US President Barack Obama paid tribute to slain Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on the 20th anniversary of his assassination via video message on Saturday night, declaring that Rabin’s vision of peace remains “necessary, just and possible.”
In a pre-recorded message broadcast in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square where organizers said some 100,000 Israelis gathered for the memorial rally, Obama related the murdered prime minister’s legacy to the need to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Calling Rabin “a warrior for peace,” Obama recalled the night the late prime minister was gunned down.
“One the night he was taken from us, he looked at the thousands gathered and said that the path of peace was preferable to the path of war, and he exhausted every opening, every possibility in the pursuit of a just peace,” Obama said.
Rabin, Obama said, “understood the challenges and dangers Israel faced and defended his country like a general.”
Rabin “also said the Palestinians could not be ruled over forever by force. And, like a true statesman, he was willing to exhaust every opening, every possibility, in pursuit of peace,” he said.
“The Jewish people have the right to live in their homeland, and Palestinians have the right to be a free people in their own land. And peace is possible, if both parties are willing to truly compromise and take risks for the only real solution — two states for two people; a democratic Jewish state living side-by-side in peace and security with a viable, independent and sovereign Palestinian state,” Obama said.
“And in these difficult times, for Israelis, Palestinians, the region, Yitzhak’s life and dream inspire us still,” Obama urged. He promised the US “commitment” to Israel and its security “will never waver.”
Obama recalled a speech he gave on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his presidential visit to Israel in 2013, where he said that peace was “necessary, just and possible.”
“Peace is necessary, because it is the only way to ensure true and lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians,” he said. “Peace is just,” he said, “because the Jewish people have the right to live in their homeland and Palestinians have the right to be a free people in their homeland.” It is possible, he said, “if both parties are willing to truly compromise and take risks for the only real solution: two states for two peoples.”
“A bullet can take a man’s life, but his spirit and his dream of peace will never die,” Obama concluded, adding a blessing to all in the crowd and for all who seek peace and justice.
Earlier Saturday, former US president Bill Clinton spoke in person at the event, delivering a similar message to Israelis.
“He gave his life so that you could live in peace… What does it all amount to? Now that is up to you,” Clinton said at the rally, adding that “all of you now must decide when your leave here tonight…how to finish the last chapter of his story.”
Rabin knew, Clinton said, that “the risks of peace are not as severe as the risks of walking away from it.”
“Those who loved him and love your country are praying that you make that decision. May God bless this country,” he said.
The rally on Saturday night, at the square that now bears Rabin’s name, will cap a week of commemorative events in Israel, which have included a state ceremony at Mount Herzl and a special Knesset session.
The Nobel Peace prize laureate who signed the 1993 Oslo accords aimed at resolving the decades long Palestinian-Israeli conflict was fatally shot in Tel Aviv at a peace rally on November 5, 1995, by Jewish extremist Yigal Amir at the same plaza that hosted Saturday’s rally.