Israel is waiting for Rabin
As a civilian and as an ordinary MK outside the decision making process, Rabin followed the Gulf War which changed the balance of power in the Middle East. The response of the Israeli home front during the war sharpened his feeling that the Israeli public had tired of war and was willing to pay the price of peace. He saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had been at the heart of anti-Israeli activity in the region, as a historic opportunity to make progress toward peace. The agreements reached between the powers at the Madrid Conference in October 1991 were seen by Rabin as lending further weight to this thesis. He believed that the new circumstances had created a window of opportunity for peace and that Israel should hasten to exploit this opportunity before the introduction of nuclear weapons into the region, which would endanger the very existence of the state.
The waves of immigration from the Soviet Union and the economic potential they generated strengthened his belief that Israel could now take risks. He knew that for this purpose brave leadership was required, and believed in his ability to fulfill the task. After Rabin's defeat of Shimon Peres in the internal Labor Party primaries, the party launched an intensive election campaign. Seen as having both credibility, as a "Mr. Security" pressing for peace and the trust of the general public, Rabin led a campaign under the slogan "Israel is waiting for Rabin".
"We live in an era of danger that unconventional arms will enter the Middle East arena... thus, looking ahead seven to 10 years, we must promote the peace process."
Prime Minister once again
The Mahapach - revolution - that brought the Labor Party back to power recrowned Rabin as Prime Minister. He stuck firm to his commitments and changed the national agenda: budgets for education, welfare, infrastructure, outlying communities and for the Arab sector were all significantly increased at the expense of those for the settlements and defense. Financial guarantees from the United States for the absorption of immigrants from the former Soviet Union helped to facilitate execution of his plans and breathed new life into the country's economy. Rabin's support for privatization gained him the support of the business sector.
Determined to integrate Israel rapidly into the age of global reconciliation, to lead a daring diplomatic move to peace with Israel's neighbors and to solve the Palestinian problem, Rabin declared his willingness to make territorial compromises. He immediately renewed the peace talks with the Palestinians and Syria, which had begun after the Madrid Conference. He saw the Palestinian problem as the heart of the conflict, but when he saw that talks in Washington with representatives from the territories had come to a dead end, he promoted the Syrian track in the hope that its very existence would accelerate progress on the Palestinian track as well.
His security policy moved on two parallel tracks: while lifting restrictions on the Palestinian civilian population he continued a tough policy toward terrorists and rioters. In an extraordinary step he decided to expel 415 Hamas activists who had been involved in terrorist attacks. He responded to Katyusha rocket fire on the North with Operation Accountability.
When he was informed of the existence of secret talks in Oslo he authorized their continuation despite his skepticism, and turned them into an official channel of dialogue. He agreed to the PLO coming in as a party to the talks only after receiving a letter of commitment from Yasser Arafat stating the PLO's recognition of Israel's right to exist and the renunciation of terrorism.
On September 13, 1993, in a festive ceremony on the lawns of the White House, with the participation of the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, the Oslo Accords were signed. The Accords laid the foundation for a permanent status agreement that was to include the foundation of a Palestinian entity alongside Israel. Speeches by Rabin and Arafat and the historic handshake between the two were the high point of the ceremony and became a symbol of hope in Israel and around the world. Alongside joy and elation, the accords also awakened fears of the inherent dangers and exacerbated the dispute between its supporters and opponents. The political and public protests against Oslo were led by the settler movement. The massacre of Muslim worshippers by a Jewish extremist at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron reflected the growing tensions in Israeli society. Rabin considered disbanding the Jewish settlement in Hebron, but in the end left it in place.
The Peace Treaty with Jordan
With the signing of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement and the recognition of the Palestinians as a national entity, conditions had matured for a peace agreement with Jordan. Relations with the Jordanian kingdom had been built up over the years via secret meetings between King Hussein and a succession of Israeli leaders, including Rabin. In May 1994 a decisive secret meeting was held between Rabin and Hussein and the foundations were laid for a peace agreement. Generous assistance offered by the United States to Jordan gave the final push to the move. On October 26, 1994 the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed in the Arava (the desert between Aqaba and Eilat), and the final borders between the two countries were set. The treaty was an important milestone in the development of relations with Arab and other Muslim countries
A string of suicide bombings by Palestinian opponents of the peace process hit innocent civilians in Israel’s urban centers and dealt a blow to hopes that the region had embarked on an era of prosperity and growth.
“It is not only our states that are making peace with each other today, not only our nations that are shaking hands in peace here in the Arava. You and I, your Majesty, are making peace here, our own peace, the peace of soldiers and the peace of friends.”
The award of the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1994 symbolized the world’s honor and esteem for the peace makers and was an expression of encouragement and hope that they would continue their efforts and bring the difficult process to fruition.
But the mood among the Israeli public was different. The resumption of peace talks with Syria had created a new camp of opponents who were opposed to any concessions in the Golan Heights. Terrorist attacks went on unabated and even intensified, and the split in Israeli society deepened. But Rabin was determined to press ahead with the peace process.
In September 1995 an agreement was reached on a timetable for execution of the Oslo Accords and on ways to implement the accords. The agreement was signed in Washington and was dubbed Oslo 2. Opponents of the agreement prepared to block its execution. They arranged demonstrations and protests against its instigator, Yitzhak Rabin. The incitement the protesters fermented was taken by extremists as a license to kill.