The Ember Died Long Ago

Tomorrow is the Heshvan 11 in the Hebrew calendar - the day Israel mourns Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. After 11 years, everyone knows: Not only was Rabin assassinated, his legacy was buried with him.

Tomorrow is the Heshvan 11 in the Hebrew calendar - the day Israel mourns Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. After 11 years, everyone knows: Not only was Rabin assassinated, his legacy was buried with him. Essentially, that legacy was his resolute attempt to find cracks in the wall of hostility surrounding Israel - to find them and force himself through the narrow opening, hoping to detect, beyond the wall, signs of a coming to terms with Israel's existence.

Rabin was determined that the mettle of both Israel and the Israel Defense Forces not be tested unless it was absolutely necessary. A general, and an expert on Israel's security, in uniform and as a civilian, he understood what Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz and Dan Halutz will never comprehend: You do not go to war - you never fight yet another war - unless you have no other choice, and only after you have investigated and exhausted all other possibilities.

Once, in a moment of candor, he told me, "Yossi, even the best army in the world cannot deliver a punch that is beyond its capacity. Even a strong nation cannot flex its muscles without ever relaxing them, because it will eventually exhaust itself." Rabin knew what a heavy responsibility he shouldered. He had broad shoulders, which had to carry the full weight of responsibility for Israel's future. That sense of responsibility pursued him relentlessly, and he never shirked his duties. Thus, he was prepared to do things he disliked, even loathed, because he felt obligated to do so.

Tomorrow, at the official state ceremony, the nation's eyes will be turned to Mount Herzl. Olmert, Shimon Peres, Avigdor Lieberman and Benjamin Netanyahu will be sitting solemnly in the first row. Sitting beside them will be the guardians of the dying embers of Rabin's party, the Labor Party, may it rest in peace (or war) - everyone, from Peretz to Binyamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer and Isaac Herzog.

What an assembly of Laborites, yet the ember died long ago. Between the eulogies, when the silence of the tombstones and cypresses - the silence of death - momentarily descends upon that scene, one might well hear Rabin bewailing his successors.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday that one in every three Israelis supports a pardon for Rabin's assassin, and that one in every two religious right-wing Israelis favors his early parole. Your eyes burn in their sockets as you read this news, as you refuse to believe what you are reading. Yet, why should we be surprised? The spirit of amnesty is drifting down from the upper echelons of Israeli society, slowly descending to the lower ones. The rabbis who encouraged the assassin, explicitly or implicitly, long ago received their pardons. Those who stood on the balcony at Jerusalem's Zion Square the night that bloodshed was sanctioned inherited Rabin's place, and were later even declared his ideological successors - the last "Mapainiks."

Although the assassin was apprehended and sent to prison, because he was the one who fired the three bullets, those who drew a bull's-eye on Rabin's back and told him that the prime minister was a permissible target have never been forced - perish the thought! - to account for their actions.

True, it is disgusting to crawl between the stained sheets of the assassin and his little Trembovler. Who really wants to approach the bed where they made love? Who really cares whether any child will be born from that union? Nevertheless, many see the granting of permission for their conjugal visit in a finely furnished guest-house as part of the pattern of forgiveness that is leading inevitably to a pardon, which, though the process may take some time, will ultimately be granted.

The writing is on the wall, even if the writing is concealed by moss.

"A Jew, even a sinner, never stops being a Jew." Today we can add, "A Jew, even after assassinating a prime minister, never stops being a Jew." Furthermore, it is important that he perform Judaism's commandments and that his rights be protected.

Our Shin Bet security service is famous for its hypersensitivity to the need for protecting human and civil rights, especially those of terrorists. We must never forget: Rabin's targeted liquidation was a murderous act of terror, not an assassination, and Jewish terrorism, grown on our home turf, is more - much more - dangerous than terrorism perpetrated by external forces.

It was reported that the Shin Bet submitted its professional opinion to the State Prosecutor's Office in which it stated that the victorious assassin "no longer constitutes a security threat."

I was told that his report infuriated the Shin Bet, which claimed the facts had been distorted. To avoid further injustice to our "fine young lads," I phoned the office of Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, requesting the text of that professional opinion. Ten days have passed and I have still not received it. A courteous spokeswoman did call me; however, when I asked for a document, she merely gave me an explanation. She promised to call me back the next day; however, I have yet to hear from her.

I must rely on what has been publicized, because much has apparently been going on behind the scenes.

The assassin "no longer constitutes a security threat" - the Shin Bet is absolutely correct here: Yitzhak Rabin has already been assassinated, and you cannot assassinate the same person twice.

Well, maybe you can.