Outgoing prime minister Ehud Olmert voiced his support for the peace process with the Palestinians in his address at the annual memorial ceremony for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on Monday, saying that in order to honor the memory of Rabin, Israel must cede land.
Rabin was killed by an ultranationalist Jew in 1995. Hundreds attended the ceremony, held at Israel's national cemetery of Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, on the 13th anniversary of the Hebrew date of the assassination.
Olmert called Rabin's assassin a "despicable good-for-nothing", before saying: "I feel a need to say a few things not on what has been, but on what will be. Excuse me if I deviate from the standard address and touch upon a few painful points relating to our lives in this country."
In a speech televised on all the national channels, Olmert said "Rabin was not ecstatic about arriving at that moment, and we won't do justice to his memory and to his life's work if we try to present his last years as if he lived without doubts and hesitation."
"He understood that if we want to maintain Israel as democratic Jewish state, we must concede to a lack of choice and to our great torments and give up parts of our homeland for which we dreamt for generations of yearning and prayers," Olmert continued.
"We must also give up Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem and return to the seed of the territory that is the State of Israel up until 1967, with obligatory amendments as a result of the reality created in the meantime," Olmert said referring to land captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Olmert added that if Israel returns to its familiar locations of the Negev and the Galilee and develops them, it will "cultivate a new Zionism that is practical, realistic, responsible and courageous."
"If God forbid, we procrastinate, we could lose support for a two-state solution," Olmert said, referring to the creation of a Palestinian homeland alongside Israel, a concept at the foundation of current U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations.
"The decision must be taken now, without hesitation, before ... the narrow window of opportunity to plant [that] solution in the consciousness of our people and the nations of the world vanishes in front of our eyes," Olmert said concluded.
Preceding Olmert at the podium was President Shimon Peres, who addressed a recent flare-up of violence perpetrated by right-wing extremists, making the analogy to Rabin's extremist killer.
"Extremists don't have a future, in the same way they don't possess justice," Peres said. "The democratic majority won't be intimidated by the violent few."
"The people will protect their land, peace and democracy with all their might. The people will defeat the blind, just as a single candle can drive away the darkness," Peres said.
"Now, just like back then," Peres went on to say, "there is a small minority of reckless unrestrained people who boldly defy the state's authority, attack Palestinians just for being Palestinian and challenge the law enforcement mechanisms which among others, protect them too."
"We must isolate and expel this violent and dangerous minority, and we mustn't be silent in the face of their incitement," the president added. "We can't tolerate the acts of vandalism and violence. It is as though they are a state within a state. It is the responsibility of the state to carry out justice without fear - the honor of Israel and the strength of its democracy and lawfulness depends on it."
"The despicable murderer that laughed in the face of Israel's democracy and assassinated its elected leader harmed the soul of our nation. His voice is not worthy of being heard. A murderer is a murderer. There is no need for his pseudo-philosophy," the president continued. "The shots that were fired at Yitzhak's exposed back did not succeed in killing his vision, because you can't assassinate an idea. But they tried to delay, interrupt and damage a great move, which was surrounded with immense regional and international support, which could have given birth to a new political and economic reality in this country and within its borders, for both peoples living inside it as well as our neighbors."
Monday marked the Hebrew date of Rabin's death, the 12th of Heshvan. Memorials have been held all week, however, since the secular anniversary of Rabin's death, November 5.
On Sunday, Peres opened an evening of events marking Rabin's murder by lighting the "candle of Yitzhak" in memory of the slain leader at his official residence in Jerusalem.
"Yitzhak was murdered while on the ascent, where we both marched together in agreement with one another in order to lead the state of Israel to the realization of the dream of the nation of Israel over the course of generations - peace for all and security for everyone," the president said during the memorial Sunday night.
"[Rabin] went head-on, with courage and persistence, with no fear and with no hesitation. He believed with all his soul that we were serving the most supreme Zionist, national interest. It is out of this feeling, this believe that he summoned a rare heroism," he added.
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