Netanyahu at Rabin event: My life is threatened, no one does a thing

Part of Rabin’s legacy is telling the truth, keeping promises, remaining strong under pressure, which is missing now, Lapid says

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the Knesset on the 25th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assasination, October 29, 2020 (photo credit: SHMULIK GROSSMAN/KNESSET SPEAKER'S OFFICE)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the Knesset on the 25th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assasination, October 29, 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday his life is threatened on a daily basis, but the threats are not being taken seriously.
“We cannot trample freedom of expression, but at the same time, we cannot accept incitement to murder from any side or sector,” he said at the Knesset memorial service for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. “Not against Jews, not against Arabs, not against protesters and not against leaders. Today, 25 years after Rabin’s assassination, there is this incitement to murder the prime minister and his family every day, and almost no one does anything.”
When opposition members took offense at Netanyahu for equating threats against him with Rabin’s assassination by a right-wing extremist, he said he could give examples.
During his speech, Netanyahu, who was opposition leader when Rabin was murdered, defended his behavior at the time.
Netanyahu reminded the MKs that at the time, he said not to call Rabin a traitor but to criticize him for giving away land in the Oslo process and calling victims of terrorism “sacrifices for peace.”
“I had an obligation to express my opposition to Rabin,” Netanyahu said.
He accused the press then and now of being monolithic and presenting only one side and warned against silencing political rivals.
“Accusing rivals of incitement to murder just because of their fierce opposition to political policies is completely undemocratic and harms freedom of expression,” Netanyahu said.
Economy Minister Amir Peretz, who holds Rabin’s former post of Labor Party chairman, blamed Netanyahu and others for the environment ahead of the assassination, saying that the hate of Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, was fed to him by “sources of authority.”
Part of Rabin’s legacy is leadership telling the truth, keeping promises and remaining strong under pressure, opposition leader Yair Lapid told the Knesset. Such leadership is missing in the government now, he said.
Oslo was a flawed process, but it was a better alternative than doing nothing, which is the policy of the current government on the Palestinian issue, Lapid said.
At the earlier memorial service for Rabin at the President’s Residence, Defense Minister Benny Gantz lauded recent peace agreements with Arab states within the region but underscored that they are meaningless “if we do not make peace among ourselves.”
Gantz said although he had not known Rabin well, he was familiar with his style of leadership and with what he had done for the country, advocating that everyone in their personal behavior should strive to set an example.
President Reuven Rivlin hosted the commemoration ceremony for Rabin for the seventh and last time during his tenure. He would have liked the 25th anniversary ceremony to be conducted differently, he said, but unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic interfered with such plans.
As a result, the ceremony was conducted on an outdoor terrace with minimal attendance, whereas in past years it had been conducted indoors in the presence of many of Rabin’s family, followers and friends.
For the first time, Rachel Yaakov, Rabin’s 95-year-old sister, did not make the journey to Jerusalem from Kibbutz Manara near the Lebanese border to join the rest of the family at commemoration ceremonies. Likewise, the many children from schools named for Yitzhak Rabin were also absent, with the exception of four youngsters who joined Rivlin in lighting the multi-wick memorial candle.
Throughout his presidency, which concludes in July 2021, Rivlin’s focus has been on three principal themes: the closing of gaps between the four main sectors (or tribes as he calls them) of Israel’s population; insistence that there is no contradiction between a Jewish and a democratic state; and national unity coupled with global Jewish unity despite ideological and religious differences.
The goals for which he has worked so diligently have not materialized, he said, adding that 25 years after Rabin’s assassination, it pains him that the “country is divided like the Red Sea, and hatred bubbles up beneath our feet. It cannot be that signs calling for the death of citizens are on display. It cannot be that journalists live under threat. It cannot be that citizens beat other citizens. It cannot be that police face severe verbal assault.
“And it cannot be that someone will consider that the assassination of a prime minister, president or member of Knesset is even a possibility. It cannot be that we permit the next possible murder – even the slightest possibility – by what we say or what we fail to say, by looking or failing to look, by actions or by inaction.”
Rivlin said he had not deviated from the political views he held 25 years ago, which differed greatly from those of Rabin, but that did not diminish his admiration for Rabin as a leader.
Betraying emotion even after 25 years, Dalia Rabin, daughter of the former prime minister, voiced appreciation to Rivlin for going ahead with the Nir Yitzhak (Memorial Candle) ceremony despite the circumstances. She was also appreciative that Gantz had spoken from the heart.
Describing her father as a shy, modest man despite the leadership he displayed as a soldier, diplomat and politician, she said he would not have wanted to be remembered through state ceremonies and schools and streets being named after him.•