Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp), on the occasion of the Knesset plenum’s commemoration of the 21st anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination (12 Heshvan 5756, November 4, 1995), pointed a finger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, saying, “the power of violence, the poison of racism, hatred and incitement mixed with silence were fertile ground for [Rabin’s] murder… You didn’t mean it, but you didn’t prevent it, either. The next murderers may already be walking among us, and the responsibility to stop them and to do everything in order to prevent the next murder lies first and foremost with you Mr. Prime Minister.”
Jabbing at Netanyahu’s notoriously thin skin in dealing with personal attacks from the media on himself and on his wife Sara, the Zionist Camp chairman said that Rabin “didn’t think the state belongs to him. He understood the rules of the democratic game and respected them. He knew that criticism against a prime minister isn’t personal persecution.”
An angry Education Minister Naftali Bennett then decided to put away his prepared remarks and directed his speech at Herzog. “You are trying to silence half of the population and blame them,” Bennett said. “For 21 years, the Left has been trying to blame Netanyahu for the incitement. Over and over Netanyahu said we disagree, but there should be no incitement. And now you’re trying to silence him.”
“We should not blame and point fingers. [Herzog] stood here and continued doing what [the Left] has done for 21 years. There was a dispute, but not for a moment did I doubt Rabin’s good intentions, and neither did Prime Minister Netanyahu. The phenomenon of hatred of individuals exists today, and we must all fight it.”
“It’s not a matter of Right or Left,” he added, noting that Rabin’s assassin “replaced his ballot with gunpowder. He will stay in prison until his dying day, but Israeli democracy will flourish.”
“Apart from the national, personal and familial tragedy, Yitzhak Rabin’s murder, whose background was political-ideological, remains as a deep wound in the gentle fabric of Israeli society,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein told the plenum.
“The murder separated between communities and formed high and fortified walls – walls of fear, of casting blame, of casting a collective moral stain on the one hand, and a sense of rejection and alienation on the other,” Edelstein said.
Turning to listeners from the national religious community, the Knesset speaker said, “Do not boycott, do not hold a grudge forever,” and to Israelis from the Left he said: “Don’t forever view an entire sector of the public as stained… Don’t exclude an entire part of the public from being part of the memory and learning lessons.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu said the murder is “a gaping wound in the body of the nation that heals and leaves a scar for generations.”
Netanyahu argued that while Rabin was “not a rightist, he was not the total opposite either, and on issues related to the state’s security, he represented a very broad common denominator within the nation.”
The prime minister mentioned Israel’s disagreements with the American government in the 1970s and said Rabin “was undeterred and was strongly opposed to a forced solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, insisting on our security requirements and promoting the transfer of military aid to Israel.”
“Rabin sought peace and extended his hand for peace but fundamentally he understood that the establishment of peace needed to be done in a sober fashion and with responsibility,” Netanyahu said. “His insistence on security arrangements, even during his final speech, is exactly where I stand: the security arrangements to which even today the Palestinians do not agree.”
“Unfortunately, today Palestinian society continues to glorify murderers, and terror organizations announce again and again their intention to annihilate Israel. Like Rabin, we repeatedly extend our hand to them in peace and negotiations without preconditions,” Netanyahu told the plenum.
Netanyahu added that “the root of the storm sweeping the region now lies in the rise of radical Islam. Rabin frequently and explicitly named Iran as the state which fans the flames of this radicalism. He warned of Iran’s aspiration to develop a nuclear weapon, which today, through a variety of means, Israel has succeeded in preventing. He also pointed to Iran’s far-reaching aspirations to undermine the stability of our region.”
“Not much has changed since then and if it has, then it is for the worse,” the PM stated. “The Iranian regime has repeatedly stated its intention to eradicate Israel and Iran still has not abandoned its nuclear program. We will continue fighting the terror of Iran and its proxies and we will not allow it to arm itself with nuclear weapons or establish itself in Syria.”
Opposition leader Herzog addressed the election of US President Elect Donald Trump, saying that his election supposedly allows the Netanyahu government to “annex and build [at will], but actually this is the moment of truth for you (Netanyahu) and your government, for the plenum and for the entire nation… Our existential decisions are not derived from the identity of the person sitting in the White House, but from what where Jews should settle in order to preserve our Jewish and democratic home.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon directed her prepared comments at Netanyahu, saying: “You are not the victim of Rabin’s assassination. No one in the world gained as much from Rabin’s murder as you did. You owe your political existence to his murder.”
“I have no doubt that you didn’t want the murder to happen, but you released demons and proved that you have no problem releasing them again,” she stated. “Stop playing the victim and start taking responsibility for what you say and what your friends say.”
So, that “gaping wound in the body of the nation” is still pretty much gaping, 21 years later.