In 1995, near the end of his tenure as Israel’s prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Jewish zealot. As with all high-profile assassinations, one asks, futilely, what might have been. Rabin had guided Israel through the Oslo Accords and a treaty with Jordan and had engaged in a long-distance dance with President Hafez al-Assad of Syria before concluding that Assad was not ready for peace. In this thorough book, Rabinovich, who served for a time as Rabin’s point person on Syria and as Israel’s ambassador to the United States, portrays Rabin as old school: a military man from 1941 on. He was harsh in his treatment of Palestinians during the war in 1948 and then again, 40 years later, during the first intifada. He pushed for the development of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Yet he saw Israel’s security as inextricably linked to peace with all its neighbors. He was not in favor of giving up all of the West Bank, occupied by Israel in 1967, but he knew that hanging on to it would mean that Israel would remain forever a garrison state. Had he survived, Rabin would have been at loggerheads with Likudniks and neoconservatives in Washington, who have long wanted to separate the Palestinian issue from broader questions of regional security.
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