Netanyahu Won't Attend Graveside Memorial for Rabin Assassination Anniversary

The ex-Israeli prime minister will be the first opposition leader to skip the commemoration at Mt. Herzl cemetery, but will speak at a special Knesset session marking the anniversary

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a 2019 Mt. Herzl ceremony marking the anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a 2019 Mt. Herzl ceremony marking the anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.Credit: Reuven Castro
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Benjamin Netanyahu will become the first opposition leader to snub the commemoration ceremony for assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Monday, but will be among the speakers at a special Knesset session marking the anniversary, according to his associates.

The 26th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is being marked according to the Hebrew calendar on Monday at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery, where Rabin is buried, and at the Knesset.

This will be the first time that the leader of the opposition will not be attending the graveside ceremony. Other scheduled speakers at the Knesset are to include Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz and members of the Rabin family.

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At last year's Knesset session marking the anniversary, when Netanyahu was still prime minister, he expressed indignation over what he said were threats against himself and his family amid a wave of protests at the time seeking his resignation following his indictment on corruption charges. "Twenty-five years after Rabin's assassination, incitement to murder the prime minister and his family persists and no one says a word," Netanyahu said.

In May of this year, in the run-up to the formation of the current government headed by Bennett with the support of his Yamina party colleague, Ayelet Shaked, Defense Minister Gantz again invoked the Rabin assassination. Speaking out against threats against Bennett and Shaked for engaging in talks that were ultimately successful to form a broadly-based government, Gantz said Israel had not learned the lessons of the Rabin assassination.

Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated by a gunman, Yigal Amir, on November 4, 1995 after speaking at a rally at the Tel Aviv square that is now called Rabin Square. In the aftermath of the killing, Netanyahu, a political rival of Rabin's, came in for criticism for his alleged incitement against Rabin preceding the assassination, allegations that Netanyahu has rejected.

In a 2016 Facebook post, Netanyahu cited instances in which he said he had condemned the anti-Rabin incitement prior to the assassination. "Since the murder, there have been continuous attempts to distort the historical truth and to blame me for the incitement that preceded the murder," Netanyahu wrote.

In one video that Netanyahu posted, he is heard saying in reference to Rabin, “He’s not a traitor. He’s mistaken. He’s greatly mistaken, and he will make way [for others], but he not a traitor. No, no. We have an issue here with political rivals, not with enemies. We are one people.”

At the 2017 commemoration of the assassination at Mount Herzl, with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the audience, Rabin's son, Yuval, alleged that the incitement against his father was still continuing. "The system of incitement and division that was deployed against Rabin is continuing to hit us. Anyone who thinks differently is labeled a traitor."

At the Knesset later that day, Netanyahu responded to the slain prime minister's son's remarks, saying, "I understand your pain in the face of the waves of slander and smears against your father. Believe me, I understand,” Netanyahu said.

As he put it, “I call for national reconciliation and unity. I have done so many times in the past, but in light of your emotional call, I once again repeat this message in full force. And I call for unification around the security and diplomatic principles shared by most of the people. May the memory of Rabin, a Jewish, Zionist and Israeli patriot, be safeguarded in the heart of our people forever.”

Jonathan Lis contributed to this report.

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