Photo: Hagai Nativ
Martin Sherman
Photo: Hagai Nativ

Setting the record straight

Martin Sherman presents some apparently forgotten realities of Rabin era

Eitan Haber's recent article "Rabin’s many successors" can only be described as appallingly disingenuous piece of journalism. Through it, he conveyed a patently mendacious message - apparently banking his readers' short-term memories and large-scale ignorance.


"You want facts?" demands Haber with intimidating gusto, proceeding to bombard his readers with a maelstrom of what can only be described as grave distortions of facts.


"Economic growth in the mid 1990s, during Rabin’s days, stood at 6% a year. What has it been since then, and now?" Well, as a matter of fact, in 2000 it reached 7.4% in response to the short-sighted and short-lived optimism over Ehud Barak's election, before plummeting into negative territory due to a combination of the renewed Intifada (a demonstrably direct derivative of Rabin's "brave" Oslo initiative) and the bursting of the "dot-com bubble."


And is Haber really oblivious to the fact that today the Israeli economy has become so vibrant and resilient, that it managed - even in the absence of a "peace-horizon" - to weather the current global recession arguably better than nearly all other Western economies?


But even more troubling questions arise. While during the incumbency of the Rabin government (1992-1995) average growth was indeed an impressive 6.%, was it ignorance or intent that led Haber to omit mentioning that, during the three years that preceded Oslo (1990-1992) under the Shamir government, it was an even more impressive 6.6%?!


Of course, the rapid growth-rate in both these periods was due in great measure to factors totally endogenous to the policy of the Israeli governments of the time: the huge immigration from the former-USSR and the booming world economy. Moreover Haber conveniently neglects to note that from 1995, the economy went into steep decline - as the horror of the terror attacks, precipitated by Rabin-government's Oslowian policy, began to dawn on the public.


Haber goes on to list a number of infrastructure projects that were initiated in the early years of the Rabin government. However, these were all long-term projects planned and prepared by previous governments long before Rabin's election.


And what about the fact that much of the Rabin-era growth was fueled by a gigantic budget deficit that almost brought Israel to the brink of financial catastrophe, similar to those that wrought ruin on several Asian countries at the time? It was only the fiscal prudence and steady hands of Meridor and Ne'eman, who as finance ministers under Netanyahu steered the nation clear of the looming economic disaster that the cavalier fiscal promiscuity of Avraham Shohat, Rabin's man in the Treasury, almost brought upon it.


‘We won’t return to 1967 lines’

Haber coos over the "…200 multinational companies (yes, such as McDonald’s) entered the Israeli market at the time". Yet with all due respect to the far-reaching impact that the advent of Big-Macs and French fries has had on Israeli society, culture and technology, we should not lose sight of other facts. For example, direct foreign investment (FDI) in Israel soared to an unprecedented peak in 2006 of $14 billion (including the $4 billion by Warren Buffetts's Berkshire-Hathaway,) reaching an impressive $10 billion in 2007 and almost $11 billion in 2008 – despite the global recession.


Haber goes on to wax sentimental over the stream of "…kings, presidents, and prime ministers arrived in Israel for official visits back then.” Yet could he really have missed the unprecedented cavalcade of EU leaders that descended on Jerusalem in January this year in the wake of Operation Cast Lead to express their solidarity with outgoing PM Ehud Olmert? French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.


But perhaps most disturbing is that the fleeting spectacle of visiting foreign dignitaries seems etched deeper into Haber very selective memory than the ghastly scenes of bloody carnage of his fellow countrymen that became so commonplace during Rabin-government's term. For in his glowing account of that period he makes nary mention of the burgeoning terror that made visiting a cafe, buying a slice of pizza or riding a bus, nerve-wracking experiences for huge segment of the population.


It cannot be forgotten: Rabin's misguided Olsowian venture, which brought him international acclaim but death and disaster to Israel and Israelis, was a colossal blunder for which he must shoulder full responsibility.


Finally, Haber claims that "…almost all Zionist parties have adopted the fundamentals of the agreement…signed in Oslo.” Nothing belies this more than the words of Rabin himself in his last address to the Knesset, just prior to his assassination, in which calling for the ratification of "Oslo II", he laid out his vision for the permanent status agreement with the PA. In it he dismissed the notion of a two-state solution, calling for a Palestinian entity "which is less than a state", declaring resolutely "we will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines."


His prescription for the final peace accord, despite considerable withdrawals, categorically included a united Jerusalem and inclusion into Israel of the settlements of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities. As almost all Zionist parties today have rejected these principles, it could be said with a great measure of truth that Rabin has no successors.


פרסום ראשון: 11.08.09, 18:05
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