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Los Angeles Times Interview : Leah Rabin : Finding the Right Path After the Assassination

January 21, 1996|Marjorie Miller | Marjorie Miller is Jerusalem bureau chief for The Times

This sense of guilt is today translated into deeds. You see them already on street corners and, in a short time, you will see more of them, and more stickers and posters . . . . I think the masses who came out to mourn for my husband and went to the cemetery and went to the Kikar Rabin and went to our house, and all those millions of candles that were lit and flowers that were left, expressed that the silent majority is really a very big majority. There is a big majority of young people--and not necessarily the young--who really support the peace process.

Q: Since your husband's death, Israeli troops have redeployed in the West Bank with relatively little protest from Israelis, and now the Palestinian elections are taking place. Would he have been satisfied with the progress of the peace agreement?

A: If you want to look for consolation, he died a happy man. He saw it happening in front of his eyes. But, my God, it wasn't so easy. There were 2 1/2 difficult years of working it all out, all the details. Every detail had to be discussed and fought for. These things don't happen overnight. I think he would have been very, very happy. If I feel sorry, I feel sorry first of all for him. He's missing all this.

Q: Would it have been this quiet if he were still alive?

A: You have a point. It is easier now . . . . But my husband wasn't putting attention to the loudness. He was just going ahead with this plan, this program. And being absolutely convinced that this is the one way that we should walk. And when I said, "Aren't you disturbed by all these curses of 'traitor,' " he said, "Well, let them yell." Unfortunately, he didn't put enough attention. Would it have helped? I don't know.

Q: The protest you do hear now is that the peace plan is laying the foundation of a Palestinian state. Is it? If so, is that the right direction?

A: I don't want to express my views on that. This is very strictly political and I avoid giving any political declarations.

Q: Why?

A: Because I don't belong in that scene. I'm not elected. I'm just his wife. I enjoyed being his wife, I enjoyed being with him all these years. I trusted that he was doing the right thing. I was fully identified with whatever he did. But that doesn't put me in a position today to express my views, which aren't his, unfortunately, anymore. I don't speak in his name now . . . . I am aware of the sense that whatever I say today somehow gets an enormous echo. So I think that I have to be very careful and not say things that are not in my capacity.

Q: Do you want to talk about whether you feel Prime Minister Peres is carrying out the policies your husband would have wanted?

A: Yes, he is. If he does things differently, then also I wouldn't refer to that. I am not here to criticize him . . . .

Q: Do you feel Jewish extremists have been strengthened or weakened by the assassination?

A: I just met with a group of rabbis from the United States. They say, "You have to rise above your pain and unite the people." I said, "Me? I will unite the people? It is your task, your commitment, your responsibility to unite the religious people into one camp that makes sense. You have to fight the extremists. You are closer on the scene. I am very far away from this religious scene. I don't feel that I can reach them in any way. It is your duty to unite the camp and oust people who don't belong there at all." I think that a person who thinks that land is more sacred than human life, he doesn't belong in our faith at all. He should be somewhere else . . . .

I would like to think that [the extremists] are weakened . . . . But when you are talking about fanaticism, there are always those who you never change their minds. These people from Hamas who are ready to commit suicide, you think anybody influences them? They think they are sent by God. And, so the same with our fanatics, our extremists. They think that they have a messianic mission from God, [that] God believes that land is more sacred than human life. Never mind that one of our 10 Commandments is "Thou shalt not kill"--which we were always so proud of and felt that it makes us different people from the others . . . .

Q: Did you watch the video of the assassination that aired on Israeli TV?

A: No. I lived it. I was there. I saw what I will see and will stay with me like you push a button on a video and it stops the video. You keep seeing the same sight, same vision. This is the way I feel about it. I heard the bullets and I saw my husband falling and I saw the boys falling over him and then I was pulled away, told it was not for real and believing that, for a while, and I will always see that picture.

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