“As long as I am the president of the State of Israel, the murderer will not go free,” declared President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday, referring to Yigal Amir, who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rivlin was speaking at a memorial ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the prime minister's death.
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At the outset of his remarks at the event, held at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, Rivlin commented on calls to free Amir: “Let my right hand wither, if I ever sign a pardon for this cursed man. Never."
"After the murder," he continued, "a well-known rabbi from the religious Zionist [movement] told me: ‘There is no kingdom in Israel. If there were a kingdom in Israel,’ he said, ‘this same person who rebelled against the kingship would have been sentenced to death.’ This rabbi gave expression to the fact that a political assassin is not just another despicable murderer. He is the one who secretly made diabolical plans not only to murder the person who was crowned king in Israel in those days, but also the kingdom.”
Rivlin noted the importance of commemorating this day, adding: “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.”
Today, 20 years after the fact, he said, Israelis must ask themselves whether they did enough to stem the potentially destructive tide of political violence: “Have we done, and are we doing enough to seal up the same breach that was opened by the murderer?”
The measure of democracy is its ability to create common values among all parts of Israeli society, Rivlin added, and it is dependent on the degree to which every group feels it is a true part of the democratic process, and whether the rules of the democratic game apply to and obligate it.
“A wise and mature people reside here," the president said. "A people who, even while existing within a complex and brutal reality, during difficult days such as those we are facing today, is not lured to the extreme and violent margins."
Former President Shimon Peres also spoke at the ceremony. “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.”
The Knesset is officially marking the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s murder on Monday, and as every year will hold a special session with Rivlin in attendance. At the session, to be held after a formal ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem where Rabin is buried, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak as well as opposition leader Isaac Herzog.
The main public memorial rally will be held Saturday night at 8 P.M. in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, the site of the murder. Rivlin is expected to speak at the rally, as well as former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who is coming to Israel especially for the anniversary.