Knesset speaker's speech angers MKs

Rivlin address at Rabin ceremony blasts "crusade" against Oslo opponents.

rivlin in knesset 298  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
rivlin in knesset 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In a special Knesset session Monday evening marking the 10th anniversary of the Hebrew date of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) took the opportunity to make statements concerning the memorialization of the late prime minister that even before their delivery, caused an uproar among Knesset members. The address was one of five speeches delivered at the special memorial session; the other speakers were Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Opposition leader Yosef Lapid (Shinui), Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres and MK Efraim Sneh (Labor). The audience included almost all members of the Knesset, foreign dignitaries representing 26 nations, former presidents and prime ministers and members of Yitzhak Rabin’s family. Rivlin's speech lamented the attempt to hold those who refuse to justify the Oslo Accords as responsible for the murder, which he described as “reminiscent of the Crusades.” While noting that, “Rabin was killed because of his political orientation, because of [the] Oslo [Accords],” he admonished that “one must also note that it is not enough to assign greater moral importance to his political stance.” Rivlin also objected to the intertwining of the assassination’s memory with what has become known as the Rabin legacy, in what he termed “a package deal,” noting that “it is not because of the Rabin legacy that we have come together today, but rather because of the murder, because of the unrelenting shock, because of the shame that the murderer has brought on us all…and because we are not sure we can withstand another murder.” He warned that if the condemnation of the assassination continues to be mingled with backing of the late prime minister’s political views, then “within 20 or 30 years, Rabin’s assassination will be forgotten, and will remain only in the memories of those who have experienced it personally.” Rivlin’s protest against what he called the persecution of the right wing angered many outside of the Likud, even before the speech was delivered Monday evening, “It is a shame that the Knesset speaker uses his position to transmit a political and ideological message in a national event,” responded Ilan Leibovitch (Shinui). “I truly regret that he always chooses to say the wrong thing at the wrong time,” he added. MK Yuli Tamir (Labor) told The Jerusalem Post that the speaker’s statements were very serious. She claimed that Rivlin was attempting to erase the memory of Rabin’s deeds. “It constitutes cooperation with those who were successful in trying to silence Rabin,” she reproached. Other speakers at the special session sounded more unifying notes in their speeches. Sharon - criticized by many for his presence at an anti-Rabin rally in Zion Square prior to Rabin’s assassination at signs were raised showing Rabin in an SS uniform - emphasized the need for national unity. “We must remember where hatred, intolerance can take us. There are no shortcuts in the formation of a society that is largely immigration based,” Sharon said. “Oz wrote that democracy is based on people’s rights to be different from each other,” he continued, saying that “we are different not because others have not seen the light, but because there are lights, no one light, opinions, not one opinion.” Sharon recalled his own difficult struggle throughout the past year, during which many of the same allegations sounded against Rabin in the past were recycled with Sharon’s name: “In the last year our unity has withstood its toughest test as different groups tried to undermine the national institutions,” he said in reference to summer’s pullout. He added that “Rabin said: Even if everyone doesn’t see eye to eye, even if there are differences of opinions, its good to debate but also to grit your teeth and move on together.” Lapid focused his brief remarks on the personal attributes of Rabin, saying that he was “salt of the earth, straight as a ruler, a brave warrior, tough and shy, moderate and smart. He marked the na ve, hardworking Israel. His integrity was flawless.... In my views he is a symbol of something we were and was lost along the way.” Nevertheless, the Shinui leader did not refrain from offering his own political spin on Rabin’s legacy, dubbing Rabin “a secular martyr” whose “vision will accompany us for ten, a hundred, a thousand years.”