After organizers cancel, Labor steps in to save Rabin rally
Herzog vows annual memorial for party’s slain leader will go ahead, hours after planners say they cannot afford to fund event
The Labor Party said Sunday it would take it upon itself to arrange the annual Tel Aviv memorial rally for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, hours after organizers of the event announced its cancellation due to lack of funds.
Labor’s chairman Isaac Herzog said his party would assume responsibility for the event, according to Channel 10 News. Labor is now the senior partner in the Zionist Union faction, which it formed with Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua movement ahead of the 2014 Knesset elections.
“The rally was always the responsibility of private, external bodies,” Herzog said. “But as we are talking about the assassination of our leader, the head of the Labor Party… we insist on holding a rally.”
Herzog’s announcement appeared to allay concerns that the event would be nixed for the first time since Rabin’s assassination 21 years ago. It was not immediately clear whether the rally would still take place on Saturday, as originally planned.
The ceremony, held every year in the square where Rabin was gunned down during a peace rally by an extremist Jew on November 4, 1995. The rally at the square that is now named for Rabin typically draws tens of thousands of people from all over the country.
But a coalition of youth groups and NGOs who previously sponsored the event opted this year for a different approach, claiming such rallies have run their course. They now plan to hold various round-table events in major cities on the national memorial day for Rabin on November 13.
“About four weeks ago it became clear, to our astonishment, that there won’t be a rally memorializing Rabin,” organizer Asaf Agmon told Channel 2 on Friday. “All of those involved in the event in the past are not involved this year.”
Agmon and several others took it upon themselves to try to organize the event, and in recent weeks made great efforts to find donors and sponsors for the rally. But Agmon told Haaretz on Sunday that the attempt had failed.
The event’s planners required NIS 800,000 (approx. $208,000) to pay for security and technical equipment, Haaretz newspaper reported. They managed to raise most of the amount, but came up short by about NIS 250,000 ($65,000).
In light of this, the organizers announced Sunday afternoon that they had been forced to cancel the event.
“We did everything we could,” Agmon said. “We talked to everyone we could talk to. We explained that this was the deadline. We asked the police and security (company) to wait until (today).” He called the cancellation “a stain” on the nation.
Hemi Sal, another organizer, said he found the news “unfathomable…Particularly at this time, in light of the voices of incitement and discord in Israeli society, it was incumbent on us all to come and fill the square,” he said.
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.
On November 4, 1995, Rabin was shot dead at the end of a peace rally by right-wing extremist Yigal Amir, amid national tensions over peace efforts with the Palestinians.
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.