Thousands rally at the memorial for slain premier Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)
More than ever, Israel must pursue a new diplomatic effort to bring peace and preserve the country as a Jewish and democratic state, former president Shimon Peres said Saturday night at a rally in Tel Aviv nearly two decades after Yitzhak Rabin was murdered.
“Israel cannot protect its Jewish and democratic character without peace,” Peres said, speaking in front of thousands gathered at Rabin Square for an event to mark 19 years since the former prime minister’s assassination.
He cautioned against those who call for “managing the conflict,” saying “the conflict is managing us!” Peres spoke about the lack of a peace initiative on Israel’s part and the dangers posed if Israel were to someday become a binational state. He also criticized those who say the peace process has become passé or a pipe dream.
“Peace has become a derogatory term. There are those who say that those who believe in peace are naive, not patriots, delusional.
But I say to all those in a clear voice, those who give up on peace are the ones who are delusional,” Peres said.
“We can’t bring back Yitzhak, but we can bring back the hope for peace, and we must bring it back,” he added.
Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yellin told the crowd that he and other residents of the South withstood two months of fighting during Operation Protective Edge this summer.
“The IDF achieved the goals it set out for the operation, and this is the time to win the war on the diplomatic level,” he said.
“We have a country with great potential, but for years it has not been able to provide its citizens with real security and the horizons for a real peace,” he added.
Israel will continue to protect its citizens from terrorist organizations, but “as long as there isn’t a diplomatic solution, we will continue to live from war to war to war,” he said.
Addressing his remarks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yellin told him “stop being afraid of Iran and of ISIS [Islamic State]. Stop being scared of elections and for your seat. Leaders are gauged by their courage to make difficult, long-term decisions, and not by polls.”
Yellin addressed Hamas’s former prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, after rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza.
“Exchange your missiles for words, swap the tunnels and the darkness you give to your people for the building of a vision, for light, universities, education. Think about it, if you could send your family members during the war to Ichilov [Hospital, where members of Haniyeh’s family have received treatment], then think what great cooperation we could have if you put terrorism aside and extended your hand to diplomacy,” he said.
The rally’s organizers included Israeli Peace Initiative and November 4th groups, and a large number of Meretz flags and party activists in green t-shirts were present.
The theme of the rally appeared to be more political than ones in recent years, focusing on calling on the government to pursue new diplomatic efforts with the Palestinians and the Arab world instead of the usual calls for an end to violence and hatred.
Taking place in the midst of a weekend of heavy rain, it also seemed smaller than the Rabin memorial rallies held in recent years.
The theme wasn’t lost on right-wing MKs, including MK Mordechai Yogev (Bayit Yehudi), who referred to it as a “political rally.”
“If the delusional extreme Left continues to lead the memory of Yitzhak Rabin and his legacy for the purpose of founding a Palestinian state in the Land of Israel, then with their own hands they are making Rabin’s memory the province of a select few who can scream for a Palestinian state, but who’s opinion is diminishing with the Israeli public,” he said.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On welcomed the more political tone of the rally, saying “it’s true that the organizers of the rally for the late prime minister changed it into a political rally, reminding all of us that Rabin was murdered for political reasons, because he wanted to advance the Oslo Accords, which included a peace agreement and the parceling out of Israel.”
She said that the organizers put their support for such efforts at the center of the rally Saturday as an alternative to what she said are the only other options – a binational state, or what she called the current government’s desire to carry out their vision of a Greater Israel with the West Bank settlements.