In an escalating war of words on Saturday, Labor head Amir Peretz accused the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yair, of being “more dangerous” in his incitement than Yigal Amir, the Jewish extremist who murdered then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Peretz made the comment in a press statement issued by his spokesperson Saturday.
Earlier in the day, Peretz threatened to file a libel suit against Yair Netanyahu for comments he made on Twitter on Friday alleging that Rabin “murdered Holocaust survivors” and broke the law by giving paid lectures in the US while in public office.
“As someone responsible for Rabin’s legacy and as a successor to his path, I won’t allow the slander and tarnishing of the reputation of an Israeli hero in war and in peace,” Peretz wrote Saturday.
Speaking at a rally in Tel Aviv later on Saturday evening, Peretz linked Yair Netanyahu’s comments to his father’s actions 24 years ago surrounding the atmosphere of incitement against Rabin at the time. Benjamin Netanyahu has long been accused of playing a part in the incitement that many believe led to the killing. The premier has regularly rebuffed the allegations and has characterized them as a form of “political assassination.”
“The Netanyahu family never got down from the balcony; the hands on the keyboard may be Yair’s but the voice is Netanyahu’s,” Peretz said on Saturday.
He was referring to a right-wing political rally in Jerusalem in 1995 attended by Netanyahu, then head of the opposition, who stood on a balcony overlooking protesters, some of whom branded Rabin a “traitor,” “murderer” and “Nazi” for signing a peace agreement with the Palestinians earlier that year. That rally took place weeks before the assassination. Netanyahu also took part in a Ra’anana protest as demonstrators behind him carried a mock coffin.
Rabin was murdered on November 4, 1995 by Amir, who was opposed to the Oslo Accords and the handing over control of portions of the West Bank to the Palestinians as part of the landmark peace agreement.
“The murderer didn’t act alone,” Peretz said Saturday night to a crowd of hundreds gathered at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. “Standing behind him was a huge, hate-filled apparatus of incitement and delegitimization…Also behind him were politicians, among them the head of the opposition who marched in Ra’anana with a coffin behind him and who stood on a balcony in Zion Square [in Jerusalem] when below him were posters of Rabin depicted in an SS uniform,” said Peretz referring to Netanyahu.
In the statement issued by Peretz’s spokesperson, the labor head is quoted as then saying: “I state here and now, Yair Netanyahu is more dangerous than Yigal Amir. Yigal Amir will no longer murder anyone. But many [like him] are reading the tweets, and listening carefully to the reservations expressed by their leader, the father, and they understand what they must do.”
In his speech, Peretz also called on the attorney general to act, a similar move made by Rabin’s son earlier on Twitter. “The responsibility is on you. I’m less interested in the bottles of champagne and the cigars,” he went on in reference to alleged behaviors by Netanyahu that are part of graft accusations against the premier. “I’m more interested in stopping the next murder,” Peretz said.
Addressing the attorney general again, Peretz said, “It is only in your power to stop this madness. The Israel Police and the Shin Bet must act to stop this dangerous incitement that is harming every sector in Israel and preparing the grounds for the next murder.”
Earlier Saturday, Yuval Rabin, son of Yitzhak Rabin, said Yair Netanyahu’s tweet alleging that Rabin “murdered Holocaust survivors on the Altalena” was a “direct continuation” of the notorious 1995 poster depicting Rabin in an SS uniform.
On Saturday, Yuval Rabin posted a short video to Twitter of the prime minister addressing him during a Knesset speech in 2017, expressing sorrow and understanding of his pain over the incitement against his father. “You’d be surprised, Yuval, I understand your pain at the wave of smears and slander against your father,” Netanyahu told him then.
In the tweet, Rabin wrote, “I didn’t believe him. To determine that Rabin murdered Holocaust survivors is a direct continuation of Rabin in an SS uniform,” appearing to link Yair Netanyahu’s comments to his father’s.
“Don’t say you didn’t see it,” Yuval Rabin told his followers. “Maybe this time, the attorney general will act against those who incite?
לא האמנתי לו
לקבוע שרבין רצח ניצולי שואה זה המשך ישיר לפוסטר של רבין במדי אס-אס
אל תגידו שלא ראיתם
אולי הפעם היועץ המשפטי לממשלה יפעל נגד המסיתים? pic.twitter.com/W8pZYWhvUG
— Yuval Rabin (@yrabin) September 7, 2019
Meanwhile, the prime minister issued a short statement Saturday night that read: “I don’t agree with my son Yair’s statements on Yitzhak Rabin. His comments are his opinions alone.”
Yair Netanyahu’s comments on Rabin came in response to a tweet by Democratic Camp MK Stav Shaffir, who as part of an ongoing discussion wrote in a separate tweet to Israeli journalist Kalman Liebskind that Rabin and Benjamin Netanyahu should not be compared.
“Rabin boldly led the country toward a peace agreement. Bibi is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” Shaffir wrote, using Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname.
“With Rabin, it ended with three shots. Netanyahu, meanwhile, is running from three indictments. Believe me, it’s better not to compare them,” Shaffir wrote.
In his response to Shaffir, Yair Netanyahu wrote: “Rabin broke the law by delivering lectures in America while he was a public servant, earning a fortune.”
He was apparently referring to the so-called Dollar Account affair, a 1977 financial scandal involving Rabin and his wife that led to his resignation from his post as prime minister. The Rabins had bank accounts in the United States which they used while he served as Israel’s ambassador to Washington, and which were not closed when they returned to Israel. He had reportedly received $90,000 for delivering lectures in the five years he held the post.
“He murdered Holocaust survivors on the Altalena,” Yair Netanyahu wrote, referring to the Altalena affair, an incident during Israel’s War of Independence when the nascent Israel Defense Forces, including troops under Rabin’s command, clashed with the Irgun paramilitary group in Tel Aviv. Sixteen Irgun members and three IDF soldiers were killed.
“Rabin brought Arafat here and tens of thousands of terrorists from Tunis and brought death to 2,000 Israelis,” he continued. Yasser Arafat had been based in Tunis before the peace talks with Rabin.
“Tell me, how are your pedophile friends?” he said in closing, likely referring to Shaffir’s fellow Democratic Camp member Ehud Barak, who had ties to disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Shaffir was a member of Labor before leaving to join the Democratic Camp.
“We firmly condemn Yair Netanyahu’s harsh statements against the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. What can be expected from him, given that his father stands on the balcony at Zion Square at the head of an incitement campaign,” Labor said in a joint statement with the Gesher party, with which it is running in the September 17 elections.
Yair Netanyahu is a vocal right-wing activist on social media, and has in the past defended his father and repeatedly ignited controversies with inflammatory statements online.