The ideological descendants of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's right-wing extremist assassin are now serving in Israel's Knesset, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said at a Knesset session marking the anniversary of the assassination on Monday.
Lapid's remark prompted an outcry by some lawmakers, including Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich.
Speaking at the Knesset after Lapid, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu expressed anger over what he called attempts to attack a "huge part of this country and those who represent it.
"For years, I've heard false and offensive things about the camp I represent in events like these, but I let it slide. When I came to these events, I was asked why I chose to attend. Now that I'm not prime minister, I'm asked why I don’t attend," Netanyahu said, referring to the criticism sparked over his decision not to take part in the official ceremony at Mount Herzl earlier on Monday.
Netanyahu blasted Lapid, saying: "When Rabin signed the peace agreement with Jordan, I supported that move without qualification. I'm telling this to Lapid, who spoke about statesmanship and abstained from voting in favor of the agreement with Bahrain." Netanyahu did not mention Prime Minister Naftali Bennett by name at the beginning of his speech, and only addressed him as "prime minister."
Netanyahu was the first opposition leader to snub the commemoration ceremony – even though he was invited.
Speaking earlier at the official ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem commemorating the 26th anniversary of the assassination, Bennett said at the official ceremony in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl that an entire Israeli generation is suffering from PTSD, whose lives were shaken and molded by the assassination in 1995.
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The prime minister added that the lesson he took from the tragedy is that "the people must not be divided, and the house must not be burned down. We are all brothers."
"The only consolation from this murder is the fact that we managed to recover and correct from our soul-searching," Bennett said.
The official memorial ceremony was held in the Great Leaders of the Nation plot in the cemetery on Mount Herzl where Rabin is buried. President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy and Supreme Court president Esther Hayut were in attendance.
He added in his speech at the Knesset: "It was not pleasant to wear a kippah in the days after Rabin's assassination and that is exactly why I put it back on my head. I felt that everyone wearing a kippah was accused of murdering the prime minister. Two big lessons emerged from the murder: one is that there are lines that should not be crossed, and the second is that entire groups must not be besmirched."
At an earlier ceremony at the President's Residence, Rabin's grandson, Yonatan Ben Artzi, praised the formation this year of the current government, saying violence and incitement had been replaced by hope as “the rule of the people has defeated the rule of the individual."
The past few years have been especially difficult for his family because of rising hatred and social divisions, said Ben Artzi. “Violence and incitement have spread everywhere against all the country’s citizens who dared to think differently,” he said in his speech. “The flashes of that night in November 1995 returned to all of our nightmares, as if in just another moment it could happen again. The division, style and language are much worse than back then. But the danger – it is the same danger.”
Regarding the change from a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu to one headed by Bennett and Lapid, Ben Artzi said: “After dark years of fear and paralysis, the people of Israel have straightened their backs, and after a long war for freedom and the nature of democracy – the people of Israel have won. This morning, 26 years after that same terrible night, I can look at you, my brothers and sisters of this wonderful people, and say from here – the mourning period has ended. It's been a long time coming, but this morning we wake up and march forward.
"This morning we can, and must, finally, to move on from the stage of trauma to the stage of healing. Because at the beginning of a new decade, a group of people that represent the complete opposite of the rule of the individual head the country – the rule of the many and the good.”
Likud said in response to Ben Artzi’s speech: “The rule of the people has defeated the rule of the individual? Exactly the opposite. It is the individual who deceived the people in order to steal the government from it.”
The 26th anniversary of the murder, according to the Jewish calendar, was marked in schools too with a range of events, including memorial ceremonies in schools, seminars and classes about his legacy, social gatherings and discussions.
The central rally for youth will be held in the evening at the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, attended by Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and Dalia Rabin, who is Rabin's daughter and head of the Yitzhak Rabin Center, and thousands of young people from all over the country.
A candle-light vigil will be held in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, where Rabin was assassinated by a gunman, Yigal Amir, on November 4, 1995 after speaking at a rally at the square that is now named after him.