite role with the Palmach.
While the Hagana fought Nazi soldiers from conquering Palestine, many survivors of the Nazi Holocaust were arriving in Palestine. Seeking a new life and a place to call home after the world had turned their back on the plight on these European Jews, these refugees are stopped from entering Palestine by a hermetic British blockade. Rabin is one of the commanders of a successful operation to release over 200 illegal Jewish immigrants that have been detained by the British Army.
Inside the country, the British soldiers are hard-pressed to keep the peace. The ideals of over half a million Jews and a million Arabs clash, as each passionately pursue their own dream of independence. With most Arabs violently opposing the idea of a Jewish state, tempers begin to hover around boiling point.
As transport and isolated settlements come under increasing Arab attack, life for the Jews of Palestine became impossible. In a belated attempt to avert the inevitable showdown, on November the 29th 1947, the United Nations votes to end the British Mandate. Palestine is to be partitioned into two separate States. A 2000 year old dream for the Jewish people was realized.
The following day 5,000 Arabs march out of the Old City of Jerusalem, burning and looting their way to the Jewish Commercial Center. A bomb explodes on West Jerusalem’s busy Ben Yehuda Street, and leaves Jewish dead buried beneath the rubble. Arab Snipers make daily life ever more precarious. Setting out from the coastal plain, convoys of supplies make desperate attempts to run the gauntlet of continuous Arab attacks. Jerusalem finds itself cut off from the rest of the Jewish settlements.
After heavy fighting, 1500 Jewish soldiers under Rabin’s command succeed to open the road and take control of most of the strategic parts of Jerusalem. During this time, the British have just been packing and getting ready to leave Palestine. Now they are quick to respond - they issue an ultimatum for the Jewish troops to withdraw. Driving the Jewish fighters from their hard won positions is to be one of the final British acts in Palestine. On May 14 1948, the mandate ends. The Union Jack is lowered in Haifa port. As the last British soldiers sail away, David Ben Gurion proclaims the Independence of the new Jewish State in the land of Israel.
The War of Independence
The country-wide celebrations are short-lived. Within hours Egyptian planes bomb Tel Aviv and five Arab armies advance in a co¬ordinated invasion. The Lebanese set their sights on Haifa and Nazareth. Syrian tanks advance on the fertile farmlands around the Sea of Galilee. The Iraqi’s take up positions in Samaria, hoping to cut Israel in two. Jordan’s Arab Legion surrounds Jerusalem. And 10,000 Egyptians cross out of the Sinai Desert to threaten Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
New conscripts swell the ranks of the Arab Liberation Army. They came to join Iraqi General Sauzi el Kaukjy overlooking the Jezreel valley. The Arab regular armies advance more cautiously, in northern Israel each settlement battles for its very existence they have no choice but to repel the invading armies of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
With the whole country a potential battleground, the citizens of Israel soberly join in. The reality of giving birth to a new country has a dramatic impact on the way of life. The defendants did not have enough weapons for the soldiers, not even one piece of artillery. A small-arms industry is started - turning irrigation pipes into primitive mortars and making homemade grenades - as the Jews impatiently await the arrival of weapons purchased abroad.
In the south the Egyptian threat is even more ominous, as their armored forces roll ever closer to Tel Aviv. Here handfuls of barely armed defenders drive back wave after wave of attacks. Holding out for five days of Egyptian tanks, artillery and air bombardment - the defenders of Kibbutz Yad Mordechai finally evacuate under the cover of darkness.
The Egyptians advance to within 17 miles from Tel Aviv. After two weeks of bitter fighting, the turning point in the war comes when the first four aircrafts arrive in Israel from Czechoslovakia. With no time even for test flights, the first Jewish airmen take off. Their maiden flight is to attack the Egyptian column. Although militarily ineffective, the surprise attack sends fear into the Egyptian ranks. This heralds an end to the Egyptian advance.
But Israel’s situation remains critical. Jerusalem is still cut-off. New immigrants, many of them Holocaust survivors fresh off the boat, are dispatched onto the battlefield.
The fortress at Latrun, which dominates the entrance to Jerusalem, is securely in the hands of the Arab Legion. The Legion has orders to occupy every inch of Palestine. But King Abdullah’s main ambition lies with the holy city of Jerusalem. It is Jerusalem he wants as the jewel for his royal crown.
Waves of badly planned and executed operations lead to many casualties. Israeli attacks fail to dislodge the Legion from Latrun, or even loosen the stranglehold on Jerusalem.
