Yitzhak Rabin was one of history's great generals, in Israel and in the long history of the Western way of war. And like many such soldiers, he was a man a peace. He knew, as a master of war, that war would not solve the problems facing his country.
He said that Israel did not need to make peace with Belgium. It needed to make peace with her enemies. And so, as prime minister of Israel, he set out to do so.
He was, I think, a realist about what kind of peace is available. He was therefore an advocate, and an architect, of a hard border between Israel and Palestine. Because he understood that there would be irredentists on the Arab side indefinitely (as there were and are in many new states), and his first priority was always the safety and security of his own people.
But he also understood there would be a Palestine.
To that end he ended Israel's policy of non-recognition of the voices of liberation among the Palestinian people – although some among them had blood on their hands. And he called them to a dialog about peace, and about a two-state solution.
Yigal Amir did not just murder Mr. Rabin in King of Israel Square on Nov. 4, 1995. As subsequent events have shown, he may have put a bullet in Israel's best hope for peace.
Mr. Rabin's successors have failed to carry out his vision, perhaps because they lacked and continue to lack his strength. Perhaps because they have not yet had their fill of war, as he had. Or so some of their conduct would suggest – mirrored, tragically for the Palestinian people, by some on the other side.
So what to make of this? And what can Canada do?
We can be friends of the friends of peace, on both sides. In stark contrast to the policy of the Harper government, which currently aims in the opposite direction. Which brings us to the question of the recognition of Palestine in some form by the United Nations.
The details will matter. Perhaps the Palestinians will overplay their hand at the United Nations in coming weeks or months, and make it impossible to help them – not for the first time.
But on the fundamental issue of recognition of a Palestinian state, as a step towards a peace in which both it and Israel live free from terror and violence, in recognized borders and at peace with all of their neighbors, it would be right for Canada to stand with most of the world. And to recognize Palestine.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is wrong on this issue. A good day for him to acknowledge this, and to lead Canada back to a position of principle, would be this coming Nov. 4.
In memory of a brilliant general, a brave soldier for peace. A man who makes our current Prime Minister look, today, very small.
But Mr. Rabin believed that people on the wrong side of these issues could be persuaded to change their minds. We should all keep believing that.
Brian Topp is running for leader of the federal New Democratic Party