Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
and MK Binyamin Netanyahu
used the occasion of the Knesset
session commemorating Rehavam Ze'evi
(Gandhi) to make attacks on each other.
During his speech to the specially convened plenum, Sharon noted that Ze'evi, an adamant supporter of the territories obtained in 1967, would be a staunch opponent of Sharon's current policies.
"If Gandhi were alive today he would valiantly lead the opposition against me," Sharon said. "But it is also clear to me that he would do it respectfully, politely, and in his fair and appropriate manner."
Sharon's comment came in light of increasing hostility from the Likud rebels headed by Netanyahu.
"These attacks have become increasingly bitter and out of place," said a Likud party
Netanyahu, also addressing the Knesset, recalled Ze'evi's belief that concessions such as those outlined in the Oslo accords would only strengthen extremist elements among the Palestinians.
He regretted that the concessions made by the current government contribute, according to Netanyahu, to the moral attacks by Israel's enemies, undermining the legitimacy of Israel's existence as an autonomous state.
Netanyahu lamented that Ze'evi's dismal outlook proved to be a "precise scientific diagnosis" that has been fulfilled.
A large numbers of MKs, Ze'evi's family, President Moshe Katsav
and his wife, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz
, former prime minister Ehud Barak
, and other friends of the late minister came to pay tribute to Ze'evi.
Also honoring the late minister was opposition leader Yosef Lapid (Shinui). He stated that one could, and perhaps ought to oppose Gandhi's views, but everyone must respect the man. "He represented the embodiment of Israel that we loved so much when we still loved ourselves," he eulogized.
"Gandhi, my good friend, they murdered you, but did not defeat you." Lapid concluded.
Benny Elon, leader of the Moledet faction of the National Unity Party and Ze'evi's successor also addressed the Knesset. Praising his foresight, he emphasized that the political views adopted by Ze'evi included more than just transfer of Palestinians, but included especially a deep love for the land of Israel.
Rehavam Ze'evi founded Moledet (homeland) in 1988, and served as tourism minister when he was assassinated by Palestinian terrorists of the PFLP at the Jerusalem Hyatt Hotel on October 17, 2001. He resigned his ministerial position shortly before he was killed, so that his resignation had not yet taken effect when he died.
As the leader of the most far-right party in the Knesset, his views were extremely controversial, in particular his advocacy of a "voluntary transfer of Palestinians" out of the West Bank and Gaza. However, he was well known for his vast knowledge and love of the land, the history, the people, and the State of Israel
. He was the author of many documentary books, and was appointed director of Israel Museum in Tel Aviv in 1981.