Netanyahu Has 24 Hours Left to Apologize for the Incitement That Ended in Rabin’s Murder

It's true Netanyahu did not want a murder. But incitement doesn't follow the inciter's plan. It has ways to bring the hand to the knife, the finger to the trigger.

Then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on the balcony of a hotel overlooking Zion Square during a right-wing demonstration in 1995.
David Mizrahi

He doesn’t have much time left. Nearly 20 years have passed, and he only has 24 hours more. Only one day until November 4, to go to Dalia Rabin personally and ask for forgiveness. There’s no guarantee, but perhaps she’ll forgive him. We have been waiting 20 years for the request, and Yitzhak’s blood cries out from the ground. He shall not rest until the apology is offered and accepted.

For 20 years we have been sweeping the issue under the rug. We want to get on with our lives and allow time to work. That’s the reason for the bizarre agreement not to investigate the leaders of the terrible incitement that ended in Rabin’s murder. But that won’t cut it. The wound will never heal.

In all these 20 years they never questioned the rabbis who called Rabin a “moser” (informer), which carries a death sentence; or the settler leaders who called him a traitor, the punishment for which is hanging — both, according to Jewish rabbinic law. They never probed the conductors of pulsa denura ceremonies, who place a curse on Rabin invoking a cruel and unusual death. Nor did they question the politicians, senior figures in Likud — chief among them Benjamin Netanyahu, who stood on a balcony above Jerusalem’s Zion Square and inflamed the crowd. They saw the posters of Rabin in an SS uniform, but did not protest, halt or condemn those who called out “murderer,” “traitor,” “Nazi.” Nor have we forgotten the march at the Ra’anana junction led by Netanyahu, who did not stop the carrying of a black-draped coffin bearing Rabin’s name.

It’s true Netanyahu did not want a murder. He never dreamed that’s how the incitement would end. But incitement doesn’t follow the inciter’s plan. It has ways to bring the hand to the knife, the finger to the trigger. Netanyahu knows well where incitement over Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque leads.

Indeed, there was one politician who did understand where the incitement could lead. He asked the crowd to modulate its calls, but the crowd then turned against him, as well. they started to boo him, so he got off the stage. That person was David Levy, the former Likud foreign minister, and if only for that he has earned a place of honor.

Then came the 1996 election, when Netanyahu beat Shimon Peres by a hairbreadth (30,000 votes). That’s why it’s clear that if Rabin, who was far more popular than Peres, had faced Netanyahu he would have won easily and continued the Oslo process; we would now be in an entire different reality, of peace alongside a Palestinian state.

The right claims that the Oslo Accords brought only victims and death. The opposite is true. The Oslo Accords were smashed by Netanyahu immediately upon assuming office in 1996. He opened the Western Wall tunnels and set Jerusalem aflame; caused a bloodbath in the West Bank, expanded settlements, eroded the trust with Yasser Arafat and deliberately destroyed any chance for further implementation of the agreement. That’s the reason for all the terror attacks since then, all the murders and all the stabbings. Under Netanyahu, the Palestinians have nothing to lose. They have no horizon and no hope — only occupation and oppression and land seizures, poverty and unemployment.

Not many people know this, but at that time Rabin was also in contact with Syrian President Hafez Assad about a peace agreement. One need only remember how he established an extraordinary basis of trust with Jordan’s King Hussein, which ended in a peace agreement in 1994, to understand his strategy: Peace is security.

Had he lived and still been prime minister in 2002, he would never have passed on the Arab Peace Initiative. He would have grabbed the opportunity with both hands, and used the mutual interests we have with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states to fight murderous, radical Islam together.

This is the polar opposite of Netanyahu, who is addicted to fear, hate, war and despair, as he himself said just a week ago: “Must the sword devour forever? If we lower our sword, their sword will consume us.” That is his vision.

On second thought, perhaps there’s no point waiting for him to ask forgiveness.