Oct 28, 2020 - World

Mnuchin's awkward encounter with former Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin's daughter

Mnuchin arrives in Israel from the UAE. Photo: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem/Handout via Getty

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was confronted by Yitzhak Rabin's daughter last week after a speech on the Arab-Israeli peace process in which he seemed to overlook the role of the late Israeli prime minister.

Why it matters: Rabin is quite a major figure to leave out. He's remembered for making peace with Jordan, sealing the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, and establishing relations with Morocco, Oman and Tunisia.

What happened: Mnuchin was addressing Israeli, Emirati and American businesspeople in Abu Dhabi. He gave a historical overview of previous peace talks but didn't mention Rabin, several people who were in the room say.

  • Mnuchin spoke about the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace agreement and mentioned the work of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
  • He then moved onto the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace agreement, mentioning the work of Bill Clinton and Jordan's King Hussein but not Rabin, who negotiated and signed that agreement
  • He also left out the Oslo Accords, which Rabin, Clinton and Yasser Arafat negotiated.

Between the lines: The omission may have been unintentional, but it stunned at least one attendee: Dalia Rabin, the late prime minister's daughter, according to a person who discussed it with her.

  • She approached Mnuchin immediately after the speech, asking why he failed to mention her father and whether he thinks her father’s work for peace was unimportant.
  • A surprised Mnuchin told her, “This was my speech and I don’t owe you any explanations."

What they're saying: Mnuchin didn't realize he was speaking with Rabin's daughter, according to assistant secretary of the Treasury for Public Affairs Monica Crowley.

  • "She did not introduce herself or otherwise identify her relationship to the prime minister. After their brief conversation, the secretary inquired of another guest as to her identity," Crowley told me.
  • "It is unfortunate because if she had properly introduced herself, the secretary would have been happy to discuss her father and his historic legacy of peace."

Worth noting: Next week, Israel will commemorate the 25th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination by an Israeli terrorist who opposed the Oslo Accords.

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