An Arab tribute to Israel Rabin's funeral: Mubarak and Hussein notable in remarkable gathering of world leaders.

November 07, 1995

THEY ALL CAME -- the presidents of the United States and France, the prime ministers of Britain and Russia, the chancellor of Germany, more than 40 world leaders to mourn the murder of Yitzhak Rabin and, by their presence, to pay a remarkable tribute to the modern state of Israel. Yet the most significant visitors by far came not from the big powers but from Arab states hostile to Israel at its founding.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was there, walking in the footsteps of his martyred predecessor, Anwar Sadat, who defied the whole Islamic world and endured its ostracism in making peace with Israel. King Hussein of Jordan was there, not far from the site where his grandfather was assassinated when his monarchy ruled over the Old City of Jerusalem. Even three small Persian Gulf states -- Oman, Bahrain and Qatar -- were represented, a sign that recognition might not be far off. Ministers from Yasser Arafat's Palestine Authority in Gaza attended even though he stayed away, by mutual consent, to avoid disturbances.

The message was clear enough: Israel is here to stay. It will not be driven into the sea as its enemies once threatened. It is a military power to be reckoned with, a technological and economic force that its Middle East neighbors would be wise to tap for their own progress. That Arab leaders were willing to come to an Israeli-controlled Jerusalem, despite their claims to the ancient city, showed how far things have moved since Mr. Rabin came to office.

In the future lie negotiations with Syria over the Golan Heights, with Christian and Islamic entities over the status of Jerusalem and over a potential mini-state in the West Bank that has become the realistic sum of Palestinian aspirations. Like most disputes in the Middle East, these issues will not be easily resolved. But it is Israel's strength that it has a ready leader in Shimon Peres to carry on Mr. Rabin's mission.

Mr. Peres is actually the chief visionary of the peace process. And while the hardline Likud opposition considers him too dovish, it is unlikely to challenge the Labor government until Mr. Peres calls an election within the next year. For now, the leading settler organization and the right-wingers opposed to Rabin-Peres agreements with the PLO are toning down the violent rhetoric that inflamed public opinion before the Rabin slaying. What a splendid irony it would be if the assassin who killed the prime minister "to stop the peace process" instead set forces in motion to insure its triumph.

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