Barak, Peres call for peace talks in Rabin memorials

Netanyahu misses memorial ceremonies in Knesset, Mount Herzl due to father-in-law’s death; Rivlin, Livni condemn ‘price tag’ vandalism.

President Shimon Peres at Rabin memorial 311 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
President Shimon Peres at Rabin memorial 311
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
The Knesset honored the memory of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on Wednesday, with a special session in which Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich spoke.
Earlier Wednesday, President Shimon Peres spoke at Mount Herzl, where Rabin is buried, calling on the Palestinian leadership to return immediately to direct negotiations with Israel.
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Addressing Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood outside the framework of negotiations with Israel, Peres said that “peace will not be achieved in the UN, because the UN cannot give independence to the Palestinians or security to Israel.”
“I believe that we can renew the peace process with the Palestinians that Yitzhak began,” he said. “I turn to the Palestinian leadership and advise them to return to the negotiating table in order to solve the disagreements that remain.”
Barak also called for negotiations in his speech to the Knesset, calling Rabin “a man of action who fought for peace.”
“Leaders need to follow Rabin’s legacy, be active and avoid bending the truth, even when it’s difficult,” the defense minister said. “Rabin waved two flags: Security and peace, and building a model society.”
“We must truly try to find a way to bring about two states for two peoples. This is a clear Israeli interest. The conflict with the Palestinians is not the reason for the Arab Spring, but solving it can reduce tensions and help us deal with efforts to delegitimize Israel,” he explained.
Barak said Israel needs “social and political renewal that will bring us back to what we dreamed of and what we are destined to be. Rabin would have acted, and made the dream and vision of the young people [in social protests] a reality.”
“If we will it, it is no dream,” Barak added, paraphrasing Theodor Herzl.
“The day Yitzhak Rabin was murdered was one Israel’s most horrible days since its founding,” Ya'alon said. “On this memorial day, 16 years after Rabin’s murder, we can say that, despite everything, our nation is united in its strong desire for peace – peace without giving up our right to live this land, without giving up our right to protect the security of the Israeli people, and with Jerusalem as our united capital.
This is what Rabin believed, and said in his last speech to this plenum.”
The deputy prime minister said that Rabin’s assassination “must teach us that even when there are disagreements, we may not raise our hand [to hurt] each other.
“We must condemn such acts again and again, and use the full force of the law to stop terrorism and fear-mongering against people with different opinions,” Ya’alon said.
Netanyahu was unable to attend the ceremony as planned, because his father-in-law, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, died on Wednesday afternoon.
Ben-Artzi, 97, was an author and teacher, and in recent months, lived in the Prime Minister’s Residence, where his daughter, Sara Netanyahu, took care of him.
Rivlin slammed “price tag” vandalism against Arabs and left-wing Israelis, calling it “Jewish terrorism,” during the special Knesset ceremony.
“Rabin’s assassination carries two messages on democracy: We must have zero tolerance for political violence, and at the same time, we must avoid demonization of political groups and minorities,” he said. “We must avoid gross and negligent generalizations, as those who opposed Oslo faced after the murder.
“The phenomenon known as ‘price tag’ is perhaps the clearest test of our ability to implement these lessons,” Rivlin continued. “First of all, this is not a ‘price’ or a ‘tag’ – this is terrorism. These villainous criminals, who harmed houses of prayer, fields, homes and property belonging to Palestinians, are Jewish, and this is ‘Jewish terrorism,’ that should be called nothing else.”
“It is about time that we remove from our lexicon the hateful term ‘price tag,’” Livni said in her speech. “If Yigal Amir had another minute before he was caught, there is no doubt that he would spraypaint the words ‘price tag’ in the square [where he shot Rabin]. It is time that those elements pay the price for what they are trying to do to Israeli society.”
Livni acknowledged Rivlin’s statement, that condemnation for “price tag” incidents should not be generalized for entire population groups. However, she said, “there is another truth that we cannot ignore on this day. There is an argument and a conflict over our authority here – is it the law, or is it Torah and Halacha.
“I feel that I must say these things, even though they are not easy to say, because we’ve learned that when we don’t say things, we pay the price in the end,” Livni said. “Rabin understood this. He could have retired [from the IDF] filled with praise and wrote his memoirs.
Instead he chose politics, which he did not like, in order to lead and steer the nation through the storms that surround us.”
After Rabin’s assassination, the opposition leader explained, “we went through a number of phases: The initial shock, the anger at the other side, and the separation of the different camps. Now is the time in which all Zionists must fight together for their values.”
Yacimovich spoke last, telling the plenum that when Rabin was 19 years old, he gave up an engineering scholarship in the US so that he could join the Palmah pre-state underground militia.
“He picked a difficult path, the path of acting for the collective and not the individual,” she said. “Rabin’s generation is remembered as brave people with a Spartan lifestyle that sacrificed and built a growing, democratic state with social responsibility.
“But even then, Tel Aviv’s cafes and clubs were full,” Yacimovich continued. “Choices always existed: Should I promote my career, myself, or should I use my talents for the greater good? “Rabin decided at age 19, and continued to make this decision throughout his life,” the Labor MK added. “He wasn’t a saint or the king of Israel. He didn’t have the patience to lie, even when the truth annoyed others. But he had the strength of a person who truly loved the state. He was willing to sit in the opposition for years and not act selfishly, because he knew the time would come for him to act for the state’s betterment.”
In recent years, she explained, “governments didn’t take responsibility for their citizens; there was no social solidarity.
The values-driven discussions on the purpose of our life here almost disappeared.”
However, Yacimovich concluded her speech by saying that “the Facebook generation is doing the opposite of what it was taught. They are leaving their computer screens and caring for others. Like Rabin, they have values and are acting to build the future.”
Rabin’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended both memorial ceremonies, and Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch was present during the speeches in the Knesset.
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) announced that he was boycotting the ceremony, which he called “incitement against the Israeli Right.”
“I will not participate in this festival of hate,” Ben-Ari said.
“Rabin’s cruelty turned into a platform for left-wing propaganda, and therefore I cannot be a part of it.”
MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union) attended the Knesset meeting, but released a statement afterward saying that “it is unfortunate that in all of the speeches that condemned violence, no one mentioned the incessant Arab-nationalist attacks on Israeli citizens in the Galilee, the Negev, Jerusalem, and the east and west of the Land of Israel.
“Arabs steal flocks of sheep, chase shepherds and farmers, burn forests and destroy fields, defile Jewish gravestones – but no one opened his mouth,” Katz said. “Israel’s leaders must change their pathetic and insulting Diaspora attitude of blaming ourselves when Jews are being harmed.”