When word comes of the fall of the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, morale hits rock bottom. A shadow falls across the Jewish nation. After two weeks of the war’s most savage fighting, the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem surrenders. From Mount Zion Rabin watches the Jews carrying white flags towards the Jordanian headquarters.
With the city of Jerusalem at the end of its limited supplies, a new road is paved to deter the Arab villages. Convoys loaded with sacks of supplies arrive at the entrance to Jerusalem via this road. Welcomed by the inhabitants with joy and relief, they are a sign that the siege is finally broken.
A day after his wedding to Leah Shlosberg in August 1948, Rabin is appointed Chief of Operations of Yigal Alon, head of Southern Command. During the negotiation of the Egyptian surrender, Rabin meets a young Egyptian liaison, Gamal Abdal Nasser.
The IDF is forged in fire to emerge as a well-equipped and organized fighting force which stamped its hallmark on Middle-East foreign affairs. Israel clears the Galilee and the center of the country. Egyptian forces in the south are routed from the Negev, and driven back into the Sinai peninsula while King Abdullah annexed the west Bank to the Kingdom of Jordan. But, Jerusalem remains a divided city - connected to the rest of Israel by a slender thread. The fighting is over and armistice agreements are signed. It is a bitter victory. Israel is established, but not one of its neighbors is willing to recognize it, in any way, shape or form.
The Arab fedayeen guerrillas crossed the borders, maintaining a relentless stream of attack on civilian targets. In one such incident, a bus was ambushed at the Scorpion’s Pass in the Negev. Eleven passengers were killed outright, many others were badly wounded. As always the tracks led back to the border.
The Israeli Army sees continuous action against the constant fedayeen incursions. Retaliatory raids often take the IDF deep into Arab territory, striking at fedayeen bases in Jordan and Egypt. Rabin, then head of training at General Head Quarters formulated Israel’s combat concepts, logistics and instructional methods.
In Egypt, at the same time, great social upheaval is underway. On a wave of popular support, Gamal Abdal Nasser leads a bloodless coup. King Faroukh is swept into exile. Egypt becomes a republic, with Nasser promising widespread reform. Aiming for leadership of the whole Arab world, Nasser is quick to raise the battle cry against Israel.
Negotiating a massive Soviet-backed arms deal with Czechoslovakia, Egypt gains a four-to-one weapons supremacy over Israel. Establishing a joint military command with Syria and with young King Hussein of Jordan, Nasser confidently begins to move. His aim, the destruction of both the Jewish State and Western influence in the Middle East.
The Sinai Campaign
Closing the Straits of Tiran with long-range guns at Bab al-Mandeb, Nasser cuts off Israel’s sea link to Africa and the Far East. Expelling British and French troops from their bases in the Suez Canal Zone, Nasser promptly nationalizes this strategic waterway. When he pours weapons into the Sinai Peninsula, war becomes inevitable.
The French approach Israel to present a secret plan. The French would supply Israel with badly needed weapons and Israel would invade the Sinai Peninsula threatening the Suez Canal. This would give the Allies an excuse to intervene and invade the Canal Zone. Moshe Dayan is the Chief of Staff.
On October 29 1956, Israeli planes fly low over Sinai, cutting telephone wires. Transport planes carry men and equipment that parachute into the Mitla pass. Advancing to the eastern entrance of the mountain pass, the Israelis are pinned down by an Egyptian air attack. Trying to find cover they are caught in a blistering crossfire from hidden Egyptian guns. To expose the Egyptian forces, one soldier volunteers to drive his jeep forward into the pass. A hail of bullets discloses the Egyptian positions - but leave the young soldier dead in his jeep.
The following seven-hour battle sees thirty-eight more Israeli paratroopers and over 200 Egyptian soldiers killed. The rest of the Egyptians retreat from the Mitla, escaping back towards the canal. With the Mitla pass secured, Israeli Armor rolls forward into the peninsula, along lines of movement dictated throughout history by the rigors of the terrain.
Picking up momentum across the desert sands, Israel’s armored corps proves a most effective fighting force in its own right. Previously thought of as support for the main infantry forces, this experience is to shape future Israeli military thinking. French-built Mystere and Vautour jet fighters attack Egyptian troops, artillery and armor. Israel finds itself on a hit-and-run chase with the tail of the fast retreating Egyptians. Roads were littered with abandoned equipment, and thousands of Egyptian soldiers who quit their positions to make their way by foot across the sand dunes of the desert.
