Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rabin took responsibility for a failed mission

(Cross-posted from Israel: Like this, as if)

Israel's media are busy reminiscing about Yitzhak Rabin.

Today (Oct. 24) on our Hebrew lunar calendar is 12 Heshvan, the 12th anniversary of the assassinated Prime Minister's death. (On the Gregorian calendar, the assassination took place Nov. 4.)

One Rabin memory which stays with me is hearing the rumble of his deep voice in a television broadcast that echoed from open windows along the silent streets of Tel Aviv on Sabbath Eve, October 14, 1994.

Rabin had gone on the air to announce the failure of a rescue mission. A Sayeret Matcal commando force acting on precise intelligence had raided a house north of Jerusalem in an effort to free Nahshon Wachsman, a young Israeli soldier who was being held hostage by Hamas. The hostage died in the rescue attempt, which also took the life of the Israeli mission commander, Capt. Nir Poraz, 23.

Today in a radio interview one of his aides recalled that Rabin insisted that night on publicly taking responsibility for the failure of the mission. Ehud Barak, who was then the military chief of staff, was ready to go on the air with the announcement, the aide said, but Rabin emphasized, "I was responsible."

Rabin later said that approving this rescue operation was one of the most difficult decisions of his life.

Taking responsibility is a quality for which people remember Rabin. How many other heads of government can you recall going on national television to take responsibility for a mission that failed?

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv, October 24, 2007

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