Speaking at the 19th annual Rabin memorial rally Saturday night, former president Shimon Peres issued scathing criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the peace process with the Palestinians and of his government’s approach to the conflict.
“There are those who have turned the word ‘peace’ into a derogatory term, and there are those who consider ‘peace supporters’ as delusional people,” declared Peres. “I say clearly today: Those who have given up on peace are the delusional ones. Those who gave up and stopped looking for peace. they’re the naive ones, the ones who are not patriots,” Peres added at the Tel Aviv event, held in the square where prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down on November 4, 1995.
“We have all sorts of so-called smart people who talk about ‘managing the conflict’ instead of peace. Take a look at what happened in Gaza over the summer and what is happening in Jerusalem as of late. That is what ‘managing the conflict’ looks like,” the former president charged, speaking to a crowd of thousands.
“Where is the Israeli peace initiative?” he asked, adding that it was better to have an imperfect peace than a raging conflict. “The peace accords with Jordan and Egypt taught us that it’s better to have a cold peace than a ‘hot’ war.”
“The State of Israel would be giving up on its future if it pursues the status quo and remains without peace,” Peres warned.
US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in April after a nine-month effort. The Palestinian Authority blamed the Netanyahu government’s continued settlement activity, while Netanyahu said he would not negotiate with a government that included a terror group, after the PA signed a unity pact with Hamas that same month.
Several thousand people gathered for the memorial event marking the 19th anniversary — according to the Hebrew calendar — of the assassination of Rabin.
The ceremony, titled “Returning to the square, restoring hope,” began 19:30 pm at Rabin Square — as it is every year — where Rabin was shot dead by right-wing extremist Yigal Amir. The site, originally called Malchei Yisrael Square, was renamed Rabin Square following the assassination.
President Reuven Rivlin, who was at the event, is set to speak at a second Rabin memorial next Saturday, entitled “Remembering the murder, fighting for democracy,” which is organized by a coalition of youth movements.
Rabin’s son, Yuval Rabin, also addressed the crowd Saturday, calling on Israelis to do everything possible so that the hope of peace becomes reality.
“Palestinian youths also deserve a different future,” he said, adding that he received a letter from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which the Palestinian leader said a peace agreement would deal a critical blow to terror organizations.
Rabin added that Israelis must see Palestinians as neighbors with whom they have disputes, and not enemies.
Referencing the Saudi-launched Arab Peace Initiative, Rabin said he would be “happy to come to you and present the Israeli peace initiative.”
In an interview with the Times of Israel this week, Yuval Rabin said efforts to broker a bilateral peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians have failed and should be replaced by a multilateral approach based on the Arab Peace Initiative.
High tech entrepreneur Rabin, 59, chairs the Israeli Peace Initiative, a grassroots organization launched in 2011 to prompt Israeli leaders to put forward a comprehensive counter-bid to the Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002 and endorsed by the Arab League five years later. Israeli Peace Initiative signatories include former Shin Bet chief and current Science Minister Yaakov Peri, former UN ambassador Danny Gillerman, and former Mossad director Danny Yatom.
Saturday’s event organizers, the Israeli Peace Initiative Association, said the underlying message at the rally was to call on the Netanyahu government to lead an Israeli peace initiative.
Rabin served as Israel’s chief of staff during the Six Day War in 1967. He was later ambassador to the US, defense minister and twice prime minister.
In 1994, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with then-foreign minister Shimon Peres and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat for his part in signing the Oslo Peace accords a year earlier.