In 100 hours of battle, that minor role captured the entire Sinai peninsula - taking the Suez Canal - cleared the Gaza Strip of fadayeen guerrillas, and finally destroyed the Egyptian gun batteries at Bab-el Mandeb re-opening the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.
On November 1, as the Allies landed in the Canal Zone, Suez becomes an international crisis. Too reminiscent of gunboat diplomacy, and too close to nuclear confrontation, America and the USSR demand a unilateral withdrawal. Britain and France quickly buckle to international pressure and pulled out their troops. Reluctantly, and only after UN soldiers are placed in Sinai, do the Israeli troops pull out.
One of Israel’s few tangible gains from the Sinai war was a flourishing relationship with France. As well as a continued flow of conventional weapons, French assistance helped to build Israel’s secret nuclear reactor in Dimona.
Over the next decade the border with Egypt stays relatively quiet. In 1956, General Yitzhak Rabin is appointed head of the Northern Command at time when the friction between Syrian and Israel over the demilitarized zones is growing. Perched upon the Golan Heights, Syrian guns ominously threaten the farmers below. Life in the isolated Kibbutz, communal farm is especially tough. Settled in the remotest parts of the country these villages become a buffer against their hostile neighbors and a target for Syrian guns.
On January 1, 1964 Yitzhak Rabin is appointed by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to be Chief of Staff. Rabin starts his term in a time of growing tensions with Syria and Egypt. The next war seemed inevitable and Rabin is tasked with the duty of preparing the IDF for the next round of confrontation.
In Egypt, the masses call for jihad, holy war against the Zionists. Whilst Egyptian television sends a clear message to Israel: "The Arab nation has decided that the land of Palestine will be purified from your presence, pack your belongings and go now before death finds you.” Egypt demands a UN withdrawal from Sinai and Gaza.
The Six Day War
Confronted by an Arab effort that brings together over half a million heavily armed troops, Israel begins its biggest ever call-up of army reserves. The whole country waits for war. Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin supervises the preparation of one of the most daring battle-plans ever conceived. On the morning of June 5, 1967, the Israeli air force takes to the skies in a desperate, all or nothing bid to break the fighting-power of Egypt.
With split second timing, Israeli jets arrive simultaneously over eleven Egyptian airstrips - just as the Egyptian pilots below were having their morning coffee. Without reducing speed, in one pass after another, they devastate the aircraft laid out neatly on the tarmacs beneath them. Over the next three hours, the young Israeli pilots fly non-stop, destroying hundreds of Egyptian planes on the ground. Establishing control of the sky, they fly over a thousand sorties. In support of the ground troops barreling across the sands of Sinai, they do untold damage to Egyptian forces. Capturing the whole of the Sinai Peninsula in less than 100 hours, thousands of Egyptian prisoners fall into Israeli hands.
Israel’s navy took control of the Sea against Egyptian and Syrian warships, to then join the battles in the south, attacking harbors and shelling coastal targets.
The war with Jordan begins when King Hussein orders his artillery to open fire on Jewish West Jerusalem and along the borders. Told by Nasser that Egypt is scoring spectacular successes, Hussein rushes to join the ranks of the victors. It proves to be a fatal mistake.
Israel’s reply is a swift three-day campaign that sweeps the Jordanians from the West Bank and pushes the border back to the Jordan River. Not stopping there, Israeli armored columns press north - straight into action to dislodge the Syrians from the Golan Heights.
At noon, Israel turns its attention to Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. Their air forces are destroyed within an hour. For the first time in history air power had effectively won a war. It now remains for the ground forces to finish what the air force had begun.
In four days of almost uninterrupted fighting, with fierce tank to tank battles raging across the desert - Israeli armor and infantry breaks the back of 7 Egyptian divisions. Under pressure to complete the operation before a cease-fire comes into effect, Israeli armor attacks. In a maneuver they had been specially training for, in secret, Israeli tanks cut a road straight up the Golan’s steepest slope, exactly at the point where the Syrian defenses are weakest. Avoiding the killing fields prepared for them, Israeli tanks and infantry advance. With a great loss of life, in hand-to-hand fighting, the infantry overcomes a near-impregnable fortress. When it falls, the Syrian army crumbles. Rabin’s mission is completed on time. From there, Israel’s advance meets only pockets of scattered resistance. Many Syrians fall prisoner, and finally Israel occupies the Golan Heights.
