Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smotrich drew criticism on Sunday evening and Monday after accusing Israeli security forces of "failing to protect" former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, during a Knesset ceremony memorializing the assassinated prime minister on Sunday.
Smotrich insisted in his speech that it was not "harsh words" that killed Rabin, but rather "a vile murderer in the form of Yigal Amir and those who failed to protect prime minister Yitzhak Rabin."
Smotrich additionally claimed that security forces "encouraged" the man who assassinated Rabin, Yigal Amir, to murder the prime minister with "irresponsible manipulations, which until today have not been fully revealed."
The Religious Zionist party leader appeared to be citing conspiracy theories that claim that officials seen as allies of Rabin in the Israeli government and Israeli security forces orchestrated the assassination of Rabin.
Officials in the Shin Bet expressed outrage at Smotrich's comments on Sunday evening, telling Israeli media, "Precisely on this day, an elected official chose to encourage conspiracies and discredit an organization whose entire mission is countering terrorism in any form and protecting the security of the state. Statements that encourage extremist discourse must be condemned."
Smotrich responded to the criticism from the Shin Bet on Sunday, saying that it is "unfortunate that the Shin Bet disavows responsibility for its failures in Rabin's murder."
The Religious Zionist head additionally pointed to the Shamgar Commission which found that an agent used by the Shin Bet codenamed "Champagne" (identified as Avishai Raviv) "carried out provocations and contributed by act and omission to the horrible murder and adds insult to injury and attacks an elected official because of it."
The Shamgar commission determined that Rabin's murder was the result of security failures at the scene, a lack of coordination between the various bodies of the defense establishment and a failure to follow instructions and procedures.
"The inability of a state body to accept factual criticism and to make amends should worry every Israeli citizen," added Smotrich.
Former Shin Bet chief and Likud MK Avi Dichter also condemned Smotrich's statement on Sunday evening, calling them "disconnected from reality."
"This statement harms the good name of the organization and its people who work day and night to protect the citizens of the State of Israel," said Dichter.
The Darkenu Movement called on Netanyahu to condemn Smotrich's statements. "These are horrible things that should not have been saying. The echo of conspiracy theories of this kind is dangerous and disgraces the memory of the late Rabin."
The uproar continued on Monday.
"MK Smotrich's severe statement that the Shin Bet encouraged the assassination of the late Prime Minister Rabin is a false and extremely wrong accusation," former chief of staff and National Unity Party number three Gadi Eisenkot wrote on Facebook.
"The choice to say these extreme and controversial things, from the stage of the Knesset on the National Day of Remembrance for Rabin's murder, indicates MK Smotrichs path. There is no place for such statements in Israel, especially not by an elected official. I call on his future partners in the government to condemn his harsh words," Eisenkot wrote.
Smotrich issued a statement on Monday morning.
"There is no conspiracy – the revolting murderer Yigal Amir killed prime minister Yizhak Rabin, may his memory be a blessing, and we are all still hurting and shocked by the terrible murder," Smotrich said.
"Yes, there was a large failure by the Shin Bet's Jewish Division, and yes, to this day it refuses to take responsibility. The media as it usually does again is distorting and twisting [what I said]. So turn off the radio and take 15 minutes to watch the entire speech and judge for yourself," Smotrich said."
Additional statements on Rabin
In his speech on Sunday during the Knesset memorial, Smotrich raised eyebrows with a number of additional statements.
He welcomed the decision by Rabin's family to not speak during the ceremony, calling it "precisely the message of reconciliation that it is time for us all to carry."
Smotrich expressed outrage that many far-right activists were blamed for inciting the assassination, saying "the factory of blame that even today, 27 years later, produces more and more accusations against more than half of the nation that is accused of responsibility for the murder committed by a vile murderer. 'He pulled the trigger,' they say, 'but you all stood behind him.'"
"Instead of trying to find the unifier, the partnership of the whole nation in the resolute opposition to political murder - a line that must never be crossed in a democratic country - this day became a day of accusations, where half of the people, the right wing, the religious Zionists, the settlers, the rabbis, the demonstrators who fought with the blood of their hearts against the disaster of the Oslo Accords, the opposition, the chairman of the opposition, are all accused, to this day, in harsh and blunt words, of being responsible for the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin," said Smotrich.
"We live in a democratic country and in a democratic country, it is permitted to express opposition, even loudly, against the government's actions. This is the lifeblood of Israeli democracy," said Smotrich. "It is permitted to demonstrate, it is allowed to shout and, yes, it is also allowed to say harsh words and not every harsh word is incitement."
The far-right leader rejected Rabin's efforts at reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, saying that the prime minister had led the State of Israel through a "destructive process."
Smotrich's ties with Kahanist Ben-Gvir
Smotrich's Religious Zionist list includes the Otzma Yehudit party led by Itamar Ben-Gvir, a former member of the far-right Kahanist Kach movement which was designated as a terrorist organization by the Israeli government.
Shortly before Rabin's murder in 1995, Ben-Gvir appeared on television brandishing an emblem taken from the prime minister's car, stating "We got to his car, we'll get to him too."