Marking the Hebrew 20-year anniversary of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday said that he would never grant Rabin’s killer a presidential pardon.
“As long as I am president, Yigal Amir will never be pardoned,” Rivlin said. “May my right hand wither if I ever sign a pardon for that damned man.”
Rabin was shot dead at the end of a peace rally on November 4, 1995, by Amir, a right-wing extremist.
Addressing an annual memorial ceremony at the president’s official residence in Jerusalem, Rivlin recalled a well-known satirical sketch by a comedy troupe, which aired shortly after Rabin’s assassination. In the sketch, Yigal Amir, played by actor Rami Heuberger, delivers a monologue from inside a jail cell where he says, “I’ll be pardoned in 20 years’ time, and you all know it deep inside your heart.”
The president said the sketch exposed the deep anxieties of left-wing Israelis at the time and also contributed to an atmosphere of delegitimization of the right.
Rivlin, who acknowledged that he disagreed with Rabin’s approach toward rapprochement with the Palestinians, entailing territorial compromise, went on to warn that political violence erodes Israeli democracy, and encouraged Israelis to embrace one another’s differences and promote shared values.
“The killer broke down a fence maintained by generations of Jews, and he may have left it broken,” he said. “It’s been 20 years since the murder, and we have to ask ourselves, ‘Are we doing enough to seal what was breached by the murderer?’
“Are we doing enough to instill, again and again, awareness of the destructive potential of political violence?” Rivlin asked.
“We must ensure, for us and the next generations, that the day upon which we remember Rabin’s murder will be a day belonging to all Israel — all its camps, all its sectors, a day of self-examination for the Israeli people, a time of self-examination for Israeli democracy,” he said.
Rabin, a career soldier, served as Israel’s chief of staff during the Six Day War in 1967 and was later appointed as the country’s ambassador to the US. In a second career, as a politician, he served as prime minister in the 1970s and 1990s and also held the post of defense minister for several years.
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 a year earlier.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.