Slain Prime Minister Rabin Is Suddenly the Star of Israel's Mudslinging Election

23 years later, assassinated PM Yitzhak Rabin has been forced front and center by Yair Netanyahu in final weeks of Israel's repeat election

Netanyahu in front of a picture of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, during a memorial session of Knesset, 2009.
Netanyahu in front of a picture of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, during a memorial session of Knesset, 2009.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Nearly a quarter century after his assassination traumatized the country, the shadow of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the political incitement that led up to it has been hanging over Israel’s second election of 2019 — in its fraught final weeks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, Yair, slammed his leftist opponents on Twitter for lionizing the late leader while besmirching his father, with a laundry list of charges against the slain Israeli leader.

Rabin broke the law by delivering lectures in America while he was a public servant, earning a fortune,” and then “framed his wife,” Yair claimed, adding that “Rabin murdered Holocaust survivors on the Altalena” — a weapons ship of the pre-state, right-wing Irgun militia that the Israeli military shelled shortly after Israel announced its independence.

The young Netanyahu also accused Rabin of bringing PLO leader Yasser Arafat and tens of thousands of terrorists back to the West Bank, from Tunisia, causing “the deaths of 2,000 Israelis.”

After a firestorm of criticism, the tweets were deleted. Prime Minister Netanyahu distanced himself from them, but did not denounce them in detail, saying only that “I don’t agree with my son Yair’s statements on Yitzhak Rabin. Yair’s positions are his alone.”

A Labor Party campaign ad targeting Yair Netanyahu (Hebrew)

The Labor Party, which Rabin led, hit back on Sunday with a campaign video that pointedly accused “the Netanyahu family” of laying the groundwork for more political violence.

The ad begins by declaring that “the hands on the keyboard are Yair’s, but it is [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s voice.” Labor Party leader Amir Peretz says that Netanyahu Jr. learned his “hatred” at home, slamming the prime minister for not shutting down his son’s Twitter account or explicitly condemning his statement.

The visuals show Peretz and Labor supporters lighting memorial candles in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, as was done immediately following the November 4, 1995, assassination that earned the central Tel Aviv plaza its name.

Netanyahu speaking on a balcony above Jerusalem's Zion Square, September, 1995.Credit: David Mizrahi

The video closes with shots of another infamous political rally — one that took place in Jerusalem's Zion Square just before Rabin’s murder, in which Netanyahu is seen standing on a balcony while protesters hold signs with Rabin in a Nazi uniform.

“Yair Netanyahu is dangerous to democracy,” Peretz declared. “Many ‘Yigal Amirs’ are reading his tweets and paying close attention to the lack of condemnation from our country’s leaders,” Peretz added, referring to the religious Israeli man who assassinated Rabin.

A campaign video released by Labor lawmaker Merav Michaeli (Hebrew)

“Unfortunately, the Netanyahu family never came down from that balcony," the ad concludes.

Peretz’s fellow Labor member, Merav Michaeli, joined him in invoking the late prime minister with a video of her own. In it, Michaeli can be seen standing in Rabin Square, with visuals of the 1995 assassination in the background, charging that “The same people who incited against [Rabin] are once again inciting — against him, and against us, with terrible lies.”

She then pivots to a pitch to voters to support Rabin’s party. The drive was clearly aimed at former Labor voters who have shifted support to Benny Gantz’s centrist party, Kahol Lavan.

“Between the incitement and racism of the right and the vision of Rabin, there is no middle ground — there is no center,” she says, imploring them to “come home” to Rabin’s party.

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