23 Years After Yitzhak Rabin's Assassination, Thousands Gather in Tel Aviv for Mass Memorial Rally

Netanyahu responds to critics at Rabin memorial saying, leftists are 'trying to silence whoever doesn't agree with them' ■ The organizers say rally brings Israelis together to commemorate the late premier amid earlier dispute over exclusion of left-wing party

Thousands rallying at Yitzhak Rabin's memorial, tonight.
Tomer Appelbaum

Thousands of people gathered Saturday at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv for the memorial ceremony marking the 23rd anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. Darkenu, the movement organizing the ceremony, and the national student union have rallied under the slogan "The moderate majority stands in the square against the division and incitement."

Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay spoke at the rally and said that parents living near the Gaza border "know that Rabin chose peace and fought Hamas. Netanyahu gave up on peace and gave in to Hamas." 

>> Political murder, political rally | Editorial ■ After 23 years, nothing has changed | Opinion

"We are fed up with the politics of brotherly hate, and fed up with the campaign of intimidation. We have massed incitement against the police, the president, the media, the courts," he said.

Tzipi Livni at the rally in Tel Aviv.
Tomer Appelbaum

In her speech, opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said: "History repeats itself. It is enough to read the prime minister's posts, to watch the videos, to listen to the speeches, to read the violent talkbacks, and to blame anyone who thinks otherwise. Whoever is working for peace is not a traitor, it was true then and it is true today."

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid spoke amid protests from the crowd. "There is a margin on the right, there is a margin on the left. We have a duty to face them," he said, adding "not all the right-wingers murdered Rabin. And the left isn't guilty of terror attacks and terrorism."

Protesters booing at tonight's event.

Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg, who was later added to the list of speakers, addressed the rally, saying Rabin's assassination was "the best political assassination in history." If this evening doesn't get us to act, then Yigal Amir will keep smiling for another year, she said in reference to Rabin's murderer

"When Netanyahu rode the wave of incitement in 1995, he thought he might be able to control it, but today he turned incitement into a central tool to keep the peace camp submissive, controlled and shattered. He uses it to make sure that the legacy of his murder remains intact - that is, that the legacy of peace will remain deep in the grave," she said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Twitter to respond to critics at the rally, saying "It is unfortunate that the memorial ceremony for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin became a political gathering. Those who have freedom of expression in their throats try to silence anyone who disagrees with them."

"The murderer wanted to shorten the way," said Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) at the rally. "He wanted to kill himself in order to kill policy, even at the cost of killing democracy and starting a civil war," he added.

Activists gathering at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square ahead of the memorial for the late prime minister on October 3, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

Ahead of the rally

This year's disagreement over the memorial revolved around the question of the participation of the left-wing Meretz party.

According to the organizers, the ceremony's focus is on the growing division in the country ahead of the upcoming elections, and calls for talks by elected officials across the political spectrum.

Hanegbi's invitation also sparked criticism. Darkenu explained that the decision behind having Hanegbi participate was to create a balance between right and left-leaning speakers at the event.

"Hanegbi's invitation here is weak. He was part of the incitement in the past. Whoever was there remembers where he was. It doesn't make him responsible for the murder, but this is not his place," Allen, a resident of Tel Aviv, said ahead of the event. 

Last year’s “scandal” was over the absence of the word “murder” from the main invitation to the event. Following backlash, the wording was changed from “rally in memory of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, of blessed memory” to “rally marking 22 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin."