• U.S.

Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier of Peace

2 minute read
TIME

THE SOLDIER LIVED TO BECOME A MAN OF PEACE, YET THE MAN of peace met the death of a soldier, his body torn by bullets. Perhaps there is no contradiction in the first part of the statement, only a paradox. We justify war by saying that it begets peace, that through death we bring life, and so on. By this logic, the Yitzhak Rabin who led Israel’s army to triumph in the Six Day War shares everything but tactics with the Yitzhak Rabin who shook the hand of Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn. The warrior and the conciliator form two sides of the same soul, seeking one result.

But if there is a paradox of war, there should be no paradox of peace. Peace should beget peace; through life we should bring more life. Then how can we explain to ourselves the death of Rabin? How can we understand fate’s logic, when an assassin slays a man who has abandoned the methods of war, precisely because he has abandoned those methods? Our realism only extends so far–we are willing to accept that good can come out of evil; how much more cruel and intolerable it is to acknowledge that evil comes out of good.

We must accept it, though, when we remember those who have been cut down violently just as they have won a victory for righteousness: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Anwar Sadat. The Egyptian President–Rabin’s mirror image in the Middle East conflict, killed not by his nominal enemies, but by those among his own people who accused him of treachery. Rabin joins the ranks of such men, and that is why his assassination causes such heartsickness. Dwell on the matter, and realism turns to despair–the good get shot, and the evil die in their beds.

“Saying peace, peace, when there is no peace”–so reads the verse from Isaiah. It is an unbearably harsh truth to accept that, for the very reason that he was the most prominent of those saying peace, Yitzhak Rabin has become the most terrible illustration that there is no peace. If the wages of peacemaking are death, then we are all lost. Let us believe what the soldier believes, that death partners peace, and that in Rabin’s martyrdom there is hope.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com