But, without doubt, the central and most symbolic battle of the war came on the third day, in Jerusalem. After 30 hours of continuous and bloody fighting - in which they lost over one in five of their men - a reserve brigade of Israeli Paratroopers manage to break in through the walls of the old city, here at the Lion’s gate. In house to house fighting along every inch of its narrow lanes, with Arab Legion snipers covering them from every possible angle - the troops edge their way towards the Temple Mount. At last the Western Wall, holiest site of Judaism, is back in Jewish hands. Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin together with Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, arrive at the Wailing Wall - giving silent prayers of thanks.
Yitzhak Rabin the architect of this incredible victory is discharged after the war. He is appointed to be Israel’s ambassador to the United States. With his wife Leah he arrives in Washington when America is deeply involved in the Vietnam War.
The War of Attrition
Where the Six Day War had been a swift and decisive war, the next - the War of Attrition - will prove a long, drawn-out and painful campaign.
Trained for mobile and fluid military action, Israel’s Army reluctantly digs in to a line of defensive bunkers along the Suez Canal. The Egyptians, however, are content fortifying their side. For, with Soviet help, they are putting into place one of the largest arrays of anti-aircraft missiles ever seen. Egyptian commandos raid and shelling intensify. Snipers from observation towers keep the Israelis pinned down in their trenches, unable to raise their heads.
Israeli casualties rise to 70 a month - one massive Egyptian bombardment kills 15 soldiers in a single day. Gradually, Israeli counter-strikes silence the Egyptian guns, but tension remains high. President Nasser dies and is replaced by Anwar Sadat.
The lands gained during the Six Day War quickly become popular tourist sites. Meanwhile military ties between Israel and the United States improve. A few months after Rabin and his team are in Washington, the next round of war will devastate Israel.
The Yom Kippur War
The Day of Atonement 1973 - the Holiest day of the Jewish year. Nobody drives, no radios play. Believers give up the day to prayer and fasting. For Jews around the world it is a day of National Solidarity. For all it is a day of solemn respect. For Egypt and Syria, it is the perfect day to invade Israel.
At two o’clock in the afternoon, the combined power of three thousand artillery pieces opens fire. Over 10,000 shells fall in the first minute. The fires of hell seem to be raining down on the Israeli forces. The invasion of the Sinai and the Golan Heights begins with a vengeance.
Through the barrage, 8,000 Egyptian assault troops cross the Suez Canal in fiberglass boats. In a set piece movement, practiced to perfection, they establish a bridgehead. 70,000 troops and 1,700 tanks follow them across the bridges. Against them stand a meager 436 Israeli soldiers in isolated fortifications, 7 artillery batteries and three lone tanks on the canal itself. They are overwhelmed - soon the Egyptian flag flies proudly over the east bank of the Canal.
Israel’s first line of defense - 170 tanks - moves forward, only to be mauled by thousands of Egyptian infantry firing portable sager anti-tank missiles. By morning, 140 tanks are just burned-out shells. And Egypt holds a line 10 kilometers wide the length of the canal.
The surprise was complete. Without an official post, Yitzhak Rabin joins the Chief of Staff, David Eliezar during the first days of the war as an advisor.
Israeli intelligence swallowed Arab propaganda that Egyptian and Syrian activity was only in response to fears of impending Israeli attacks. Despite reports of Egyptian troops preparing to cross the canal, Dayan and Golda allow only a limited call-up of the reserves, and twice refuse permission to carry out a preemptive air strike.
Out of the smoke in the north, the first of 1500 Syrian tanks bear down on the solitary Israeli tank platoon in a forward position. Sweeping on, Syria’s central thrust is met by 150 Israeli tanks. Stopped in a death-lock that lasts for two days and two nights of continuous fighting, it leaves only 15 Israeli tanks operative. Elsewhere solitary tanks fight on, trying to block the Syrian advance towards the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee.
On both fronts Israeli planes crash into a solid wall of Sam missiles and conventional anti-aircraft fire. 50 jets fall in the first three days, victims of a desperate effort to check the Arab onslaught. For the first time ever Israel is of the verge of destruction.
Reserve tank forces arrive at the slopes of the Golan Heights. Sent up in platoon formation, they advance with orders to engage the enemy on sight. As superior Israeli marksmanship begins to count, they halt the Syrian advance.
