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An Obama rally on Rabin Square would represent a forceful endorsement not only of the social justice and peace movements, but also, more generally, of the right of the Israeli people to effect change from the bottom up.
In this regard, Rabin Square would also present Obama with the best opportunity to speak to Israelis directly and in person. Under the present plans, Obama’s team has requested the presence of just 1,000 Israelis at his Israel Museum lecture. Yet on Rabin Square, Obama would have the chance to address tens of thousands of Israelis, a moment as great and as transcendent as his campaign stop in Berlin in July 2008, when more than 200,000 Germans filled the Strasse des 17 Juni, from the Victory Column to the Brandenburg Gate.
But Rabin Square is also important because it is a site of national trauma: the spot where, on November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down by Yigal Amir for his role in the Oslo Accords and for his support for its intended consequence, the eventual Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. As well as being a tragic moment for Israeli democracy and pluralism, it is correctly viewed as the beginning of the end of the Oslo process, and as the first of many incidences on the broken road to the present Israeli-Palestinian stalemate.
Obama might well be making a stop to place flowers upon the tomb of Rabin, but he can do more to recognize the significance of his death and repair the wound left by Rabin’s assassination through a clearer and more certain affirmation of his principals and legacy — a willingness not just to end the occupation, but also to do so only from a position of strength and security.
Obama should return to the place of Rabin’s murder and make clear to the Israeli public his own dedication both to Israel’s defense and to the peace process to which Rabin gave his life.
Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo, lent his support to the nascent campaign to have Obama come to the city and speak. “I would be happy and honored to invite him to Tel Aviv, where he is welcome to address the Israeli public at Rabin Square,” Huldai wrote, “a location that is a symbol of the Israeli democracy and of our ongoing desire to live a peaceful and normal life.”
President Obama, would you please accept?
Liam Hoare is a freelance writer whose work on politics and literature has been featured in the Atlantic and the Jewish Chronicle.