Coalition chairman and Likud MK David Bitan said Saturday that the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin 21 years ago by a Jewish extremist was not due to the actions or words of politicians, but was rather perpetrated by a single individual in order to halt the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
“This was not a political murder, and it had nothing to do with politicians. It was a murder committed by one individual who wanted to stop the (peace) process,” Bitan said during a gathering in Holon.
The remarks by Bitan came on the eve of the annual Tel Aviv memorial ceremony for Rabin, which the Likud MK stressed he would not be attending. Bitan added that he believed the ceremony, set to take place Saturday night, should be funded by the state. “If it was up to me,” Bitan said, “I would have the state fund the event, and have an official state event, not a left-wing event.”
Last week, Labor chairman Isaac Herzog said his party would assume responsibility for the event, according to Channel 10 News, after the usual private organizers of the event had originally announced its cancellation due to lack of funds. Herzog’s announcement allayed concerns that the event would be nixed for the first time since Rabin’s assassination 21 years ago.
The ceremony is held every year in the square where Rabin was gunned down by Yigal Amir, an extremist Jew, during a rally on November 4, 1995, amid national tensions over peace efforts with the Palestinians. The rally at the square that is now named for Rabin typically draws tens of thousands of people from all over the country.
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, who died last month, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, for his part in signing the Oslo Peace accords a year earlier.
Each year, tens of thousands of Israelis gather at the plaza where Rabin was murdered to pay tribute to the slain prime minister. In previous years, Rabin memorial rallies have denounced racism and extremism in Israel, and have publicly called on the Netanyahu government to lead the country into a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Last year, the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s murder, some 100,000 gathered in the heart of Tel Aviv for the commemoration. Addressing the the crowds were a handful of Israeli lawmakers, President Reuven Rivlin, former US president Bill Clinton and current US President Barack Obama (who spoke via video).
Tamar Pileggi contributed to this report.