On the 23rd anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, President Reuven Rivlin expressed concern that the memory of the former prime minister’s murder is fading in Israeli society and warned of the dangers of incitement to violence.
Right-wing extremist Yigal Amir shot Rabin to death on November 4, 1995, at the end of an event the prime minister had held in Tel Aviv to demonstrate public support for his efforts to make peace with the Palestinians. Rabin served as Israel’s chief of staff during the Six Day War in 1967. Other posts that he held during his career included ambassador to the US, defense minister and 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.
“Each year we make speeches and hold ceremonies and yet we see the erosion of the centrality of the murder and what it means in Israeli public discourse,” the president said at the memorial ceremony at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
“Our generation — which saw how a base murderer, coward and criminal, shot him [Rabin] in the back — will never heal. That generation will never forget, and never forgive, surely not forgive itself. And we, we are that generation. The generation on whose watch the murder happened,” he said.
“But, the truth is that the challenge is not our generation, but those that come after us,” he added.
“In the 23 years that have passed since the murder, we have been through difficult times. Wars and contentious political initiatives,” said the president. “Each time, and despite the polarization of views, we have avoided terrible moments like this. Have we healed? I am not sure. I do not know.”
Rivlin said the various groups in Israeli society had the right to determine how they remembered Rabin, but stressed the importance of the country marking the event together.
“The murder of Rabin divides us into tribes and camps. Twenty-three years after the murder, it seems to me that there is no alternative but to say: every one of us can remember Yitzhak Rabin the man and the leader in his own way, but we must agree that we want to remember the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin together,” he said.
“We are now counting 23 years without Yitzhak in the land he loved,” the president concluded. “A man who fought on the battlefield and pursued peace with the same determination.”
‘Democracy is not a monarchy’
Yonatan Ben-Artzi, Rabin’s grandson, used his speech on the Hebrew anniversary of the murder to attack Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for dividing the country, arguing it would lead to Israel’s destruction.
“A leadership that encourages division and violent attacks on other opinions. He who drives and incites against anyone who thinks differently from him as a sourpuss or a leftist will lead to the destruction of the next temple,” charged Ben-Artzi.
Ben Artzi also referenced Netanyahu’s berating last week of a woman who had interrupted his speech to protest the closure of an emergency room in northern Israel. The prime minister responded to the heckling by telling the woman that she was “boring.”
“The citizens of the state are entitled to a leadership that cares for their needs and is not bored with them and their requirements,” he said. “A leadership that mocks and disparages those that feel distress is the source of that evil, and it will deepen the rift, division and internal conflict.”
Ben-Artzi also called for term limits for prime ministers.
“Democracy is not a monarchy,” he said. “Limiting the term of office of prime minister is necessary and important in order to prevent our leaders from becoming kings who are apart from the people.”