Leaders, Family Eulogize Former PM Yitzhak Rabin 14 Years on

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that, 14 years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, some members of Israeli society still do not respect democracy or the rule of law. "We've seen the power of one killer and the scope of the danger he posed," Netanyahu said at a special Knesset session commemorating the murder of the former prime minister.

"We have to engage the full force of the law and of law enforcement against any attempt to use violence. I pray that when we come to the hard and fateful decisions that lie ahead, we will still respect one another and the laws of the land," Netanyahu said.

The prime minister also spoke earlier in the day at a memorial ceremony held next to Rabin's grave at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. "When people are sure that their opinion is the only right one, that they can save the state and that a contradicting opinion endangers the state - this is where the greatest danger of destruction lies." He called Rabin a "warrior, a man of peace, a symbol of the integrity of Israeli soldiers."

The ceremony was attended by the Rabin family, President Shimon Peres, and U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, who is in Israel on a working visit.

Peres eulogized Rabin's "honest leadership," saying it served him well in wars as well as peace. He also stressed that the assassin, Yigal Amir, "will never be freed."

Rabin's family was represented by his grandson, Yonatan Ben Artzi, who spoke of the hostile days that preceded the killing. He noted that in the crowd at the cemetery, "there are political leaders who led protests in which Rabin was called a murderer and a traitor."

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) noted in her Knesset speech that she herself did not support Rabin's policies at the time. "The dispute is around the question of whether you can have it both ways - maintaining Israel as a Jewish state and keeping the entire Land of Israel," she said.

"Rabin - nicknamed Mr. Security by some - surprised many by choosing peace as his strategy. I think long and hard about Rabin, to try and understand at what point a leader comprehends that unless he acts, the price for his people would be even greater than the one extolled by the act itself," Livni said.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin referred in his speech to shifting loyalties and positions in Israeli politics. "All critics of the Oslo accords and Yitzhak Rabin were tagged as accomplices, as responsible for the killing," Rivlin said. "And here we are, only a few years later, and suddenly the most outspoken accusers are best friends with the accused - like Olmert and Sharon. Anyone who shook off his old, rightist loyalties was rewarded by being considered a part of the 'sons of light,' and his old guilt of incitement was forgotten." Rivlin's speech was sharply rebuked by MK Roni Bar-On (Kadima).

The commemorative session was not attended by any of the Arab MKs, as well as MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union), who said Rabin's legacy was controversial.