Herzog at Rabin memorial: Chance of unity government with Netanyahu over

Earlier on Saturday, coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) caused controversy after stating that Rabin's death was not a "political murder."

By
November 5, 2016 20:42
4 minute read.
Scenes from Yitzhak Rabin memorial - November 4, 2016

Scenes from Yitzhak Rabin memorial - November 4, 2016. (photo credit: MEREDITH HOLBROOK)

Twenty-one years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, political divisions remain rife as tens of thousands gathered in Tel Aviv Saturday night to mourn the slain prime minister.


(Picture courtesy of: Meredith Holbrook)

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“We will not light candles tonight. Tonight we will not sing songs of sadness, this is not an evening for speeches of grief. Tonight we go to war for democracy,” Labor leader Isaac Herzog told the gathering in Rabin Square between chants of “Bibi go home.”

“The time for talks is over. The time for a unity government is over,” Herzog said, claiming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “declared war on democracy” and saying the right-wing parties are allowing the same incitement and hatred that led to Rabin’s murder on November 4, 1995, at the hands of right-wing extremist Yigal Amir.

The annual memorial ceremony, in what was formerly known as Malchei Yisrael Square where Rabin was killed, usually calls for a peace agreement with Palestinians and remembering Rabin’s legacy. This year’s rally had been uncertain due to a lack of funds; however, the Zionist Union sponsored the event themed as “The fight against incitement and hatred.”

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni added to the attacks saying: “We came here tonight to prevent the shaming and persecution of journalists, officers and judges. We are here to prevent the next political murder.”

Livni told The Jerusalem Post that “We need to stand up to this hatred.”


(Picture courtesy of: Meredith Holbrook)

Absent from the memorial was coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) who courted controversy by saying Rabin’s assassination was “not a political murder.”

“I will not attend the rally tonight [Saturday] in memory of Yitzhak Rabin, it was not a political murder, politicians did not murder him,” Bitan said at an event in Holon hours before the ceremony. “They’re trying to make it out as if politicians murdered him.”

Zionist Union MK Micky Rosenthal called Bitan’s statement “nonsense,” saying: “I think this is the first time that we abandon the feeling that [the rally] must not be political because we need to join up all of Israel,” Rosenthal told the Post outside the rally. “We must say that the incitement is coming only from one side – the Right.”

“This is not just a memorial for a person who died, this is a struggle for Rabin’s vision,” MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) told the Post at the rally. “Rabin was murdered because of his politics. There is no logic behind hiding his vision. If we do not fight for his vision, the terrorist who killed him has won,” Shaffir said.

Deputy Knesset Speaker Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) also responded to Bitan, saying earlier on Saturday that one does not need to be the coalition chairman to understand that Rabin’s murder was clearly political.

“The murder was preceded by organized incitement, hatred, persecution from the extreme Right, marking targets” and accusing the political Left of “treason,” stated Bar.

“That same hatred, persecution and incitement exists today, against journalists, judges, officers and all those who think differently than the government,” he continued. “For this reason we need to gather at Rabin Square to fight for democracy.”

Dana Yanay was 16-years-old and head of the Labor youth movement when Rabin was assassinated. "After 21 years we need to say the truth," she told the Post amidst throngs of Israelis, "Rabin was murdered for political reasons." 

Yael Sinai, 32, is the current chair of the Labor youth movement. She said that 21 years after Rabin's death the Labor party is going to bounce back. "We've had good and bad times, but we have roots here and we are growing," Sinai said.

Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit said Netanyahu is attempting to change the facts of history.

“No one can erase the [1995] rally of incitement in [Jerusalem’s] Zion Square, where Netanyahu was a keynote speaker, as the crowd chanted that Rabin was a traitor,” stated Margalit.

Video from that event in Jerusalem shows Netanyahu actually responding to those calling Rabin a traitor, saying: “Rabin is not a traitor. No. He is badly mistaken and he will clear the way, but he is not a traitor, not a traitor. We are dealing with political rivals, not with enemies. We are part of the same nation.”

Meretz MK Michal Rosin, meanwhile, responded to criticism that the Rabin memorial ceremony had been politicized, by saying that it is appropriate because the murder was political.

“Bitan’s foolish words prove that, today, 21 years after Rabin’s murder, the voices of hatred, incitement and fear are heard everywhere, led proudly by the right-wing government. The peace camp is standing together to demand peace that could be here now. We will bring this peace ourselves, actively, as soon as possible.”

Dana Yanay was 16-years-old and head of the Labor youth movement when Rabin was assassinated. "After 21 years we need to say the truth," she told the Post amidst throngs of Israelis, "Rabin was murdered for political reasons." 

Yael Sinai, 32, is the current chair of the Labor youth movement. She said that 21 years after Rabin's death the Labor party is going to bounce back. "We've had good and bad times, but we have roots here and we are growing," Sinai said.

Bitan also was criticized from the Right.

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon wrote on Twitter: “Whoever voted Likud and is on the right-wing and sane side of the map, like me, should be outraged by the shameful words of MK Bitan. The ignorance and lack of shame are disturbing and dangerous.”


(Picture courtesy of: Meredith Holbrook)


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