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CIRSD launched a book about the life of Israeli statesman Yitzhak Rabin

The Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD) launched the Serbian edition of the latest book by Itamar Rabinovich, a biography of the former Prime Minister of Israel and a 1994 Nobel Peace Prize Winner- Yitzhak Rabin, entitled Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, leader, statesman.

During his opening remarks, CIRSD President Vuk Jeremic said that Rabinovich ranks among the world’s greatest contemporary thinkers in the areas of international relations and security.

“Itamar Rabinovich is one of the greatest Israeli thinkers in the field of foreign affairs, who is currently president of the Israel Institute. He previously served as president of Tel Aviv University.  He was Israel’s chief negotiator with Syria as well as the country’s ambassador to the US in a very delicate period of relations,” Jeremic said, underlining that Rabinovich was one of Rabin’s closest advisors.

Jeremic added that it is a privilege for CIRSD to have been the first to buy the rights to translate the book into any foreign language.

Rabinovich thanked Jeremic for organizing the book launch and stated that the former Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the UN General Assembly had impressed him with his “heroic effort” in last year’s campaign for the UN Secretary General.

Rabinovich said that the life of Yitzhak Rabin was very meaningful for his country, as well as for the whole Middle East.

The author of the CIRSD book stated that as a young man, Rabin did not initially plan to become a soldier, but after the outbreak of the Second World War in the Middle East he showed great talent for military affairs and quickly advanced to the position of Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces.

"After the military, he wanted to expand his perspective and he thought that Washington would be a very good place to learn about world politics. This was the first step from moving from being a soldier to being a politician, a leader, and eventually a statesman. He believed that in the early 90s, time had come for Israel to change its relations with its immediate neighbors and he identified the potential threat of Iran early on.” Rabinovich said.

Speaking about Rabin’s second term as a prime minister (1992 –1995), the author said that "Rabin felt that he was chosen to be there in order to make a real difference, and the difference to him was to put Israel on the path of peace.”

He pointed out that Rabin was the only person who could "sell" the peace process to the Israeli public. This is why Rabin’s  1995 assassination was a major blow to the continuation of the peace process between Israel and Palestine.

Rabinovich stated that Iran which “did not want to see an Israeli - Palestinian peace”, benefited most from this tragedy. He also added that the religious wing of Zionism in Israel did not do enough soul searching after the assassination.

He underlined that following the 1993 Oslo Agreement, Israel made peace with Jordan and greatly improved relations with a number of Arab countries.

“At the same time, the Oslo Accords were regarded by many as a betrayal and a big mistake," Rabinovich said, adding that the terrorist attacks that killed Israeli citizens around the time of the assassination contributed to such a belief.

Commenting on Israel’s current foreign relations, Rabinovich stated that the country is deeply divided regarding key issues such as terms of the future the relationship with the Palestinians.

“I am aware that I am speaking in a country that itself has many disagreements about crucial issues, and Israel is similar. The country is split down the middle between people who completely disagree about our future, and mostly about the future of the West Bank and Israel’s relations with the West Bank.” Rabinovich said.

He concluded his remarks by opining that conditions for successful peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine are not fulfilled, because the Palestinian Authority is fragmented, and the role of the United States that has always served as an intermediary is not clear enough.

In her welcoming remarks, the Ambassador of Israel to Serbia, Dr. Alona Fisher-Kamm, noted that very few politicians have followed the long course from victorious war heroes to successful leaders, and even fewer – the course from leader to influential statesmen, as was the case with Yitzhak Rabin. 

"What made Yitzhak Rabin a real statesman was the fact that he was neither right nor left. He knew to combine what seems to be contradictions in political science: security on the one hand and peace on the other, democracy on the one hand and stability on the other.”

“I believe that this pragmatism or combination of practical considerations and values have characterized Yitzhak Rabin since the time he was a soldier.” the ambassador said.

Alona Fisher-Kamm said that the quest for peace represents Rabin's legacy.

“Life is full of paradoxes. Yitzhak Rabin hated wars and violence, but became the most famous war hero in the country. He hated diplomacy, and lacked basic diplomatic skills, and yet became the Ambassador of Israel to the United States. He hated politics, but he became one of the most influential leaders in Israel. He was concerned all his life over Israeli security, but became a symbol of peace. He was shy and lacked charisma, but until today he is considered as one of our greatest statesmen. He was the one who commanded the six day war that ended up in conquering territories, while he was assassinated while negotiating the same territories for peace,” she concluded.

Ambassador Fisher-Kamm recalled Rabin’s words, spoken just minutes before he was assassinated: ”I have always believed that the majority of the people want peace and are prepared to take risk for peace. Violence is undermining the very foundations of the Israeli democracy.”

In delivering a formal assessment of the book, former Ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro to Israel Dr. Krinka Vidakovic-Petrov said that Rabin was both a hawk and a dove, and that he knew both of power and of limitation of force.

She said that the life of Yitzhak Rabin epitomized one strand of modern Israeli history from 1948 until 1995, that combined down to earth experience of a soldier and politician with statesmanship and a vision based on unconventional thinking and a great deal of courage.

Krinka Vidakovic-Petrov added that Rabinovich’s book is based on a number of pertinent sources, minutes of meetings, archives and memoirs of multiple participants of these events, including Rabin’s memoirs, and that the author of the book is one of the key first-hand witnesses of these events.

“The centerpiece of the book is the life of Yitzhak Rabin, but in addition it provides an intricate web of details that support a better understanding of the complex Middle East issues. The narrative of the book is segmented chronologically, but in a way that highlights a tension culminating in the tragic end of Rabin's life. Ironically, the assassination was committed not by an enemy from the outside, but by one from within Israeli society itself,” said Krinka Vidakovic-Petrov.

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