Thousands of people were in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Saturday evening at the annual memorial rally for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated at a similar rally on November 4, 1995.
Saturday’s event, which began at 7:30 p.m., included speakers from the left and the right, among them Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Zionist Union chief Avi Gabbay, and Meretz chief Tamar Zandberg. Several political and social activists were to speak and artists to perform.
For the second year in a row the rally was being organized by the Darkenu movement, which describes itself as a group seeking to “empower the moderate majority of Israelis to exert influence on government policy and on the public discourse.”
The organization said ahead of the rally that it would “focus this year on warning against an atmosphere of divisiveness, incitement and inflamed spirits ahead of the upcoming general elections.”
Noting the “violent and incendiary public discourse” the was prevalent ahead of Rabin’s killing 23 years ago, the group said elected officials from across the political spectrum would be called upon to “maintain a civilized rhetoric.”
Ahead of the rally roads around the square were closed off beginning at 5:30 p.m. Streets were expected reopen around 11 p.m.
Events to commemorate Rabin’s assassination have already proven divisive this year. Rabin’s granddaughter Noa Rothman, speaking at a national memorial ceremony last month, said Israel’s leadership was setting the country’s political camps against each other and inciting against the left. She also erroneously claimed that an official in the current Prime Minister’s Office had branded her grandfather a “traitor.”
Her speech was lambasted by various right-wing politicians as “political” in nature, leading to scathing retorts from left-wing leaders.
President Reuven Rivlin also expressed concerns during a ceremony 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.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.