image Photo: Flash90

Israel marks Rabin assassination anniversary

By Erin Viner

Several ceremonies were held to mark 27 years since the murder of then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

By Erin Viner

The 5th Israeli Premier was shot to death on 5 November 1995 after speaking at a peace rally at a square in Tel Aviv that was later re-named in his honor.

Gunman Yigal Amir, a right-wing extremist who opposed the Rabin government’s Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, was convicted and is serving a life term in prison.

The anniversary is commemorated on the 12th day of the month of Cheshvan, in accordance with the Hebrew calendar date.

Rabin, who led the nation for two terms from 1974 to 1977, and 1992 until his his death, had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 along with then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat.

This year’s commemorations began at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem at 1 PM yesterday, where President Isaac Herzog said that the “criminal assassination that changed the face of Israeli society” was “one of the worst attacks the State of Israel has known” that forever tarnished the book of chronicles of the Jewish and democratic State of Israel” remains “difficult to believe.” After all, how else can one call a planned, cold-blooded murder of a Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, of the Chief of Staff – a hero

Citing a statement made by the later premier in 1994, Herzog quoted: “These days we are in one of the most fateful and important times for the Jewish people. We are in the midst of the process of shaping the Jewish people and shaping the state for generations. This is an hour of hard struggles, also stormy debates; But it is important that we all know that no matter what the decisions are, true love of Israel is above them and we always have before our eyes the old proverb: ‘All Israel are bound to each other’. We do not forget for a moment that whether those who support our moves – or those who oppose them – we are all brothers… and we all have one destiny.”

Underscoring that in his view, “the main lesson of this important day is to remember again and again our foundations as a Jewish and democratic state,” President Herzog addressed the recent elections on 1 November that saw the return of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu to power.

Following the unprecedented political crisis that compelled the fifth elections in less than four years, President Herzog stressed that the nation ow faces “the crossroads of mutual guarantee,” stressing “the commandment ‘all Israel are bound to one another’” and that it is imperative that “we stay together.”

Warning that “a dispute that turns into hatred is the violation of this commandment,” he stressed that “Propaganda that becomes incitement is a violation of this commandment. Identifying the political opponent as an enemy is a violation of this commandment. A manifestation of violence is a violation of this commandment. At this hour, on this sacred mountain, where lie so many who, for generations, gave their lives for the common good of the people and the country. At the grave of the hero of Israel and the Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin remember him as a blessing – I ask that we commit ourselves to the unity of Israel, to the victory of Israel, and to the State of Israel – the Jewish and democratic state.”

Turing to the newly elected officials, the Israeli leader said, “at this critical moment, we have the power to turn the right direction at the intersection of mutual guarantee. The eyes of the public are on you, and this is your test hour as leaders. Don’t make life easy for yourself. It is not great wisdom to talk about mutual guarantee on holidays and joys; It’s not a big challenge to agree with someone who thinks like you; It is no great feat to listen to things that please your ears. Now that the polls have closed, the campaigns are over and the votes have been counted – the mutual guarantee must be placed at the top of the agenda, and say – all of us, from the entire political spectrum, will only continue from here together.”

Saying that “the complex political situation in Israel presents us with a challenge on a historic scale,” President Herzog acknowledged that, “the election results showed us that we are divided, and the responsibility, from now on, is on all the political actors, and first and foremost on those who have the upper hand, those with greater political power. They have the responsibility to turn to those who are far from their positions and tell them – you are our brothers and sisters. I turn to the winners and say to them what I have said throughout the last year to their predecessors, to their political opponents: you do not have to give up the worldview for which you were elected; But at the same time – respect each other. Hug your brothers and sisters on the losing side. Be attentive to their needs, their pain, their dreams. Remember: the elections in Israel are not a “zero sum game”. Do not be afraid to compromise and reach the equal valley, in order to avoid a break and a rift within us.”

Turning to the losing camp, Herzog stressed that “the country is not finished and not destroyed. The democratic decision must be respected. Continue to make your voice heard and fight for your positions, as in any healthy democracy. To all our brothers and sisters in Israel and the Diaspora; to everyone who voices anxiety and worry in the world and in Israel – I say: we are all committed to the fate of the State of Israel, we are all committed to its basic outlines as a Jewish and democratic state, which maintains the rule of law, human and civil rights, and respect for all minority groups within it. We will continue to protect our foundations as a people, as a society and as a country.”

Addressing the Rabin family members who attended the memorial, President Herzog said, I am sure that the memory of Yitzchak as well as of the beloved Leah (Rabin’s wife_ – the champion of his youth and the love of his life – lives with you and within you, and there is nothing in the years that have passed to obscure the pain of loss. On this day, also on this day, as throughout the year, our hearts are with you. May the memory of Yitzhak and Leah Rabin and may their work and contribution to the State of Israel, be blessed and besieged in the heart of the nation forever.”

