Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took advantage of yesterday's special Knesset marking the 13th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin to call for territorial withdrawals in all disputed areas and to denounce violence on the part of Jewish settlers.
"We must give up Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and return to the core of the territory that is the State of Israel prior to 1967, with minor corrections dictated by the reality created since then," he said.
"Many Israelis viciously beat up Palestinians seeking to harvest olives as they have for centuries, and there is no end [to it]. Young Israelis, smitten by messianic dreams, hit our soldiers, breaking their bones and threatening their lives, and no one stops them," Olmert said. "I will not permit this to continue," he promised.
Olmert also said that, "Every government will need to tell the truth, which unfortunately will require us to tear out many parts of the homeland in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights." Addressing the settlers, he said: "You, too, will have do carry out a moral reckoning and reach a decision."
The National Union-National Religious Party Knesset whip Uri Ariel and fellow party MK Aryeh Eldad left the plenum in protest. "We cannot tolerate the fact that a failed prime minister, who is accused of corruption, uses the little free time he has left between police interviews to call for the destruction of the Jewish settlement enterprise in Israel," Eldad said.
Likud whip Gideon Sa'ar accused Olmert of "cynically exploiting a state ceremony for a political speech in the spirit of the extreme left."
Three hours earlier, Foreign Minister and Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni told a meeting of party MKs that "the murder of a prime minister in Israel must not be a subject of political disputes. [Rabin] was the prime minister of us all."
Yesterday was the last day of deliberations in the Knesset plenum before the election hiatus. Party whips postponed the dissolution of the Knesset session by a few days in order to hold the Rabin memorial.
The denunciation of attacks by Jewish settlers on Israel Defense Forces soldiers and pointed criticism of the media for conducting interviews with Rabin's killer, Yigal Amir, dominated yesterday's Knesset deliberations.
"We cannot tolerate the calls being heard today to hurt the prime minister or IDF soldiers. We will take immediate action against lawbreakers and inciters," opposition leader and Likud Chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset.
Knesset Speaker MK Dalia Itzik (Labor) said she was astonished by the competition between the television networks over broadcasting the interview with Amir. "The name of the despicable murderer must not be mentioned among us," Itzik said. "This is not an issue of freedom of expression, rather it's an attempt by the murderer to win legitimacy. Let him rot in prison, don't give him a stage, throw him into the garbage pail of history."
In large measure Olmert's Knesset speech yesterday echoed his remarks at the state memorial for Rabin earlier in the day at Jerusalem's Mt. Herzl, where Rabin is buried. He called for giving up Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and returning to the 1967 borders, with slight amendments.
"We have no choice but to give up, with great torment, parts of our homeland of which we dreamed for generations of yearning and prayers," Olmert said. "For a generation an increasingly sharp disagreement has been raging in Israel over what should be here. Since the murder the dispute has only become fiercer.
"Rabin was not thrilled about the decision, he was tormented before Oslo, he hesitated about the agreement and was filled with doubt even after making a decision - not out of illusions or false hopes - but rather he decided to go in a direction that more and more people today are willing to accept," Olmert said.
President Shimon Peres addressed recent settler violence in his remarks at Mt. Herzl. "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 that, among others, protect them, too.
"We must isolate and expel this violent and dangerous minority," Peres added, "and we mustn't be silent in the face of their incitement. We cannot 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."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now