Yesh Atid party chairman and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid joined Yonatan Ben Artiz, grandson of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in using Monday’s ceremony to mark the 26th anniversary of his passing on November 5, 1995, to attack the Israeli right.
Rabin was shot and killed by Bar Ilan law student Yigal Amir as he was about to get into his car after speaking at a massive peace rally in Tel Aviv.
Israeli leaders and foreign ambassadors and dignitaries attended the official state ceremony marking his death near the gravesite at Mount Herzl National Cemetery in Jerusalem.
A huge memorial candle – Ner Yitzhak – is kindled each year on the Hebrew anniversary of Rabin’s death by Israel’s president (this year, President Isaac Herzog) to kick off the plethora of activities marking his passing, all of them held around the Hebrew date of the murder.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, currently the Knesset’s Opposition leader, did not attend the ceremony at gravesite, but spoke at the subsequent special Knesset opened by Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy with a minute of silence, saying he was justified in not attending an event repeatedly used to disparage his political camp in general and himself in particular.
Next year Israel will mark Rabin’s 100th birthday, Israel’s current president noted, adding that the memorial marks not just the late prime minister’s passing, but also the horror of a political murder in the sovereign State of Israel.
The late prime minister’s 96-year-old sister, Rachel Yaakov, and other Rabin family members, including two of his great-grandchildren, joined Herzog in lighting the memorial candle.
Lapid Attacks Israeli Right, Netanyahu Hits Back
Speaking at the ceremony, Lapid said the “ideological heirs” of Rabin’s assassin are currently serving in the Knesset – referring to those on the right.
““The big struggle in Israel is not between Left and Right but between those who believe in democracy and those who are trying to destroy it.
“Yigal Amir’s ideological heirs are today serving in Israel’s Knesset,” Lapid charged. “Had we not performed the miracle of the ‘change government’ they would be ministers in the government,” he said.
Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich and Shas Sephardic party chairman Aryeh Deri both expressed their outrage, interrupting Lapid’s remarks – and both were escorted from the plenum as a result.
In his own response, Netanyahu hit back at Lapid, pointing out that when he was previous Opposition leader, he had supported the peace agreement with Jordan brokered by Rabin.
““For 26 years, there have been those who have used the Rabin assassination to stain a large sector of the nation, the Right that I am proud to represent, and me personally,” Netanyahu said. “The time has come to stop preaching to us.
“I’m telling this to Lapid, who spoke now in support of statesmanship but refrained from voting for the peace agreements with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates,” Netanyahu observed.
Prior to Rabin’s murder, he said, he had said the late prime minister was neither an enemy nor a traitor, but rather that he was mistaken. He also said that he had agreed with much of what Rabin said in his last speech to the Knesset, weeks before his murder.
Ben Artzi: ‘Dark (Likud, Netanyahu) Years Over’
Rabin’s grandson sniped at the previous Likud government while praising the Bennett-Lapid center-left coalition, saying that after “dark years of fear and [political] paralysis, Israel has won.
“After years of fear and paralysis, the citizens of Israel straightened their backs and stood upright,” he said. “Liberty and democracy triumphed and overpowered the verbal and physical violence and the culture of tyranny and lies.
“The rule of the people defeated the one-person rule,” he said in a direct swipe at former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Gone was the notion of a single privileged individual. . . This morning, 26 years after that terrible night I can say that the period of mourning is over,” Ben Artzi said.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Yamina (Right) party, said in his own remarks, “The lesson I took away from Rabin’s murder: under no circumstances – regardless of the situation – should the nation be torn apart. We cannot set the house on fire. We are brothers.
“The only comfort from this terrible murder is the fact that we managed to flourish, to correct.
“I hope we have learned we cannot malign an entire community if one of its members . . . commits a crime,” he said.
“It wasn’t the right or the religious sector who murdered Rabin. Yigal Amir murdered him,” Bennett said.