Thousands of Israelis gathered on Saturday at the Tel Aviv square where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated to mark the nineteenth anniversary of the prime minister's death and remember his call for peace.
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At the memorial, former Israeli president and foreign minister Shimon Peres said: “We’ve come to honor the memory of the greatest warrior for peace. We’ve come to say that his pursuit (of peace) lives on and will ultimately win."
Peres, who won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize together with Rabin and Yasser Arafat, stressed that only peace with the Palestinians will secure the country’s future: “Israel will not have lasting security without peace. Israel will not have a stable economy without peace. Israel will not have a healthy society without peace. Israel will not preserve her Jewish and democratic character without peace.”
“As long as there is no horizon for a diplomatic solution, we will continue to live from war to war," Peres said. "Ruling over another people is against our values as Jews. To pursue peace is a mitzvah. It’s also very practical - very Jewish."
"To my regret, there's only an Arab Peace Initiative on the table. Where's the Israeli Peace Initiative?"
Turning to the demand of many Israelis for Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish state, Peres said: “Is the Jewish character of Israel dependent on the signature of a Palestinian leader? Of course not.”
Rabin was gunned down on November 4, 1995 by Yigal Amir, a Jewish right-wing extremist who opposed his policy of trading land with the Palestinians for peace.
Rabin's government negotiated the first interim peace accord with the Palestinians in 1993.
Saturday night's rally at the square that bears Rabin's name has become an annual pilgrimage for many Israelis to pay tribute to the slain leader. Participants waved Israeli flags and carried aloft banners calling for the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.
Attendance was estimated at approximately 15,000, though organizers claimed 60,000 people attended and that others were deterred by the rainy weather.
Israel officially marks the anniversary of the leader's assassination on Wednesday, according to the Hebrew calendar.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.