Former president Bill Clinton, in an emotional address delivered meters from the site where Yitzhak Rabin was slain 10 years ago, urged some 200,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv late Saturday to take up Rabin's peacemaking and "see it through to the end."
Clinton, who forged a deep bond with Rabin as he sought to broker Mideast peace with the Palestinians and Israel's neighboring Arab states,was the keynote speaker in the memorial rally marking the anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Rabin by a far-right Israeli.
"I loved him very much, and I was in awe of his ability to move from being a soldier to being a peacemaker, a politician to a statesman," Clinton said.
"If he were here, he would say, 'There is enough of all this missing. If you really think I lived a good life, if you think I made a noble sacrifice in death, than for goodness sakes take up my work and see it through to the end,"' Clinton said.
"However many days Rabin had left, he gave them up on this spot for you and your future," he said. "He knew he was risking giving them up and he gave them up, too, for all the children of the Palestinians, who deserve the benefit and the blessings of a normal life, as well."
On November 4, 1995, while leaving a peace rally, Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir, an extremist Jew who considered him a traitor for making concessions to the Palestinians.
In a speech that was at times deeply personal, Clinton said he "expected to be missing Yitzhak Rabin for the rest of my life."
Clinton ended his speech by saying "Shalom Haver," Hebrew for "Goodbye friend," the same words he famously used to bid farewell to Rabin at the Israeli leader's funeral.
Images of Rabin, who won a Noble Peace Prize for signing the Oslo interim peace accords with the Palestinians, played on a huge television screen towering over the square.
Peretz: Path of Oslo is still aliveAfter receiving a last-minute invitation to the rally, newly-elected Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz said in his speach that "the path of Oslo is still very much alive."
The Oslo peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, led by Rabin and then-deputy prime minister and foreign minister Shimon Peres, "is Israel's future and hope," said Peretz, whose victory on Wednesday over Shimon Peres in the Labor leadership vote raised a political storm.
"I have a dream that one day Israeli and Palestinian children will play together," he said, echoing Rev. Martin Luther King but shifting his context to his hometown Sderot and the neighboring Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.
"Violence is gnawing at the essence of Israeli democracy," Peretz said. "Violence is not only in the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict, it's between us."
"Had we stopped the violence in the territories, we would have stopped violence among us. The ongoing occupation in the territories is a recipe for the loss of values in Israel. We need a road map of morals."
"Ending the occupation and a final status agreement are synonymous to protecting human values," he said.
Peres: We mustn't delay peace processVice Premier Shimon Peres said at the rally that "there isn't one person here who doesn't know what the image of peace between us and the Palestinians will be."
"We mustn't delay the peace process. Now is the time to return with full strength to a true peace, not only to build a fence against terrorists, but also to build gates for cooperation with our neighbors and the world."
"Rabin," Peres said, "was a man who did not fear serving peace even when the nation was not ready to accept peace."
"I stood here with him exactly 10 years ago. I was able to see what he saw, you wonderful people, you young people jumped into that pool there, cheering 'Long live peace, long live Yitzhak.' He was moved to the depths of his soul by that love and support." said Peres.
82-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner Peres called on Israelis to "get into the political life, take the voyage of peace. Peace is in your hands, and I call on all of you to give your lives, to serve this country in its goals, its future; give a true thrust to peace, as Yitzhak did."
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