A Year Before Assassination, Rabin Forgave Those Who Called for His Murder

Rabin's letter was revealed yesterday by the Israel State Archives, ahead of Wednesday's commemoration of the 15th anniversary of his death.

Just over a year before he was gunned down in Tel Aviv, then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin wrote a letter to two Or Akiva residents, forgiving them for creating bumper stickers calling for his murder.

Rabin's letter was revealed yesterday by the Israel State Archives, ahead of today's commemoration of the 15th anniversary of his death.

In October 1993, a month after Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords, two Or Akiva residents were arrested and charged with disseminating bumper stickers that read: "Rabin must be destroyed."

They pleaded guilty and, as part of a plea bargain, the court mandated three months of community service and a letter of apology to the prime minister. The letter was sent on their behalf by their attorney, Avraham Vanunu.

Rabin sent Vanunu a response, in a letter dated September 14, 1994: "Your clients broke one of the most fundamental codes of Israeli society. They neglected a legitimate form of expression available to them in a democratic system and preferred to call for the murder of a prime minister."

Still, Rabin accepted the apology and hoped it was sincere.

"Despite the obvious gravity of the act, and with the imminent period of forgiveness that accompanies Yom Kippur, I see it as the right thing to accept your apology, and to personally forgive you," Rabin wrote. "I hope that your regret is sincere and that the lesson of this act has been learned by your client. I hope it will serve as a warning sign for all of those who are pondering the way of violence in favor of legal means. It is not only the life of a prime minister that hangs in the balance, but also the life of the entire Israeli society as a Jewish and democratic society."

Rabin, criticized by the right for his peace efforts, was assassinated by Yigal Amir in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995. The date being commemorated today is the Hebrew anniversary of his death, 12 Heshvan.

"The State of Israel is currently at a fork in the road," he wrote. "It needs to decide what kind of relations it will have with its Arab neighbors and with the Palestinian people who reside in the Land of Israel. It needs to determine the content of the political arrangements and the price that is to be paid for them... Naturally, these decisions are accompanied by a fierce debate that reflects the disparate parts of Israeli society. Such an argument is the essence of democracy."