Rabin Memorial Turns into Political Slugfest

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a memorial ceremony marking 26 years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, at the Knesset, Monday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A memorial ceremony marking the 26th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin turned into a political slugfest on Monday, as Rabin family members and politicians traded accusations about responsibility for his death and the current state of democracy in Israel.

Rabin’s grandson, Yonatan Ben-Artzi, used the occasion, ostensibly meant to promote peace and national unity, to lash out at opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, who has often been blamed by the Israeli left for incitement leading up to the assassination.

“After many years of fear and paralysis, Israelis stood tall,” Ben-Artzi said, apparently referring to Netanyahu’s political defeat. “After fighting a war over Israel’s democratic character and for its freedom, the Israeli people won. And in the face of verbal and physical violence, in the face of authoritarianism and lies, the Israeli spirit won. The rule of the people prevailed over the rule of the individual.” The comments were made at a ceremony at the President’s Residence in Yerushalayim.

He further implied that the right wing, which was led by Netanyahu during the assassination and for the past 12 years, has tried to belittle the incitement against Rabin prior to the assassination.

“For a quarter of a century, Israelis have been suffering from post-trauma that has been fueled by those who have taken great joy over this pain. It’s hard to believe that this day of remembrance has turned into a day in which people try to portray seemingly two parties that were engaged in incitement just in order to reap the rewards of the divisions.”

The Likud shot back, saying Prime Minister Naftali Bennett became prime minister by political maneuvers rather than by popular support. “The people’s rule won over the individual? Exactly the opposite. The individual [Bennett] deceived the people in order to grab power away from the people.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid entered the fray, charging that far-right Knesset members are the “ideological heirs” of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir.

“Yigal Amir’s ideological heirs are today serving in Israel’s Knesset. Had we not performed the miracle of the ‘change government,’ they would be ministers in the government,” he said, referring to MK Ben Gvir, who was reportedly in the running for a government post had the Netanyahu bloc won.

Netanyahu, now opposition leader, responded to Lapid, noting that while he supported the peace agreement with Jordan brokered by Rabin, when he was opposition leader, Lapid has behaved differently.

“I’m telling this to Lapid, who spoke now in support of statesmanship, but refrained from voting for the peace agreements with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.”

Lapid’s speech was interrupted by Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich and Shas chairman Rabbi Aryeh Deri, who were escorted out of the plenum by the ushers.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made a plea for ending such divisiveness:

“I hope we learned that we cannot malign an entire community if one of its members… committed a crime,” said Bennett. “It wasn’t the right or the religious who murdered Rabin. Yigal Amir murdered him.”

He warned that bloodshed like Rabin’s assassination could lead to “losing everything we hold dear, including the state.”