Prominent leaders in the settlement movement aggressively warned late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin against pursuing a peace agreement with the Palestinians in the years and months leading up to his assassination by a right-wing extremist, according to newly revealed state documents.
The documents published by Channel 10 over the weekend come as the debate surrounding the campaign of incitement waged against Rabin — following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1994 and before his assassination a year later — was reignited by a politically divisive memorial rally for the late prime minister on Saturday night.
The four-page letter sent by former Yesha council head Elyakim Haetzni in 1992 warned Rabin that evicting Jewish communities in the West Bank or reducing his government’s financial support for the settlements was a betrayal of Judaism and Zionism.
“There are red lines, and crossing them will lead to an unprecedented schism within the Jewish people,” he wrote in the letter. Haetzni added that the entire nation was “horrified” at the possibility that Rabin’s name would be among Jewish people’s greatest historical enemies.
The letter was signed by hundreds of right-wing leaders, and the records show that Haetzni send the letter to Rabin’s office several times until the prime minister’s aide confirmed that the premier had received it in early 1993.
On Friday, Channel 10 published another letter sent to Rabin in 1994 by settler leader Aharon Domb, who told the prime minister he was alienating most right-wing Israelis and warned that if his policies did not change, he would “indirectly bear responsibility” for a political assassination.
“For many of them [on the right] this alienation leads to despair and despair can lead to extreme acts, that could shake Israel’s foundations to its core,” Domb wrote at the time.
Rabin was shot and killed by right-wing extremist Yigal Amir on November 4, 1995, during a peace rally in Tel Aviv, a year after signing the Oslo Peace Accords with the Palestinians.
The Israeli left has accused right-wing and settler leaders of inciting against Rabin and helping inspire Amir by attending rallies where protesters called the prime minister a “traitor,” “murderer,” and “Nazi” for signing the peace deal.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was opposition leader at the time of Rabin’s murder, has faced accusations he ignored the inflammatory rhetoric leading up to the assassination, with critics pointing to his and other Likud ministers’ attendance at the right-wing rallies.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of Israelis packed Rabin square in Tel Aviv for the 23rd memorial of the prime minister’s assassination.
Leaders of the political left and center decried what they said was the Netanyahu government’s systematic use of “incitement” and “fear-mongering” and its persecution of political rivals to score political points, at the cost of dividing the country.
The leader of the left-wing Meretz party, Tamar Zandberg, called Rabin’s murder “the most successful political killing in history” in her speech at Saturday night’s memorial event. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni told the crowd that “history is repeating itself,” with Netanyahu fanning the flames of hate toward the left.
In a break from previous years, a senior right-wing figure also spoke at the rally — Minister Tzachi Hanegbi of Likud. Hanegbi, who many on the left see as complicit in the anti-Rabin incitement, was loudly booed throughout his speech. Many in the crowd urged him to “get off the stage” and to “apologize.”
On Sunday, right wing-lawmakers hit back at the left in the aftermath of the memorial rally that was heavily criticized for turning into a political rally.
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett called the memorial “a shameful leftist demonstration,” adding that “the right didn’t murder Rabin, Yigal Amir did.”
Knesset speaker and Likud MK Yuli Edelstein told Army Radio that Rabin’s murder had no political impact on Israel, and defended attending the anti-Rabin protests in the 1990s. He said the rallies were “never part of any incitement or violence. I have nothing to apologize about.”
Domb, who was responding to the publishing of his 1994 letter to Rabin, also denied that right-wing incitement against Rabin and the left was responsible for the murder.
He told Army Radio that his letter to Rabin was not meant as a threat, and he was “conveying the very tense atmosphere” at the time to the prime minister.