‘What if?’ is the great question of history, all the more so for being unanswerable. What if Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s driver had not taken a wrong turn and stalled the engine in June 1914 in Sarajevo, thus denying Gavrilo Princip the opportunity to open fire and kill the Habsburg heir? What if Hitler had been assassinated in, say, 1938?
The murder of Yitzhak Rabin, then prime minister of Israel, on 4 November 1995, well within living memory, shaped the destiny of a nation – indeed a region – and prompts similar speculation. Rabin’s greatest political achievement was the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Washington, DC, in 1993. The television footage of the Israeli prime minister shaking hands with Yasser Arafat remains electrifying, though Rabin – and presumably Arafat – had their private doubts. ‘No kissing,’ insisted Rabin.
The Oslo Accords were supposed to be the beginning of a final peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. They created the Palestinian Authority (PA), the quasi-state that rules splinters of territory in the West Bank and has some limited security functions, although Israel still remains in overall charge. The