Tzachi Hanegbi Square

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi took a bullet for the entire Israeli right as the debate over Rabin's murder has been replaced by attacks on Hanegbi himself

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi speaking at a memorial assembly marking the 23rd anniversary of the murder of Yitzhak, November 3, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

Tzachi Hanegbi was murdered in a square in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the current angst of the Israeli left. “I was ashamed,” wrote my colleague Meirav Arlosoroff in a searching op-ed (“A shameful Saturday night in the square,” Monday), in the face of the (abortive) effort to silence Hanegbi. The Likud cabinet member and lawmaker had come, at his own free will, to the rally marking the 23rd anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s murder, to say that he would have taken the bullet himself had he been at the square that night.

Indeed, what can be wrong with contrition and conciliation? Why not invent a new narrative, palatable to all? Hanegbi genuinely deserves to be commended for his courage – not for his willingness to appear at the rally, but rather for volunteering to sacrifice himself on behalf of the entire Israeli right. He consented to be murdered (metaphorically!) is order to save Benjamin Netanyahu and Miri Regev, Yariv Levin, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, and he scored an enormous win for them. Thanks to him, the debate over Rabin’s murder has been replaced by the argument over the attacks on Hanegbi himself.

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Hanegbi sought to settle past accounts, but not from the angle the left had hoped. “The attempt to attribute to half the nation the act of a single zealot did not succeed; the public elected Netanyahu a few months later,” Hanegbi told ynet after speaking at the rally. A person who speaks on behalf of “half the nation” does not seek reconciliation, he seeks to clear his own name and that of others. He is the brave defense attorney who volunteered to defend the indefensible, under the self-righteous slogan that every person (not to mention half the nation) deserves a defense, even more so when the defendants – the right, the rabbis, the settlers – have never acknowledged their guilt.

It was not the right that murdered Rabin, claims “half the nation,” it was Yigal Amir. “It wasn’t a political murder,” said Likud MK and then-coalition whip David Bitan two years ago. “It had no historical impact,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Sunday. ”There was no incitement before Rabin’s assassination, it was legitimate political disagreement,” Hanegbi himself explained in an interview with Reshet Bet public radio.

Does anyone see in all this contrition, conciliation, “a gesture of tolerance, of opposition to incitement,” as Arlosoroff put it?

Few things remained for the left to ruminate over, apart from picking at its own corpse, taking offense when it looks in the mirror and examining its misconduct toward the victim on the stage. Hanegbi fulfilled all its wishes. He posed dilemmas to the left of the kind we agonized over in the youth movements: Should we be polite to a rival? Is it right to boo and whistle? After all, we were raised with good manners, and the speaker is a guest who even wiped his shoes well before taking the stage. True, Rabin was murdered, yes, it was a political assassination and of course there was incitement, but seeing as the left treats the murder as if it were a gift to it from the right, it ought to share it with others. There’s plenty to go around.

It’s not the hecklers who need to ask forgiveness, and certainly not from Hanegbi the incitement denier. It’s the organizers who need to apologize for letting Hanegbi steal the rally from Rabin and “half the nation.”

Hanegbi was the only one who recognized that such a rally cannot be apolitical; if there’s a political arena whose rules he knows, it’s that of the public square. Leave a square open for the left? Absolutely not. Hanegbi created a national outpost in the square, making it “kosher” for the right. Next year we can expect to see, as the leftists once again threaten to throttle each other in a brawl over tolerance and conciliation, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev take matters in hand and give the memorial rally official and financial support. And, as is her custom, the one who pays the piper calls the tune and draws up the guest list.