Protesters scuffle with supporters of Rabin's assassin outside jail
Activists clash over decision to allow Amir to attend son's circumcision; PM: Israel must unite around Rabin memory.
Leftwing and rightwing activists scuffled Sunday outside the Rimonim Prison, where the killer of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin held his son's circumcision on the 12th anniversary of the assassination.
Members of the left-of-center Meretz party gathered outside the Rimonim penitentiary - where Yigal Amir is incarcerated for the 1995 killing - to protest the court's decision allowing him to hold the Jewish rite behind bars.
In response, rightwing extremists organized a counter-protest outside the jail's gates.
"All these years they told us court decisions should be respected, and here comes along decision that isn't comfortable and they attack it," said Itamar Ben Gvir, a rightwing extremist, of the leftist protesters.
The child was named Yinon Eliya Shalom.
Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Israelis must unite around the memory of Rabin's assassination and ensure that political murder of the sort never happen again.
"This is a glaring red line that no camp should be able to cross," Olmert told cabinet ministers during a weekly meeting, adding that November 4 would remain marked in the collective consciousness as a day of murder.
More than 150,000 people joined a Tel Aviv rally Saturday commemorating the 12th anniversary of the assassination of the former prime minister, according to the rally's organizers.
The annual event is held in Rabin Square, where the former prime minister was gunned down by ultra-nationalist Yigal Amir after a large peace demonstration on November 4, 1995.
At the cabinet meeting Sunday, Olmert also expressed solidarity with a speech given Saturday evening by the slain prime minister's son, Yuval Rabin, during the rally.
The younger Rabin told the crowd that the "murderer has assumed the roles of the prosecution, the judges and the executioner, and manipulates Israel's democracy."
The speech was in fierce criticism of a court decree last week allowing a circumcision service to take place for Yigal Amir's newborn son on Sunday afternoon - the anniversary of the assassination - in the Rimonim Prison.
Rabin also said during the rally: "It is inconceivable that the State Prosecution and the Attorney General would back such a decree, which turned the prison into a banqueting hall. A process that started with granting the assassin permission to marry, have a child and circumcise him, will end in a murderer on the loose."
The Prison Service said that the ceremony would small after the Tel Aviv District Court ordered the circumcision to be permitted within the prison walls.
The birth of Amir's son comes at a time of growing sympathy for commuting Amir's sentence. Right-wing extremists and Amir's family have launched a campaign to have him released from prison and a recent newspaper poll indicated about a quarter of Israelis, including almost half of religiously observant Jews, think Amir should be pardoned in 2015 after serving 20 years.
Regarding requests for Amir's clemency, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during the rally, "His punishment won't be shortened and he won't be pardoned, and the gates of jail will be closed to him until his last days."
Clemency is the prerogative of Israel's president. President Shimon Peres, who was Rabin's foreign minister and just a few steps away when he was gunned down, has said Amir shouldn't be pardoned. On Saturday, Peres did not address the matter directly, instead encouraging the crowd to fulfill Rabin's legacy and push the path to peace.
"He is gone, but you are still here. You received his torch," Peres told the crowd, continuing, "Every step, every effort needs your support... Do as he did, worry about the next generation."
Barak: Immediate test ahead of us is AnnapolisDuring the rally, Barak called the youths among the massive crowd the "source of our strength." He lamented the inaction in 1995 by government officials, who failed to react appropriately to incitement to violence by religious extremists protesting against Rabin's peace efforts during the weeks leading up to the murder. Referencing Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, now minister of infrasture, Barak remembered a government meeting at the time, when, "Fuad Ben-Eliezer slammed on the table, saying 'this will end in murder.'"
On current efforts to renew the peace process with the Palestinians, Barak said, "The immediate test before us is Annapolis. Annapolis is an opportunity and not a threat, and I hope with all my heart it will succeed." Speaking to the fallen prime minister, the defense minister continued, "We will do everything in our hands to reach the peace you dreamed of and fell for."
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai also addressed the rally, which was hosted by Aharon Barnea.
Israel officially marked the 12th anniversary of Rabin's slaying last week, according to the Hebrew calendar. But the rally in Tel Aviv has become an annual pilgrimage for ordinary Israelis to show respect for the beloved leader.
Rabin's government negotiated the first interim peace accord with the Palestinians, and he won a Noble Peace Prize for his efforts.