Olmert and Netanyahu Compete for the Right to Be Rabin's Successor

His successors. What would Rabin have thought about the Knesset ceremony? Two absolute Likudniks in his time, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu, stood and gave speeches in his memory, each presenting himself as Rabin's successor. Olmert wants to show that he, like Rabin, made a courageous change in direction after great consideration. Netanyahu reminded his listeners that even at the height of the Oslo talks, Rabin insisted on Jerusalem not being divided. There are indeed 70 faces to the Rabin heritage, and anyone can eventually find himself in one of them.

The battle over the tomb. Former deputy minister Menahem Porush, the father of MK Meir Porush, likes to recall how he persuaded Rabin to backtrack on handing Rachel's Tomb to the Palestinians by crying out, "Mama Ruchel." MK Yitzhak Levy of the National Union, then in the National Religious Party, speaks of a delegation of NRP members who met with Rabin for the same purpose. Rabin, Levy says, asked whether people pray at the site regularly, and said that if not then the issue is not important. When he was told that worshipers go there frequently, Rabin promised to reexamine his decision.

I was at Rachel's Tomb. It is not the only connection between the remembrance of the matriarch and the murdered leader. Every year many people make a pilgrimage to Rachel's Tomb on the date of her death, the 11th of Heshvan. Rabin was killed on Saturday night, the night of the 12th of Heshvan. Many observant people who were unable to go to the tomb during the Sabbath did so at its end, at the same time as the rally taking place in what was then called Malchei Yisrael Square . That is why many religious Israelis, when asked where they were when Rabin was murdered, say "at Rachel's Tomb" or "in the traffic jam on the way to Rachel's Tomb" or "coming back from Rachel's Tomb." Yigal Bibi (NRP), then an MK, managed to make his way through the crowd and conducted prayers near the tomb for the prime minister's recovery. Bibi's spokesman at the time, Yair Wolf, was stuck in the same traffic jam and eventually turned around. "In the end," he said, "I went home and wept."

When the redhead comes out. Jewish settlers remember Rabin as the one who told them to spin around like propellers. MK Uri Ariel (National Union) recalls a very different Rabin, who met with settler representatives repeatedly, was very attentive and refused to take phone calls during their meetings. Ariel relates how Rabin always bummed a few cigarettes from him right at the start. The settler representatives would ask Rabin's aides why he spoke so differently in the Knesset. His aides relate what they wrote on his speech notes, telling him to say good things about the settlers; but then some right-winger always made some comment from the benches, "and then the redhead would come out."

Do, don't talk. A suggestion for Rabin Memorial Day, particularly appropriate for the teachers' strike, courtesy of Minister Meshulam Nahari of Shas: "I don't know another man for whom the education system was as high on the agenda as it was for Rabin. The education budget nearly doubled under him."

Nahari's career began taking off when he was an aide to deputy education minister Moshe Maya. "Others talk and don't do. Rabin did, that's the difference," Nahari says. "He was involved down to the smallest detail." That is an important and noncontroversial aspect of the Rabin legacy - huge amounts can, and should, be spent on education.