The Second Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin

Not only was there no applause when Benjamin Netanyahu entered – an uncomfortable silence engulfed the room. No one booed him, but no one stood up to honor him.

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Benjamin Netanyahu speaking a Knesset session marking the 15th anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, October 20, 2010.Credit: AP

Three months from now will mark 20 years since the murder. The Yitzhak Rabin Center asked Anita Shapira to compile a book commemorating the victim and his legacy. She approached me for a contribution as well.

This is how I opened: Now we can admit: Not only was Yitzhak Rabin murdered, but his direction was buried along with him. Now, those who buried him are giving the eulogies. Those who followed him during his life recite the mourners Kaddish for orphans. Those who stood then on the balconies now stand center stage at the memorial services – not to praise him, but to bury him for good. And Rabin awaits a successor.

A week ago, the Rabin Center marked 40 years since the Entebbe operation. Only Yedioth Ahronoth found it newsworthy, and reported on the ceremony attended by both kidnapped victims and former commandos. No other newspaper freed up space to report on the event, despite the fact that the prime minister was present. This column takes it upon itself to make up for the omission, and is based on accounts from those who were there.

Not only was there no applause when Benjamin Netanyahu entered – an uncomfortable silence engulfed the room. No one booed him, but no one stood up to honor him. Only Muki Betzer got up and left the room in protest. Betzer commanded the forces on the ground during the operation, and he has never been satisfied with the Netanyahu familys account of the events, which bestows all the glory and prestige on the fallen Yoni while detracting from others heroism. Was Betzers mistake staying alive? Official history is always written by the junta in power.

For all these years, the official family version of the story has been backed by Shimon Peres, as part of an unspoken agreement: I, the former defense minister, will play up the fallen Yoni at the expense of his subordinates and commanders (including Dan Shomron, later IDF chief of staff); and you paint me as the living spirt of the operation – in contrast to the hesitant Rabin.

This week I asked if the honored guest spoke about the events that preceded Rabins murder. No, I was told, not a single word of commemoration, let alone any expression of regret or asking for forgiveness. Netanyahu even made sure to point out to those in attendance that he had visited the center. Dalia Rabin, Yitzhak Rabins daughter and keeper of the flame, was quick to correct his mistake.

She beseeched Netanyahu to take a tour of the facility, and he agreed. She showed him the permanent exhibition, and he got a quick glimpse of that picture – Bibi and his riled up cohorts on the balcony, Rabin in an S.S. uniform, the crowded, roaring Zion Square – death to the traitor. Once, a few years ago, the prime minister agreed to visit the museum, but one of his advisers stipulated that this photograph must be removed before the visit could take place. The visit was canceled. Even governments have trouble rewriting history so crudely.

In the week of the Entebbe commemoration, Jerusalem hosted a screening of a film about the murder. Journalists reported on laughter and thunderous applause after the screening. The theater was completely filled mostly religious people and people from the former Soviet Union, from Larisa Trembovlers [Yigal Amirs wife] milieu. Why didnt they look for who really killed Rabin? asked someone in the crowd.

Hes right. If they had really investigated politicians and rabbis then, Netanyahu wouldnt be prime minister, and some of this generations greatest rabbis would be performing religious services for fellow prison inmates. As a former member of the Knesset subcommittee on covert operations during those black days – before and after the murder – I can attest: The Shin Bet and Israel Police did a poor job. They did not truly search for the roots of this crime against peace.

And one more sentence I wrote for Anita Shapira: Twenty years after the murder, the murderer arouses more interest than the victim. And here, Ill add: Rabin died twice. Once when he was murdered, and once when he was forgotten.

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