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Everything is Personal

April 7th 2008

Everything is Personal
Everything is Personal

Rabin-Peres: Everything is Personal. Israel 2007. Directed by Arik Henig. 64 min, in Hebrew with English subtitles.

Near the end of this Israeli documentary, two confidants of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin neatly sum up the nearly five-decades of competition and tepid – at best – final reconciliation between the historic leaders. One refers to Rabin and Peres as the Jewish state’s “yin and yang,” the other as a long-time bickering couple who finally decide to stay married.

The bitter rivalry of these two men to both head the Labor Party and the nation was indeed intensely personal. As but one example, Rabin’s stinging 1979 autobiography was woven with attacks on Peres. (The Hebrew version is much more indicting than the English one.) Then there was Peres’ harsh verbal lashing of Rabin during an open party speech (Rabin is shown chuckling with confidantes.)

Even during the last day of Rabin’s life, which ended the night of Nov. 5, 1995, as three bullets from Yigal Amir’s pistol slammed into his body, longtime Labor activist Giora Eini spent hours shuttling between the homes of the two leaders to mediate matters; Rabin and Peres evidently could not discuss the issues face-to-face.

One intriguing section describes Peres’ now-forgotten days as a security hawk, “a Ben-Gurionite” and Moshe Dayan devotee. Indeed, Peres, as Rabin’s Defense Minister in 1975, permitted the first West Bank settlement. That action, it is claimed, meant to contrast Rabin’s non-compromising attitude against the soon-to-be settlers.

The film’s introduction is too fast-paced and the constant background music at times out of place. There is a long and at times confusing cast of interviewees. Yet, the overall product is worthwhile for its first-person descriptions of this intense political struggle against the backdrop of the state’s first 47 years.

Ultimately, as the documentary shows, in the early 1990s neither leader could attain their goals in foreign affairs without the other. Rabin, no statesman, was a cautious loner in Israel’s den of political wolves; Peres, branded a “loser,” was inclined to grandiose schemes that he wrongly believed Israel’s nervous electorate would quickly applaud.

Separately, they were extremely influential in Israel’s first four decades. Together, due to the controversial Oslo Accords and Rabin’s tragic murder, they will forever be remembered as the Jewish state’s most unlikely political duo.

Veteran journalist Neil Rubin is Editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times and coordinates content at the website www.jewishtimes.com.


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