The grandson of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday night to bring peace to Israel.
Yonatan Ben-Artzi, whose grandfather was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli radical following a rally for peace on November 4, 1995, called on Netanyahu to use the opportunity given to him with the current peace talks to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"For the first time in years, a special opportunity has been put in your path, to take advantage of a unique situation in order to bring peace and solve both the Iranian and Palestinian conflicts at the same time. All of this with support and encouragement from the international community," Ben-Artzi said at the end of his speech at a rally marking 18 years to Rabin's murder.
"This will not be easy, and certainly will not always popular. But history shows that leaders' [merits] are tested in unpopular times. I believe this is your time," he added.
Tens of thousands of people gathered at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Saturday night to mark the 18th anniversary of Rabin's assassination, and issue a message of anti-violence and support for democracy.
The demonstration, held under the banner “remembering he murder, struggling for democracy”, displayed many of the hallmarks of the rallies in years past – dozens of busloads of Israeli scouts, photo exhibits on the life of Rabin and the political turmoil that preceded his assassination, and banners bearing a call for tolerance and the preservation of Israeli democracy.
Rabin was shot by right-wing Israeli radical Yigal Amir while taking part in a peace rally on November 4, 1995.
Netanyahu was the leader of the opposition when Rabin was assassinated and harshly criticized the 1993 Oslo Accords that Rabin signed with then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He participated in demonstrations against Rabin and his government in the months leading to the murder. Some in the Israeli society have accused Netanyahu of taking part in the incitement of violence against Rabin.
In his speech on Saturday, Ben-Artzi stressed that he has no intention to place blame on anyone for the murder.
"The years have passed. My pain remains but I am not here to blame you for what happened," he told the prime minister in his speech.
The rally was organized by a consortium of Israeli youth groups, from the HaNoar Haoved Veh Halomed to the Beitar and Bnei Akiva youth movements, and held on the anniversary of the Hebrew date of the assassination on November 4th, 1995. The speakers were also from a wide spectrum of Israeli society, including people who were close to Rabin and those identified with movements that opposed the Oslo Accords. Adina Bar-Shalom was also supposed to be among those attending, but had to pull out after her father Rabbi Ovadia Yosef passed away last week.
Organizers said this year's rally was meant to be a call for “a renewal of our basic obligations as a society – that we work and stand guard to strengthen the democracy of israel”, according to a statement signed by organizers.
Yair Tzaban, the Minister of Immigrant Absorption in Rabin's last government, took the stage Saturday night to issue a call for the preservation of Israeli democracy, and for Israeli society to work against racist and ideologically-motivated attacks.
“My friend Yossi Sarid said Price Tag attacks are a crime against Zionism but I would go farther – they are a crime against Judaism. They tarnish our image as jews and israelis.”
He added that while “there was an argument about Oslo by those who were for it and those who were against it, but those who said “The Oslo criminals must be prosecuted” laid the groundwork for the next political murder.”
Police did not give out an official estimate of the size of the crowd, but estimates in the press hovered around 35,000, larger than in some recent years.