Date of Rabin memorial rally likely to be changed to allow Clinton to attend
The rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to mark the 10th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin is expected to be postponed from November 5 to November 12, in order to enable former U.S. president Bill Clinton to attend.
Clinton asked for the date change after finding himself in the middle of an ugly power struggle between the rally organizers and the representatives of businessman Haim Saban, who invited Clinton to a dinner in Jerusalem on the same day. The conflict was reported in Haaretz on Monday, and Clinton read of it on Haaretz' English-language Web site, an aide to Clinton said.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was also invited to speak at the rally. His office said he declined due to security considerations, but the rally's organizers said that no official refusal was issued and they are trying to work things out with the Prime Minister's Bureau.
The battle over the date of the rally began weeks ago, when some of the organizers of the rally sought to move it from the 5th to the 12th of November - one day after Clinton's arrival - so that the former president could attend as the main speaker. Saban and his representatives in Israel objected, fearing that it would take away the spotlight from Clinton's appearance at the Jerusalem event, which Sharon and the country's top politicians are expected to attend. The dinner kicks off a conference sponsored by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, a division of the Washington-based Brookings Institution whose participants are set to include Clinton and U.S. government representatives.
At one point, Saban's people told Dalia Rabin, Yitzhak Rabin's daughter and the head of the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies, which is sponsoring the rally, that if the rally is rescheduled for November 12 the Saban Center would postpone its own conference and Clinton's arrival in Israel so that Clinton would be unable to attend the events to commemorate Rabin. (Saban is paying the travel costs for Clinton and his entourage - about $600,000.)
The rally organizers backed down and decided to keep to the original November 5 date. However, during the holiday a Clinton aide called Dalia Rabin and told her that the former president had read the article on the Haaretz Web site and could not even imagine forgoing the Rabin rally because of his personal connection to Rabin and his commitment to the Oslo Accords. The aide asked if the rally could be pushed back to November 12.
The media consultant for the Rabin Center, Moshe Debi, said talks are underway with security and municipal authorities over the new rally date.