The annual memorial ceremonies for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on Monday became a political battleground in which politicians used the 1995 assassination to attack their rivals.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu boycotted the graveside ceremony for Rabin because he knew he would be attacked. Rabin’s grandson Yonatan Ben Artzi, who in the past tweeted that he hoped Netanyahu would get the coronavirus, said at the ceremony that Netanyahu losing power was a victory over “a culture of tyranny.”
Speaking at a memorial ceremony in the Knesset, Netanyahu said he was justified in not attending an event repeatedly used to disparage his political camp in general and himself in particular.
“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.”
Netanyahu recalled that ahead of the assassination, he said on every stage that Rabin was neither an enemy nor a traitor, but rather that he was mistaken. He also recalled that he had agreed with much of what Rabin said in his last speech to the Knesset, weeks before his murder.
The memorial for former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in the Knesset, October 18, 2021 (credit: DANNY SHEMTOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSON’S OFFICE)
Rabin told the Knesset that the Palestinians would not get a state, that a wide Jordan Valley would stay in Israel and that Jerusalem would remain Israel’s eternal and undivided capital, Netanyahu recalled. He also noted that Rabin warned the world against Iran.
After a speech by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was not heckled, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid used his address to attack Netanyahu and his political allies.
“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,” Lapid said, alleging that the struggle has continued during the current political impasse.
Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich heckled Lapid after the Yesh Atid leader said current MKs are ideological heirs of Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir. Lapid said that had the current government not been formed, such heirs would be cabinet ministers now under Netanyahu.
MK Itamar Ben-Gvir (Religious Zionist Party) boycotted all the Rabin memorial events. He said the Left had not learned the lessons of the murder and continued to incite against the Right.
Bennett, who was a soldier at the time of the murder, recalled that after two years of not wearing a kippah in the IDF, he returned to wearing it because the religious-Zionist community as a whole was blamed for the assassination.
“I hope that since the assassination, Israeli society has learned how dangerous violence is but has also learned that an entire sector cannot be silenced,” he said. “The Right didn’t murder Rabin; the religious didn’t murder Rabin: Yigal Amir murdered Rabin.”
Yamina MK Shirley Pinto tweeted that Netanyahu was guilty of incitement before the murder and continues to incite now. She later removed the tweet under pressure from her party leadership.
Merav Michaeli, current leader of the party that Rabin led, said he understood that in order to stand up to Iran, Israel had to make peace with its neighbors. She recalled that Rabin was the first Israeli prime minister to make peace with Morocco.
Knesset speaker Mickey Levy offered other party leaders the opportunity to speak at the Knesset ceremony, but they declined.