Photo Credit: Flash 90
Former Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evi

Israel’s Knesset held a special session on Wednesday to mark the twentieth year since the terrorist assassination of former Tourism Minister Rechavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi, although most of the lawmakers chose not to attend – including MKs from Blue and White, Labor, Yesh Atid, Meretz, Ra’am and the Joint Arab List.

Ze’evi, born in Jerusalem in 1926, was a former IDF general and historian as well as the politician who founded the right-wing Moledet party. He was elected to the Knesset in May 1999 as chairman of the National Union-Yisrael Beytenu party. Two years later he was appointed Minister of Tourism.

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Two days before Ze’evi’s death, on October 15, 2001, the minister had submitted his resignation. Early on the morning the resignation was to go into effect – at 1:30 pm — Rechavam Ze’evi was murdered by Hamdi Quran of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organization (PFLP), shot in the head at the Jerusalem Hyatt Hotel.

The minister was laid to rest in a state funeral with full military honors at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Military Cemetery.

“The assassination of Minister Ze’evi had been planned and organized for a long time,” Knesset Speaker Miki Levy – a former police commander — said at the opening of the special session. “They followed him and gathered intelligence about his itinerary.

“The cold-blooded decision to assassinate a minister in Israel was and still is a crossing of all red lines,” Levy declared. “This was a criminal attack on the State of Israel and its symbols, and an unbearable violation of its sovereignty and rule.

“On a personal level, I remember that terrible morning as the [police] commander of the Jerusalem District,” Levy recalled. “I quickly arrived at the Hyatt Hotel, which is a few minutes from the General Staff Headquarters of the Israel Police. When I arrived at the scene, I was horrified to find that an Israeli minister had been murdered.

“It was a traumatic and terrible day in my job.

“I then organized the pursuit forces together with the Shin Bet (General Security Service) to catch the lowly terrorists.

“Over the years, the State of Israel has pursued the perpetrators and planners of the assassination attempt and in 2006 as part of the operation to bring them to justice, it finally got its hands on the murderers who were about to be released from prison in Jericho.

“This is of paramount importance in the fight against terrorism and the dire implications of this serious incident,” Levy said.

The prime minister and opposition leader memorialized Ze’evi’s nature as a strong politician and a committed Israeli Jew.

“Gandhi dedicated his life to strengthening the bond between the people of Israel and the Land of Israel,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.

“Gandhi was not afraid to fight for his views even if they took him outside the consensus,” he said, adding that the murdered minister was a “soldier of the Land of Israel until his last day.”

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also paid tribute to Ze’evi at the memorial, saying, “Gandhi would shout at the rush of ministers to [Palestinian Authority leader] Mahmoud Abbas so that the red would return to his cheeks.

“Gandhi would protest the discrimination against IDF soldiers who did not receive any increase in their salaries while NIS 53 billion was promised to Ra’am,” he said bitterly. “Gandhi would have attacked with a frenzy the coronavirus failures, the harm to farmers, the acceptance of the nuclear agreement being formed with Iran.

“Gandhi’s personal voice is missing, but his cry is heard by the masses of Israel’s citizens,” Netanyahu said.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.