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Left-wingers objected to the lack of any messages about peace at the rally and to organizers’ refusal to mention the incitement that leftists believe led to Rabin’s murder 22 years ago. Organizers also refused to let any national politicians address the crowd, in an effort to draw people from outside the left to the annual rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.
One person who was invited to speak – and was booed by the crowd – was Oded Revivi, mayor of the West Bank settlement of Efrat. After noting that he was invited over the left’s objections, he continued, “Some people think unity is the opposite of polarization. But I disagree. Unity doesn’t mean ideological agreement, but rather the ability, even in the heat of argument, to continue meeting, listening, speaking, persuading and being persuaded, to manage to unite around the understanding that we are brothers and one nation.”
Revivi was preceded by Thabet Abu Rass, co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, a coexistence group. He said he was both “Israeli and Palestinian, and am speaking to you today in the name of both these identities, in the understanding that they don’t negate each other.”
“As an Israeli, I demand shared and equal citizenship; as a Palestinian, I seek the end of the occupation of members of my people who live without rights in territories under my country’s control,” he continued, adding that Rabin’s murder “was aimed precisely at these two goals.”
Amnon Reshef, the chairman of one of the rally’s organizers, Commanders for Israel’s Security, said only a combination of military superiority and diplomatic moves could ensure Israel’s future. “The Palestinians aren’t going anywhere, and we are here forever,” he added.
Kobi Richter, chairman of the other organizer, a group called Darkenu, said most settlers reject the extremists among them and understand the need for “a state with a Jewish majority, full civic equality and strong democratic institutions,” while most Tel Avivans want “to create a true connection with moderates who think differently from them but share the same goal. We are the moderates who listen to each other from both sides of the political centerline. We are the vast majority. What unites us is greater than what divides us.”
Among the many decisions by organizers that outraged left-wingers were the omission of the word “murder” from the rally’s ads, the ban on left-wing parties and organizations setting up booths at the event, as they had in previous years, and the invitation to another settler, Esther Brot, to address the event. All three decisions were later reversed.
Nevertheless, both Peace Now and the Meretz party said they were asked to remove their booths, which organizers said was because they hadn’t obtained permits. Both groups refused. Moreover, though the word “murder” was added to the ads, it remained absent on some of the signs in Rabin Square.
For the first time ever, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party attended the rally, along with party colleague MK Nissan Slomiansky and MK Yehudah Glick (Likud). Ariel said he came because the organizers didn’t make it political, and “I wanted to see if we could stand here together and denounce violence and Rabin’s despicable murder.”
But left-wing politicians attending were less happy. “Ultimately, the victors are writing history,” said Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay. “The key thing to do to preserve Rabin’s legacy is to win the election and return the peace camp to the place it deserves.”
Several nonpoliticians present said they approved of the rally’s nonpolitical nature. But others were furious. “You can’t blur the terrible incitement that happened in the name of a false unity,” said Peace Now activist Asher Albo.