Photo Credit: Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. Flatow

Yitzhak Rabin made the most risky territorial concession in Israel’s history when he gave the Palestinian Authority control of the areas where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside.

But Bernie Sanders says it never happened.


This outrageous smearing of Rabin’s memory and sacrifices took place at the J Street national conference in Washington last week.

Senator Sanders, one of the featured speakers, declared: “We need to end this 50-year-long occupation” and claimed that the Palestinians are being “forced to live under perpetual Israeli rule.”

When Rabin was elected prime minister in 1992, he faced a dilemma.

On the one hand, he recognized that establishing a Palestinian state in Judea-Samaria-Gaza would pose a grave threat to Israel’s existence. Israel would be just nine miles wide in its middle, living next to a state run by terrorists and dictators.

Yitzhak Rabin
Yitzhak Rabin

On the other hand, Rabin didn’t want Israel to continue to rule over the Palestinian Arabs living in those territories.

So he and his government negotiated what came to be called the Oslo accords, which ended Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians and gave them something close to statehood, but without endangering Israel.

In 1995, Rabin withdrew from the cities in Judea-Samaria where nearly all of the Palestinians reside; and Ariel Sharon later withdrew from all of Gaza. What Bernie Sanders calls the “50-year-long occupation” ended long ago.

The only “occupation” of the Palestinians currently in force is the 22-year occupation by the Palestinian Authority. (And, now entering its 10th year, the occupation of Gaza by Hamas.)

If the ill-informed Sen. Sanders ever bothered to visit Ramallah, Bethlehem, or Shechem (Nablus), he would be in for quite a surprise.

One can just imagine Sanders, seeing the streets policed by the Palestinian security forces, stammering, “Wait – where are the Israeli troops? Where is the Israeli military administration? Where is the Israeli governor?” The answer, Mr. Senator, is that they left more than two decades ago.

The Palestinians’ schools are run by Palestinian principals and teachers. The courts have Palestinian judges. When elections are held, the candidates and the voters are all Palestinians.

Pretty much the only thing the Palestinian Authority can’t do is import tanks, planes, Iranian “volunteers,” or North Korean missiles.

If Sen. Sanders wants to argue that the PA should be allow import tanks, missiles, and Iranians, let him make that case. But he has no right to continue perpetuating the lie that Israel still “occupies” the Palestinians.

The current situation in the territories is not a perfect solution. But we live in an imperfect world.

Thanks to Yitzhak Rabin, today’s status quo ensures Israel’s Jewish majority, retains Israel’s defensible borders, and guarantees all faiths free access to their religious sites.

At the same time, it allows nearly all of the Palestinians to live under their own government. There are no Israeli soldiers patrolling Palestinian cities. They live in an entity that is close to statehood in every respect except those few aspects that would most endanger Israel’s existence.

It’s time to acknowledge the risks Rabin took, and to stop dishonoring his memory by pretending that those concessions were never made.