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4 november 2015, it was 20 years ago today

Rarely in history has a bullet found its target as well as that of yigal amir, yitzchaq rabin's assassin. He was no saint: rabin it was who, as defence minister, tried to snuff out the first intifada (a year I spent in israel) with orders to break palestinian legs. Yet, after usurping his great rival shimon peres to become prime-minister, he came to understand and indeed define the position that only engagement and compromise could end the conflict. So came oslo, the greatest - and probably last - breakthrough in our lifetime. No other leader, right or left, has credibly taken most israelis on that journey. Oslo though was only a first step, postponing the most difficult issues of jerusalem, settlements, the rights of refugees to return and a palestinian state itself. Yet, start the journey they did, each side for the first time recognising the other and their aspirations. Though no less for the palestinians, the scale of compromise represented for israel is like america today sitting down with islamic state. Amir's bullet, in the square I stood that night, directly led to a weak peres picking up the torch and narrowly losing the election a year later to netanyahu: rejectionist procrastinator par excellence, for whom the appearance of the journey was the most he would ever accept (see 18 april 2015, bibin there, done that). From that moment the process was ultimately doomed, and the prospects of peace ever more remote. And here we are, several wars and many dead later, perennially on the cusp of the third intifada and even the most optimistic of souls has no conceivable solution to hand beyond the faint hope of dampening down the violence just below boiling point for a period. How far in the wrong direction we have travelled these last 20 years; a personal tragedy of our age.