Some of Israel's public office holders today are tainted by their part in the incitement that led up to the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio late Tuesday.

During the period leading up to Rabin's killing, members of the right-wing - including currently active politicians - campaigned against the former prime minister over his support for the Oslo peace process. The preceding atmosphere of incitement against Rabin, with posters depicting him as a Nazi distributed by extreme rightists in some instances, is often blamed for encouraging the assassination.

Barak made his comments on the annual day of commemoration for Rabin according to the Hebrew calendar, which began Tuesday evening with the lighting of a memorial candle at the official residence of President Shimon Peres.

The defense minister also said that Yigal Amir, Rabin's jailed assassin, would not be released or pardoned. He was responding to a recent media campaign by extreme rightists calling for the killer's release.

Barak said in the radio interview that the murderer himself is not important, and hoped that people would focus on the real lessons of the assassination. These he listed as: The need for patience, education to instill responsibility, and for brotherly love instead of baseless hatred.

Peres, who was with Rabin on the night of his assassination at the end of a Tel Aviv peace rally on November 4, 1995, said at the ceremony at his official residence: "I remember that night. It started like an invigorating beam of sunshine, when enthusiastic masses filled Kikar Malchei Yisrael [later renamed Rabin Square]. The podium on which we stood was washed by a poignant wave of hope, coming from the restless crowd.

"I stood by Yitzhak's side; his face was glowing at this demonstration of touching, beautifully spontaneous support. At the same time, the vile, ruthless enemy was waiting, cold-hearted, down the stairs, holding a loaded gun in his hand. He shot Yitzhak's back, and injured our nation's heart. Neither our nation nor history could ever forgive this scoundrel."

Peres, who was the deputy premier and foreign minister at the time, also said: "I was left by myself facing a troubled reality, a society in agony and the urgent need to come to our senses and move on. Even with the absence of our senior partner, our country should remain steadfast. We should cherish Yitzhak's way and never lose it. This was his last will and testament."

"Today," the president added, "twelve years on, the path he paved for us re-emerges. The path of peace has not been lost."

Rabin's sister, Rachel Ya'akov, also spoke at the ceremony. "Another year has gone by, and the pain has not gone away. The longings have not waned, and what has been going on recently does not improve things," she said.

Also on Tuesday, Israeli media quoted Rabin's daughter Dalia as having said that the death penalty should have been applied in the case of Yigal Amir.

On Monday, police gave Dalia Rabin a video cassette of Amir's initial interrogation shortly after the killing. "I decided to kill him, to neutralize him politically," Amir said on the tape. When asked if he regretted his actions, Amir is recorded as having said, "Heaving forbid. I don't regret it."

Amir's wife, Larisa Trembovler, urged Attorney General Menachem Mazuz Tuesday to open an investigation against Police Commissioner David Cohen, whom she accuses of leaking the cassette to the media. "The criminal law code prohibits the disclosure of tapes of police interrogations, and he should be brought to justice," she said.

Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter compared Amir Tuesday to a "mummy sitting in prison," adding that "Amir is neither worthy enough nor important enough" to become the focus of a debate over the death penalty in Israel.

The ultra-nationalist Amir is serving life imprisonment for the killing. The death penalty in Israel has only been used once, against Nazi Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann.

Amir, who was standing near Rabin's car after the peace rally that night, explains that he decided not to shoot then-foreign minister Peres, who came down the steps at Kikar Malchei Yisrael a few minutes before Rabin, because he was merely a "secondary target."

"Afterward Rabin came down accompanied by security men. I approached him before he entered his car, fired three bullets at him and then the security men jumped on me and I threw down the gun," Amir told the police during questioning.

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