Members of assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s family praised the new government that removed former premier Benjamin Netanyahu from office after 11 years, as Israel on Monday marked 26 years since Rabin’s murder.
“After dark years of fear and [political] paralysis, Israel has won. In the face of a culture of tyranny, the people won,” Yonatan Ben Artzi, Rabin’s grandson, said during an event at the President’s Residence.
“The rule of the people has triumphed over the rule of one,” he added, without mentioning Netanyahu by name. “It is thanks to this victory, achieved 26 years after that horrendous night, that I can look you in the eye… and say: Mourning time is over. Let us learn from our past and embark on a new road.”
The government, which was sworn in this June, is made up of a diverse coalition of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties, as well as an Islamist faction. The coalition was formed after Netanyahu and his right-wing religious allies again failed to secure a majority in elections held in March, the fourth in two years.
Rabin’s family has accused Netanyahu of playing a part in public incitement against Rabin prior to his death. Netanyahu, who was opposition leader at the time of the assassination, has regularly rejected the allegations.
In his remarks, Ben Artzi asserted that the political divisions in recent years were worse than those in the lead-up to Rabin’s assassination by Yigal Amir, a Jewish extremist opposed to the Oslo Accords and to giving control of parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians as part of the landmark peace agreement.
“Flashes of November 4, 1995, reappeared in everyone’s nightmares as if threatening to recur. But the division, the form, and the language are far worse than 26 years ago. Yet the peril remains unchanged: a gun held by a despicable madman idolized by an infuriated and provoked mob,” he said.
Netanyahu’s Likud party later hit back at Ben Artzi.
“The rule of the people triumphed over the rule of the individual?” Likud said in a statement. “It’s exactly the opposite. It’s the individual who defrauded the nation to steal power.” The statement was in apparent reference to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose alliance with the broad array of political parties landed him the premiership, despite his holding just six parliamentary seats.
Ben Artzi and Netanyahu previously clashed in 2019 at the official state memorial ceremony for Rabin, which is held annually on the Hebrew anniversary of the assassination.
Netanyahu, who is now opposition leader, was glaringly absent from this year’s ceremony at Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem, having attended in previous years when he was prime minister. His office did not explain his absence, saying only he was not obligated to attend and would speak later at a special Knesset session.
Dalia Rabin, the former prime minister’s daughter, thanked Bennett and President Isaac Herzog for their “very moving words” during the ceremony.
“It was worth suffering 26 years to get here and hear the moving words of the president of the state and the prime minister. I am proud and happy,” she said.
Rabin said Israelis have gone through a “double convulsion” in the past two years, noting the COVID-19 pandemic and four rounds of national elections, the most recent of which resulted in the new government’s formation in June.
“If we look in the mirror, a bleak picture is reflected of a sick, violent society that adopted such a rough discourse. The rifts deepened, the danger of a split became a near possibility. We all seem to be wishing for healing and feel the time has come,” she said.
“The government that was recently elected reflects, on the one hand, the multiplicity of different opinions, and on the other, the longing of the people of Israel for a leadership that despite the different opinions among its parts, decided to work with them and try to find the broadest common denominator.”
She also said political disagreements were essential for democracy, but must be managed “in a fair and open way.”
Bennett had said in his address that Israel had been “on the brink of an abyss” when Rabin was killed.
“The lesson I took away from Rabin’s murder — under no circumstances, no matter the situation, should the nation be torn apart,” the premier said.
Rabin was a legendary Israeli military leader, commanding a unit in the pre-state Palmach fighting force and then rising through the ranks as a career soldier to become Israel Defense Forces chief of staff at the time of Israel’s Six Day War victory.
He then launched a political career that saw him serve two stints as prime minister, up until his assassination on November 4, 1995.