Gantz annointed as Rabin's successor on anniversary of the former Prime Minister's assassination

The Blue & White leader was invited to be the main speaker at the annual rally commemorating the assassination of Rabin, despite not yet being able to form a government


So anxious were the organisers of the annual rally commemorating Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination to anoint Benny Gantz as his successor that they not only invited him as the main speaker, but did not invite the leader of Rabin’s own Labour Party at all.

Whether or not the snub on Saturday to Amir Peretz is the final nail in the historic coffin of the party that founded Israel and led it through much of its history remains to be seen. Mr Gantz’s Blue & White party may be the largest in the Knesset, but is still only nine months old and far from clear what it stands for — other than unseating Benjamin Netanyahu.

But Mr Gantz is the new Rabin. For now.

In the 24 years since the assassination, there has been much talk of “Rabin’s legacy” but no clarity over what that actually is. For the Israeli centre-left, which used to call itself the “Peace Camp”, the legacy is tied up in what the slain prime minister did in the last two years of his life: the Oslo Process, the historic compromise with the Palestinians that was also the reason that Yigal Amir murdered him.

But while the late leader has been a convenient figurehead, it was too easy for the peaceniks to ignore the fact that he was never one of them.

It was Rabin who encouraged Israel’s disastrous war in Lebanon in 1982, counselling Ariel Sharon to tighten the siege on Beirut. As defence minister in 1987, when the first Intifada broke out, Rabin ordered the IDF to “break the arms and legs” of Palestinian protestors.

And while the left could always say that Rabin had changed in the years leading up to Oslo and realised the need for peace, they could never say he supported a two-state solution. He made it clear that the diplomatic process should not culminate in statehood for the Palestinians — although there is no lack of left-wingers who will insist that had Rabin lived, he would have come around.

But Rabin led the camp because, in an increasingly nationalist Israel, the only leader who could conceivably win power back from Likud was a centrist security hawk with the credentials of a former IDF Chief of Staff.

That is what they see in Mr Gantz as well. Labour has replaced its leader 12 times since the assassination and only one of them, Ehud Barak, has won an election and even he did not last long in office.

Barring a miraculous reincarnation, Labour is finished as a party of power but the aspiration to power of those who once voted for the party has not gone away. Most of them voted in September for Blue & White.

Mr Gantz is Rabin circa 1992. So far, his vagueness resembles that of the tough ex-general who promised during the election campaign that he would not negotiate with the PLO, would not relinquish the Golan Heights to Syria and would fight Palestinian terror with an iron fist. There was very little else of substance aside from his own image.

That was enough for Rabin to just about eke out a victory over Likud. In 2019, it has barely yielded a stalemate. Until Mr Gantz succeeds in breaking the deadlock and replacing Mr Netanyahu in the prime minister’s office, we will not know if he is the Rabin of Oslo or the Rabin of Lebanon and the Intifada.

Meanwhile, he is a Rabin on probation. If he becomes prime minister, it will be a permanent title. But if he capitulates to Mr Netanyahu and agrees to serve in his government, he will lose it automatically.

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