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid also commented on the recent elections during a later state ceremony at the Mount Herzl National Cemetery, where Rabin was laid to rest.

“As fate would have it, this commemoration for Yitzhak Rabin takes place only a few days after the State of Israel held elections and emerged from them once again divided, angry, and threatening to split into ‘us and them.’ There is no ‘us and them’, only us. Rabin’s murder was an attempt at assassinating the very notion of us living together. We barely survived it, but the wounds have not yet healed. It is our job to heal them every day anew,” said the Israeli Premier, underscoring, “We are here together. Religious and secular, right-wing, left-wing and centrist. Our differences of opinion are deep, they are real and sometimes necessary, but above all else – we have a shared responsibility. The IDF is all of ours. The police are all of ours. The legal system is all of ours. The Bible is all of ours.

Stressing that, “an absolute majority of this country’s citizens believe in the rule of law, democratic values, and mutual respect,” who “want a Judaism that unites us, not a Judaism that is a political tool and certainly not a Judaism that is an endorsement of violence,” Lapid continued that “Israel’s citizens are not willing to let hatred dictate their lives,” “hate their neighbors, those they served with in the Army, those who sit with them at the Shabbat table.”

Continuing that, “We must remember and not forget” that “Rabin was murdered by someone who violent incitement made believe that he need not accept the voters’ decision,” the Prime Minister added, “It would be an insult to this place, it would be a blow to Rabin’s memory and the memory of all those immortalized here on this mountain, if we continue with this destructive addiction to the division of ‘us and them.’

It ends with three gunshots, it ends here. In this ceremony. In this place. There is no point to this commemoration, there is no point to this day, if we do not learn something from it. If we do not learn the lesson. What we must learn from Yitzhak Rabin’s life and death is that loving our homeland is first and foremost loving those who live together with you in that homeland. May his memory be for a blessing,” concluded the outgoing-Israeli Premier.

Surviving members of the Rabin family chose not to speak at this year’s events and instead issued a statement, reading, “Out of respect for the status and the democratic decision,” and “in order to safeguard the memory of the head of our family who was assassinated, we have decided to refrain from being dragged into the political cauldron these days and pass on making a speech.” The family has previously accused Benjamin Netanyahu of instigating the incitement that led to the assassination.

The Knesset also held a special session in Rabin’s memory at 5 PM, where rancor over the outcome of the elections was evident.

In clear condemnation at controversial far-right Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose alliance with the Religious Zionist party emerged as the third largest party, Lapid said that “Power does not come from pistols being brandished. It is the weapon of the cowards, it is the weapon of lawbreakers, it was the weapon of Yigal Amir. The strength of the State of Israel was built by Rabin and his friends on completely different foundations.” Ben-Gvir was armed with a pistol  during recent clashes in the volatile east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

“It’s common to say that you can murder people but that you can’t murder ideas. This is not true – you can kill ideas. The most beautiful ideas are murdered all over the world every day. What will happen with Rabin’s perception of power is up to us, it depends on what we do in the coming years,” Lapid said, warning that, “If Israel abandons the rule of law, dismantles its democracy, reverses our progress and ties with the international community, and completely abandons the pursuit of peace, then it will be a weaker state, and Rabin’s ideas will be buried alongside it.”

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who notably skipped the Mount Herzl ceremony for the second consecutive year, adopted a subdued tone during his parliamentary remarks.

While “differences of opinion will not disappear – and that’s fine,” the presumptive Incumbent Prime Minister called for “sharp debates” to “be managed with responsibility and consideration.” Adding that, “Ideological struggle is an institutional foundation in democracy,” he emphasized that, “Arguing is allowed, you don’t have to agree on everything – but on the other hand, you need to know what to agree on, what most of us agree on.”

In his own address, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz struck an angry tone, accusing Netanyahu of hypocrisy after his supporters shouted out during Gantz’ recent visit to the Western Wall that he is “murderer” just days after the Opposition Leader said the top defense official was responsible for unnecessarily endangering IDF troops.

“I fear for the country,” Gantz warned, repeatedly stressing that, “words lead to actions – that the person who spoke them has no control over them” and that it is only “a matter of time until the next assassination.”

Leader of the ultra-right Religious Zionist Party, Bezalel Smotrich, responded in his own comments from the plenum that an “blame campaign” began the day after Rabin’s killing against his party and the entire right-wing political bloc.

Speaking last, Arab Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi condemned all sides of Israel’s political spectrum.

Right-wing leaders want to usher in a “fascist” government, while the Center-Left is guilty of permitting their ideological opponents to implement such policies. “The near future is going to be bad for us (Arabs), but it will also be bad for you,” he stated.