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PM: Yigal Amir, not the right or religious, murdered Rabin

Lapid: Rabin assassin’s ‘ideological heirs’ are serving in Knesset today

At parliament memorial for slain PM, FM swipes at Netanyahu, who brokered the deal that made a Kahanist an MK; opposition chair responds that left is abusing Rabin’s memory

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during memorial ceremony marking 26 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at the Knesset, on October 18, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during memorial ceremony marking 26 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at the Knesset, on October 18, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Monday that far-right members of Knesset are the “ideological heirs” of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, using a special parliamentary session in memory of the former premier to swipe at political rivals.

“Yigal Amir’s ideological heirs are today serving in Israel’s Knesset. Had we not performed the miracle of the ‘change government,’ they would be ministers in the government,” Lapid said, as Bezalel Smotrich, who heads the far-right Religious Zionism party, was escorted out of the plenum by security guards, shouting “You’re an anti-Zionist.”

Amir came from the national-religious camp, the leaders of which led fierce protests throughout the country against Rabin as he negotiated the Oslo Accords in the 1990s. Many of those protests included chants such as, “Rabin the traitor,” and images of the former prime minister wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf in addition to a makeshift coffin with his name on it.

The national-religious camp and then-opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu have since been accused of fanning the flames of incitement that led to Rabin’s assassination 26 years ago. And each year, when the Knesset marks the anniversary of the assassination, right-wing lawmakers accuse left-wing rivals of blaming an entire political camp for the actions of one extremist, while left-wing MKs retort that the right has not learned the lesson of Rabin’s murder and continues to incite against those who think differently.

This year was no exception, with Lapid taking aim at Netanyahu, who again heads the opposition, after 12 years as prime minister, along with his far-right political allies. The Likud leader indeed helped the far-right enter the Knesset in this year’s election, brokering an agreement between Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir who heads the neo-Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party. Netanyahu offered a spot on the Likud list to a Religious Zionism MK in exchange for the party chairman agreeing to the merger. This ensured Ben Gvir’s entry into the Knesset. Still, Netanyahu’s rivals managed to form a unity government without him, which was sworn in last June.

Ben Gvir, who was infamously filmed bragging about snatching the hood ornament off of Rabin’s car ahead of the assassination, while warning that he would reach the prime minister next, was not present during Monday’s Knesset session.

Opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during memorial ceremony marking 26 years since the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at the Knesset on October 18, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

“There is a clear line stretching between the assassination of Rabin and the past year,” Lapid said in his speech. “Both are part of the great Israeli struggle. Not between right and left, but between those who believe in democracy and those trying to destroy it.

“I want to say to those anti-democratic forces: We have been here for a long time, and we are not going anywhere.”

Netanyahu, who did not attend the earlier official state ceremony marking the assassination at Mount Herzl, used the Knesset session to once again respond to accusations that he had played a role in the incitement that led to Rabin’s killing.

“From the Knesset podium, a month before the assassination, I said unequivocally — the phenomenon of calling Israeli leaders ‘murderers’ and ‘traitors’… is wrong, was always wrong, and we condemn it every time,” the opposition chairman recalled.

“I also added then that what we must all do together is to stand up against these phenomena and against any attempt to tarnish the public sitting here with the stains of that small and extreme group,” he continued. “That is the truth, and any other lie that is repeated over and over again does not become the truth.”

Netanyahu went on to claim that while the left’s political rhetoric is defended as legitimate and part of freedom of expression, the right’s rhetoric is described as “hate speech,” “vulgar” and “unstatesmanlike.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during memorial ceremony marking 26 years since the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at the Knesset on October 18, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“For 26 years, I heard this in [the Rabin memorial] ceremonies and gritted my teeth and fulfilled my duty as prime minister,” Netanyahu said. “When I came, they asked why I was there, and when I did not come… they say ‘why did he not come?’ There are opposition leaders here who have boycotted other days of remembrance and they are not talked about.”

Shirley Pinto, the first deaf Knesset member, speaks during a plenum session on July 12, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

After Netanyahu’s speech, Yamina MK Shirley Pinto took to Twitter to double-down on long-made accusations against Netanyahu. She referred to famous footage in 1995 of Netanyahu looking down from a porch above Jerusalem’s Zion Square on a mass protest against Rabin. During that demonstration, protesters called for the premier’s head.

“Sometimes, it seems like he never left that porch. An inciter he was and an inciter he remains,” Pinto wrote. “This year too, Netanyahu used Rabin’s assassination to explain that he was in fact the one that was attacked.”

Then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu overlooks a right-wing rally in Jerusalem’s Zion Square in 1995. The slogan on the sign below him reads, ‘The nation did not decide,’ and was the brainchild of Hagi Ben Artzi. (screen capture: YouTube)

Pinto later wrote that people were taking what she had written out of proportion. “The murder is not a matter of right or left. Netanyahu has been inciting against the prime minister, against the interior minister, and against this government for many months,” she said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also addressed the Knesset event, saying, “I hope we learned that we cannot malign an entire community if one of its members… committed a crime… It wasn’t the right or the religious who murdered Rabin. Yigal Amir murdered him.”

He warned that bloodshed like Rabin’s assassination could lead to “losing everything we hold dear, including the country.”

During an event held earlier in the day at the President’s Residence, Rabin’s grandson hailed the change of government earlier this year that removed Netanyahu from power.

“After dark years of fear and [political] paralysis, Israel has won. In the face of a culture of tyranny, the people won. This morning, 26 years after that terrible night, I can say that the mourning period is over,” Yonatan Ben Artzi said.

Then-US president Bill Clinton, center, looks on as Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, left, and PLO leader Yasser Arafat shake hands in the East Room of the White House after signing the Middle East accord in Washington, on September 28, 1995. (AP Photo/Doug Mills, File)

“The rule of the people has triumphed over the rule of one,” he continued. “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.”

He also argued 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 giving control of parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians as part of the landmark peace agreement.

Rabin’s family has accused Netanyahu of playing a part in public incitement against Rabin prior to his death. Netanyahu has regularly rejected the allegations.

“The rule of the people triumphed over the rule of the individual?” the Likud party said in a statement hitting back at Benartzi. “It’s exactly the opposite. It’s the individual who defrauded the nation to steal power.” The statement was an apparent reference to Bennett, whose alliance with a diverse array of political parties landed him the premiership, despite his party holding just six parliamentary seats.

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