katsav at rabin service .
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Citing a "worrying and horrifying" Dahaf Institute poll which found that a third of the Israeli public believes Yigal Amir should be pardoned, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday that such figures reflect "a most severe educational failure."
"A poll clearly has no practical meaning. According to law, the murderer of the prime minister cannot ever go free - and it is impossible to grant him clemency, not now and not in the future," said Olmert of the survey, taken last week, during his remarks at a special Knesset session to mark the 11th anniversary of the Rabin assassination.
However, he said that the poll "bears witness to... the injury to what should have been the natural vaccination of a healthy Israeli society. The natural antibodies, which should have ensured that the prime minister's murderer would forever be left outside of Israeli society, have apparently been severely weakened."
The prime minister expressed particular concern over the survey's implications for the religious community, 14 percent of whom supported pardoning Amir immediately, while another 50% supported doing so in the future.
"This failure among a section of the religious public is especially worrying; 14% of this public, and I emphasize - this is taken from the results of a public opinion poll alone - who fast during the Fast of Gedalyahu, and mourn the wicked political murder of Gedalyahu, son of Achikam 2,500 years ago, support immediate clemency for the prime minister's murderer," said Olmert.
"It is because of the immense appreciation I have for members of the religious public in Israel that I call on its leaders not to ignore the results of this poll, which obligates us all to soul-searching."
Olmert's position was echoed by opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, both of whom stressed that Amir never be allowed to walk free.
Last week, a bill was presented to the Knesset by Kadima MKs Ruhama Avraham, Avigdor Yitzhaki and Amira Dotan along with Labor MK Ami Ayalon which would prevent the murderer of a prime minister from ever being pardoned by a president.
While much of Olmert's speech discussed the "weaknesses" of Israeli society, he ended his speech with a note on how the state could begin to heal.
Israel has had 31 governments in 59 years, said Olmert, a sign of the many changes that needed to be made in the system of government.
In recent weeks, talk of creating a constitution has picked up in the Knesset, with Law Committee Chairman Menachem Ben-Sasson predicting that a constitution would be ready within two years. Such a constitution, said Olmert, could ensure that government reforms were instituted by broad national agreement.
"It is true that Israeli democracy has its weaknesses - but a murderer's bullets will not cure this weakness," said Olmert.
While many of the MKs spoke of the need for unity on Rabin's memorial day, the growing rift between the Knesset's Arab MKs and the rest of their colleagues was on display, as none of the MKs from the three Arab parties attended the memorial services.
The chairmen of the Kadima, Labor and Likud parties criticized the absence of the Arab party factions from the memorial service.
"The absence from the ceremony was unfitting, harms the sector that they represent and expresses contempt for the ceremony, which expresses an obligation to Israel democracy," they wrote in a joint statement.
Hadash Chairman MK Muhammad Barakei responded to the criticism by stating "our absence from Yitzhak Rabin's memorial in the Knesset wasn't intentional but was rather caused by an unfortunate chain of events. A memorial to Rabin is not just undertaken in ceremonies, but rather by teaching the lessons of democracy. Rabin's legacy obligates the protection of democracy from its opponents and the promotion of peace."
At the memorial ceremony for Rabin at his grave site on Mount Herzl, Yuval Rabin, the slain prime minister's son, gave an emotional speech in which he mourned the loss of a loving father and devoted leader.
"There are those among us who will return to their daily routine," he said, "but we will not forget the brightness that lit up his face at every family gathering, the father who would eat quickly because he had no time. We will remember, too, the furrowed brow, concerned over the situation of the State of Israel."