Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he shares the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's approach to negotiations with the Palestinians, and that Israelis are less politically polarized today than they were at the time of Rabin's murder.
Speaking at the official memorial ceremony for Rabin, at the former prime minister's tomb on Mount Herzl, Netanyahu elaborated on the changes that have taken place "since that bitter and terrible day" of the murder.
"We still have not reached the coveted peace, and I'm not sure you would be totally surprised by this," he said, addressing Rabin directly. "And fundamentalist Islam, which you justly called 'an enemy of peace,' this fundamentalist Islam has reared its head and grown many times stronger."
Nevertheless, he continued, there has been a "change for the better" within Israeli society itself.
"We are no longer divided into polarized camps, each persuaded that it alone holds all the justice, all the truth, and that the other will destroy the country. There's much less shouting, much less hostility. We are listening to each other more. Positions are growing closer, gaps are narrowing.
"Part of the nation has acknowledged that it's impossible to survive in the long run without a political settlement and compromises, and another part understands today that it is not the only one that seeks peace, that Israel is not on the brink of apocalypse, that not everything depends on us."
Netanyahu quoted a speech of Rabin's in which the latter spoke of his aspiration to maintain a Jewish and democratic state in which "we would also ensure that Israel's non-Jewish citizens enjoy all the same personal rights as other Israeli citizens. Judaism and racism, you said, contradict each other."
President Shimon Peres said in a speech that though the Oslo agreement was not perfect, "it created a situation in which shaking hands was preferable to pulling the trigger."
But Rabin's daughter, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, was far less conciliatory. This year, like every year, she said, "as the week of mourning draws near, with perfect, devious timing ... a wave of denial and incitement erupts from hidden places, and attempts are made to divert the real, painful discussion into tortuous side roads."
Later, at the special Knesset session commemorating Rabin, Netanyahu said that freezing settlement construction was "a gesture no other government ever made." He also quoted a speech in which Rabin had said that construction in existing settlements does not contradict support for the peace process.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin's speech drew protests when he said Rabin's legacy was a unified Jerusalem. "I would like to recall the neglected Rabin legacy, the one that did not draw history's limelight, the one that wasn't deemed useful for the needs of the 'peace myth' ... but whose lessons today seem more relevant than ever. This neglected Rabin legacy is the one expressed in his consistent devotion to Jerusalem, Israel's capital.
"In this difficult time, when we are being asked to weaken our grip on our capital, Jerusalem, when people are trying to raise doubts about our right to it, and, worst of all, when it seems our own red lines are becoming increasingly blurred, we must remember and laud Rabin's valiant insistence on the integrity of sovereign, united Jerusalem," Rivlin said.
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