As Israel Memorializes Yitzhak Rabin, President Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu Stress Need for Unity
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin struck a message of unity and warned against incitement during a state memorial service on Sunday for the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995.
“Twenty-four years after the murder and it is as if the question of our joint fate still remains open,” Rivlin said. “The nightmare that none of us thought could happen turned into reality. The fear that we will, with our own hands, bring about our own downfall, remains etched in our consciousness.”
Rivlin exhorted his listeners not to fall into self-destructive divisiveness, saying, “Do not believe the absurd, strange, and insane voices of the fringes. Do not believe those who speak about post-truth, alternative facts, and new theories. Post-truth means lies and alternative facts are fraud. Do not be tempted to believe that these voices are representative. Do not lend support to those who try, with all their might, to add fuel to the fire.”
“We must not continue to use the murder to score points in the political discourse,” he continued. “We must not use the trauma, the pain, to fight the opposing camp’s ideology.”
Lamenting the continuing divisions in Israeli society, Rivlin said, “I am asking, if and when will we be ready to remember differently, together, not just the life of Yitzhak, but also his death? Because if we are not able to remember together, to grieve together, this assassination, this act of political violence, what will become of us?”
“Do we want the murder of Yitzhak Rabin to be fixed in the history of our people as an event that divided Judea from Yisrael, or as an event that caused us to take stock of ourselves, to remember what a terrible price there is to turning a blind eye to political violence, what a terrible price there is to hubris?” he asked.
“Each year, we sound a warning about baseless hatred and civil war, about incitement, about violence that undermines the foundations of democracy,” Rivlin concluded. “Only we will decide what the lesson is. Only history will be our witness. Have we learned the lesson?”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke at the ceremony, noting the ferocious controversy that swirled around the Oslo Accords that eventually led to Rabin’s murder.
“Half a century ago, a fierce argument broke out in Israeli society,” Netanyahu said, according to Israeli news website Walla. “Rabin acted according to his conscience. I know it. I knew him, I liked him, because I knew he was following his conscience. I too, as the leader of the opposition, followed my conscience.”
Condemning the rhetorical incitement against Rabin echoed at the time by some of Netanyahu’s own followers, he said, “What was not legitimate was to call Yitzhak Rabin ‘traitor’ or ‘murderer.’ It was clearly not legitimate.”
But turning to the left’s frequent claim that he did not adequately oppose the incitement, Netanyahu said, “I hear the false claim that … I stood silent, did not respond. … But a lie that is repeated many times does not become true. I said that Rabin is not a traitor — he is wrong, but not a traitor.”
The ceremony, however, was not without controversy. Yonatan Ben-Artzi, Rabin’s grandson, called on Netanyahu to resign over corruption charges.
Noting that his grandfather had resigned his first term after corruption charges were made, Ben-Artzi said to Netanyahu “It’s time to take responsibility, and give a personal example. Many years of rule have made you forget what it is to be a human being. Be human. Take responsibility for your actions.”
“Move aside,” he said. “Retire from your position. Go home and deal with the personal allegations against you. If you are cleared, you can come back. As Yitzhak Rabin did.”
At a Knesset debate held later in the day, Netanyahu struck back harshly, saying, “Unfortunately, this year too, there were those who decided to take advantage of the memorial for a blatant and shameful political harangue that harms Yitzhak Rabin’s memory.”
“I see a direct link between this disrespectful behavior and the difficulty of uniting the people, healing the wound,” he said.