A week into the war, 1,000 Egyptian tanks begin an offensive to break out of their stronghold and into the Sinai Peninsula. It was to lead to the biggest tank battle since world war two, and the turning point of the war in the south. The battle rages from dawn along the whole length of the front. By the end of the day, Israeli gunners have routed the attack, destroying over 260 Egyptian tanks, and a quarter of the total force - with just 10 losses.
On the momentum of its success Israel advances, pushing towards the Canal. Dragging portable bridges and under continuous Egyptian fire, the troops work their way forward. Divisional commander, Major-General Ariel Sharon, arrives first at the canal, but without bridges. Against orders and to the fury of his commanders, Sharon manages to get a force of only 30 tanks across the canal. In rapid movement on the lightly defended desert, they destroy missile bases, opening the skies to Israeli jets.
A UN cease-fire stops the Israeli advance, which by then is barely 100 kilometers from Cairo. For two days Israel chases the Syrians off the Golan Heights, across the ’67 border and into Syria itself. In Israel, people’s most precious belief - that the country has an impregnable shield the Arabs can never penetrate - is shattered. Many seek where to lay the blame. A public inquiry lets the politicians off the hook, pointing its finger only at the military. Widespread public criticism and demonstrations that followed them everywhere, eventually forced Golda and Dayan to resign. Yitzhak Rabin becomes Israel’s first native-born prime minister.
Despite Rabin’s success on the battlefield, relationships within Rabin’s government harmed his reputation. When it was disclosed that Rabin’s wife, Leah, held a foreign currency account in an American bank, Rabin chose to resign from the premiership. Shimon Peres led the Socialist Labor party to the next elections.
The 1977 elections prove to be a revolution in Israeli politics. Israel goes to the polls and elects long-time opposition leader Menachem Begin - doing away with the Socialist Labor Party. And if that were not change enough - barely six months later President Anwar Sadat of Egypt lands in Tel Aviv airport.
In March 1979, on the White House Lawn in Washington, US President Jimmy Carter, hosts the signing of the Peace Treaty between Israel and the largest Arab state.
Katyushas fall on towns and villages every night - fired from PLO strongholds over the border, making life unbearable. While talks progress towards peace in the south, Israel’s northern border is on fire. Hopes are high that Sadat and Begin can build a new era for their troubled region. But in 1981, the world is stunned when Anwar Sadat is gunned down by Islamic fundamentalists.
The Palestinian liberation organization creates a state within a state in Lebanon led by Yassir Arafat. Over 15,000 Palestinian fighters carry out constant attacks on Israel. Choosing General Ariel Sharon as his defense minister, Menachem Begin now turns his attention to the threat of PLO violence.
London, June 3rd. 1982, Outside the Dorchester Hotel, Israel’s Ambassador, Argov, is gunned down by Abu Nidal’s terrorist group. June 6 1982, 11.00 hours. The first Israeli forces invade the beaches of southern Lebanon, as armor and planes roar into action overland - operation `Peace for the Galilee’ is under way.
The Lebanon War
Promising an advance just 40 kilometers north to destroy the PLO’s military infrastructure, Defense Minister Arik Sharon assures the Israeli cabinet that the action would be over in 48 hours. Three days later, the coastal arm of Israel’s three-pronged advance stands seventy kilometers north - preparing to attack the PLO-held town of Damur. In subsequent street-fighting the PLO retreats. Masses of Soviet arms and heavy weapons are found in underground bunkers.
The central and eastern arms engage Syrian troops in fierce fighting. As the central thrust advances, it undermines the Syrian grip on Beirut itself. Israeli troops barrel towards the city. With no break in the fighting, Israel’s forward units drive into Christian East Beirut.
Begin believes the Christian Militiamen will finish off what is left of Arafat’s force. Sharon disagrees and orders planes and artillery to open fire on Moslem West Beirut - to pound the Palestine Liberation Army into submission and surrender.
Israel’s political goals in Lebanon changed the original size of the operation. Israeli opposition leaders take an excursion to see the Lebanese war zone with their own eyes. Yitzhak Rabin did not know the secret goals of the operation and encouraged Sharon to tighten the siege of Beirut.
In August 1982, Sharon orders the heaviest bombings on Beirut. The city once called the Paris of the Middle East is bombed for 10 straight hours, killing some three hundred people. In Israel, growing public pressure calls for a stop to the bombardment of Beirut, and demands the boys come home. For the first time in Israel’s history the moral conviction of the Israeli Army begins to break.
Early September sees over 14,000 PLO and Syrian forces leave Lebanon. Yassir Arafat, having held his position honorably throughout the whole invasion, is forced to move his headquarters from Beirut to Tunis.
