When Yitzhak Rabin was murdered, 10 years ago this Friday, he left no written account of where he had planned to take his country, no recording of his philosophy or ideology, no description of what he expected the peace he sought would look like.
I recall a conversation with his widow, Leah, two weeks after the assassination, during which I asked her how her husband had envisaged the final status arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians. "I thought you would know," she said to me.
I told her that our conversations, even those between the two of us alone, had always concerned issues on the current political agenda. From those conversations, I was able to learn something about the direction in which he was seeking to go, but at no stage did we ever hold a conversation about the permanent status agreement.
"Yitzhak was a very pragmatic person," his widow said. "When he talked about the long term, he was referring to a time frame of about two weeks. He believed that the reality would shape the solution, and not that the solution would shape the reality. Even if you were to try and find his permanent solution to the Middle East conflict, you would only find general principles."
Yitzhak Rabin was pragmatic, impatient and hated philosophy, but it is not true that he left no legacy. Mr. Rabin's legacy is recorded in his acts and in his accomplishments during his second term in office as prime minister between the summer of 1992 and the fall of 1995, when his life was cut short.
The most important component in this legacy is political activism. In contrast to most of his predecessors, who had paid lip service to peace, and who had waited for the other side to come to them and make offers, Mr. Rabin understood that if Israel did not initiate steps, it would find itself in a situation whereby a minority of Jews would control a majority of non-Jews and whereby countries hostile to Israel would develop weapons of mass destruction, which the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict would give them an excuse to use.
Despite the fact that he had previously opposed negotiations with Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization, it was not a revolutionary step for him to join the Oslo peace process that some of us had quietly begun, and to lead it. In this respect, he was aided by the fact that he was not an ideologue and, even if the handshake with Mr. Arafat was difficult for him, it was far more of an emotional difficulty than a fundamental one.
He capitalized on the agreement of principles with the PLO in a prudent manner, to advance the political process with Jordan with a view to peace. On the very next day after the 1993 signing of the Oslo agreement at the White House, an agreement of principles was signed with Jordan in Washington, and intensive negotiations were held between Jerusalem and Amman, led by Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein, which culminated in a peace agreement in October 1994.
He also accepted the assistance of American mediation with the Syrians, and he was prepared to concede the Golan Heights in return for peace.
When U.S. president Bill Clinton arrived for Mr. Rabin's funeral, and met with our acting prime minister, Shimon Peres, the president surprised Mr. Peres by telling him that Mr. Rabin had made a promise to secretary of state Warren Christopher that if Israel's security demands of Syria were satisfied, Israel would agree to withdraw to the 1967 borderlines on the Golan Heights. Mr. Peres, who was stunned by the promise and also by the fact that he hadn't known about it, announced immediately that whatever had been promised by Mr. Rabin would be honoured by him.
Yitzhak Rabin's legacy was, therefore, to make peace with all of Israel's neighbours as soon as possible. Had he remained alive, I am certain that we would have reached an agreement with the Palestinians by May 4, 1999, our target date.
During his years in office, Mr. Rabin believed in the principle of fighting an all-out war against terrorism as if there were no political negotiations, and conducting political negotiations as if there were no terrorism. He understood very well that if he were to make the negotiations contingent upon terrorist acts, he would be giving the last of the terrorists a veto right over all political development. Even in the most difficult days of Hamas terrorism, Mr. Rabin was insistent upon proceeding with meetings with the Palestinian Authority. He was wary of falling into the trap of seeing the Palestinians as a single entity and understood the importance of enhancing the relationship with the representatives of the pragmatic camp, in an effort to conduct a joint struggle against the Islamic fanaticism that generates terrorism and violence.
The political momentum that characterized the Rabin years -- the partial cancellation of the Arab boycott against Israel, the maintaining of political contacts with 13 of the countries of the Arab League -- all of these achievements brought to Israel tourism, investments and unprecedented economic prosperity. Mr. Rabin's government invested the increased revenues in education, welfare, infrastructure and in reducing the gaps between Jews and Israeli Arabs. The years 1995-96 were the only years in this generation in which the number of the poor in Israel decreased.
This is the Rabin legacy and it remains to be carried out. We should immediately resume the negotiations on the permanent status agreement with the Palestinians in the spirit of the Geneva accord of 2003; we should hold negotiations with the Syrians on peace in return for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights and, as a consequence, reach a full peace with the Lebanese, with whom we don't actually have any disputes. All of this can be done within a few months, and there is no need to wait for many long years until the parties fall in love with each other, fall into each other's arms and feel ready for peace.
Israel must go back to being a welfare state, in which even the weakest members of society have an economic safety net, and in which the Arab minority receives the individual and collective rights that are its due as full citizens of Israel.
In the three golden years of Mr. Rabin's government, Israel came closer than at any other period since 1967 to its desired model of being the state of the Jewish people and of all its citizens: a state wishing to live in peace with its neighbours; a state wishing to become an inseparable part of the region in which it lives; a state receiving the admiration of the world; and a state that accords its citizens their rights.
Yitzhak Rabin, murdered in the midst of this project, was an impatient man, renowned for having a "short fuse." He would not have
tolerated the delays we have experienced in implementing his efforts. It's time for all who would succeed him to stand up and
rejoin his path.
Yossi Beilin, leader of the Yahad (Social Democratic Israel) party, a former justice minister and deputy foreign minister, was an architect of the Oslo agreement and the Geneva accord.