The twentieth anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was marked by partisan rhetoric at several official ceremonies Monday.
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Opposition leader and Zionist Union MK Isaac Herzog sharply rebuked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the memorial session of the Knesset, accusing him of remaining silent when people called Rabin a traitor in the weeks leading up to his assassination.
“You have been prime minister for almost 10 years and you’re still blaming Rabin, who was assassinated 20 years ago,” Herzog charged. “Jerusalem has been divided during your term. Not under Peres or under Rabin. Only you are responsible.”
“For the past month, there hasn’t been a safe place in the country,” Herzog added. “There’s no one you can pass the buck to. There are only rightists in the government. There are no leftist scapegoats you can blame.”
Earlier, at a ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Netanyahu attempted to co-opt Rabin to justify his handling of the current wave of violence.
“I’m not saying I didn’t have differences with Rabin,” Netanyahu said. “He wanted to act in the interests of peace, but he too was compelled to deal with the terror wielded against the Jewish people.”
He added that “Rabin knew that the terrorists aspire to shed our blood, to uproot us from our homeland – the same Palestinian terror and recalcitrance that continues until today.
“We say to extremist Islam what Rabin said: We will continue to insist on our right to live in our land. No knife or landmine will defeat us. We will continue to act against terror.”
In his subsequent speech during the memorial ceremony in the Knesset, Netanyahu said that Israel would “take steps in the absence of a partner to a final agreement.”
“Despite the efforts of six prime ministers since the Oslo agreements, peace has not been achieved with the Palestinians,” the prime minister said. “They are not prepared to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people or to give up on their dream of return to Haifa and Jaffa.”
Israel, he added, would take steps to “reduce the friction, advance conciliation and enhance economic development.” But those steps, he stressed, would be accompanied by “a stubborn struggle against the terror organizations.”
Observers noted that Netanyahu’s speech to the Knesset was the first time he had hinted at Israel taking unilateral steps in the West Bank or implementing interim arrangements in the absence of a Palestinian partner to a permanent agreement.
But a senior official stressed after the speech that the prime minister had referred to continuing his efforts to establish contacts with moderate Arab countries, rather than to any Israeli moves in the territories.
Dalia Rabin, daughter of the slain prime minister, told the Mount Herzl gathering that “I thought that the darkness that descended on our family would lead to unity and understanding but I was nave.”
“Since then I have had to deal with the dark hatred that has only increased in the public discourse. And that fire, which consumes everything good, is fed by unbridled incitement, the same incitement that created an environment in which it was possible to shoot a prime minister.”
“I am not the bearer of good news on this day,” Rabin said. “There’s no political process but there is terror. Blood is again being spilled and animosity is growing. I have no other country and my country has changed its countenance.”
During a ceremony in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem Monday morning, President Reuven Rivlin vowed never to pardon Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir. “Let my right hand wither, if I ever sign a pardon for this cursed man,” Rivlin insisted.
“We must promise ourselves, our daughters and sons, that the memorial day for the murder of Rabin will be a legacy shared by all Israelis from all the different camps and communities – a day of trial for the people in Israel, a test of Israeli democracy,” Rivlin said.
Former President Shimon Peres also addressed the ceremony, saying that “Rabin knew that an enemy is an enemy and that we must fight without any compromise against murderous terror,” he said. “But actually peace too is made, despite the difficulties, with enemies.”
In the northern town of Carmiel on Sunday, Mayor Adi Eldar accused senior government officials of cooperation with, and responsibility for, Rabin’s murder. Eldar was speaking at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the assassination.
“The militant right – this is who pursued Rabin everywhere and incited, who initiated the pulsa denura [mystical Jewish ritual] of curses that he should die. And there was one idiot who carried out the verdict ... One, you don’t need many.
“But you must always remember that with that finger of his that pulled the trigger of the pistol, there were many fingers who are today in power in the State of Israel. We will not try to prettify this,” said Eldar. “They were partners in pulling the trigger [of the gun] that shot Rabin in the back.”
Eldar, a member of the Labor Party, has served as mayor of Carmiel for 27 years and was considered to be close to Rabin.
The national memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin will be held on Saturday night at 8:00 P.M at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. The speakers will include Rivlin and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.