In the wake of the withdrawal, Lebanon sees another wave of violence. The new Christian president elect - Bashir Gemayel - is assassinated. To prevent inter-communal violence, the Israeli Government orders its soldiers into West Beirut. Ariel Sharon takes the opportunity to surround the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, where, he claims, 2,000 armed PLO terrorists are hiding. The camps are then turned over to the Christian militiamen. With not a single armed PLO soldier in the camps, hundreds of unprotected men women and children are butchered in a night of senseless slaughter. It was too much for the national conscience to bear. Demonstrators all over Israel demanded a public inquiry into the massacres.
A commission found Defense Minister Ariel Sharon personally responsible. Later, Prime Minister Menachem Begin resigns. The Lebanon war also produced one of Israel’s fiercest enemies: the Hizballa. The Shiat Moslem of South Lebanon, once allies of Israel, turned into suicide bombers - ready to explode in the name of Allah.
The Palestinians of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip also took a stand. They had watched the misfortunes of their brethren in Lebanon - after the war ended, they were quick to act. Brave young men with nothing to lose confront Israeli security forces in a running battle. The teenage stone- throwers defy the curfews, tear-gas and rubber bullets. The Intifada, or Palestinian Uprising, had begun.
On the first week of the riots, Yitzhak Rabin was out of town- he did not take the uprising seriously, he viewed it as sporadic stone throwing. When he returned he gave orders to use strong hand to suppress the Intifada. The Palestinians of the territories have been passive and silent for decades. Suddenly they find they have a voice, and one the outside world wants to listen to. TV crews from every nationality jostle each other whenever the youngsters take to the streets. The younger they are, the more poignant the pictures. They became a generation of media stars, heroes of a TV war.
Throughout the towns and villages of the West Bank, and in the over-crowded and unhealthy refugee camps of Gaza - a new generation of Palestinians stop waiting for the world or some far away Liberation Organization to solve their problems. Night after night, Israeli families watch the news with a growing guilt over the injustice.
The Gulf War
Then, suddenly, media attention shifts when Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait, triggering the gulf war. Every resident of Israel and the territories is issued with a gas mask. Houses improvise hermetically sealed rooms against bacterial or chemical warfare. And most people avoid talk of a possible nuclear attack. It was with great fear that Israelis watch TV on the first night of the war, waiting to be sent to the shelters and told to put on their gas masks. As the first scud missile falls the whole country holds its breath. No nuclear explosion follows. Israel begins to pick its way through the rubble of mass devastation - but at least it can breathe freely again.
The Americans rush batteries of Patriot missiles to Israel. Within a few days half Israel’s population arrogantly sit outside, watching the Patriots and the Scuds high above their heads. This was perhaps the first war that the Israelis could sit back and watch, even if not really enjoy.
After the Gulf War, the world is not the same. A new friendship, forged in fire against a common enemy, has brought Arabs and the West closer than ever before. With new won confidence in united international action, moves begin towards peace. The headlines read "Upheaval in 1992 after 15 Years the labor party is back in power.” The newly elected Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, sets up new national priorities.
The Norwegian Minister Holst arrives in Jerusalem carrying a declaration of principles already signed by Yassir Arafat. Premier Yitzchak Rabin signs the Declaration.
The first phase is executed. The Israeli Army finally pulls out its bases in the Gaza Strip and Jericho, the end of 27 years of bitter occupation. Yassir Arafat quits Tunis and arrives to live in Gaza. Making a triumphant entrance, Arafat returns from exile to take up residence as leader of his people.
King Hussein of Jordan is next to sign his name on a new page of Middle East history.
The Likud, the right wing party in Israel, is called to the streets. Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu held a rallies throughout the country calling for Rabin to resign. Tempers heighten as demonstrators call Rabin a liar, murderer and a traitor. Despite the loud opposition Rabin advances on his peace process. He shakes the hand of Israel’s greatest enemy Yassir Arafat.
Yitzhak Rabin sings the song of peace. This will be the last performance of a military and political career that helped shape Israel. Back stage lurks an assassin, a religious Jew, Yigal Amir. Israel’s secret service did not expect a Jew to spoil the party.
Rabin leaves the rally, he is delighted with the show of public support for his peace efforts. As he walks towards his car, Rabin is shot in the back, not face to face like many of his friends on the battlefields. He died for peace and his legacy will remain alive in the hearts of many.