Israelis Commemorate Rabin Amid New Warnings of Political Violence

Israel marked the third anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin with memorial ceremonies, as political leaders made renewed warnings about the dangers of political incitement.

After the Oct. 23 signing of the Wye River Memorandum, the latest Israeli- Palestinian peace agreement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been the target of slurs and posters similar to those directed against Rabin during anti-government demonstrations preceding his death.

Indeed, during Sunday’s official state ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Cemetery, hecklers jeered Netanyahu when he laid a wreath at Rabin’s grave, shouting that Netanyahu had incited the murder.

Police dragged two protesters from the ceremony, during which Rabin’s widow, Leah, did not shake hands with Netanyahu.

Leah Rabin had been among those in the immediate aftermath of the assassination who maintained that Netanyahu, then the opposition leader, had contributed to the atmosphere of incitement that made the assassination possible.

On Saturday evening, some 200,000 people took part in a memorial rally in Tel Aviv.

In an address to the gathering, Labor Party leader Ehud Barak had mild words of praise for the Wye agreement, which he described as “late, hesitant and full of contradictions, but better than pointless bloodshed.”

On Sunday, in addition to the Mt. Herzl ceremony, flags across the country flew at half mast and the Knesset held a special session to remember Rabin’s slaying at the hands of Yigal Amir, a right-wing extremist opposed to the transfer of any West Bank lands to the Palestinians.

Former army chief of staff Amnon Shahak, speaking at the state ceremony, lashed out at those who still engage in incitement.

“Forgive us, Rabin, for not understanding what we see,” he said. “And forgive us because there are those among us who do not know how to ask for forgiveness.

“They cannot differentiate between legitimate, ideological debate and the three bullets of a stupid fanatic,” Shahak added, referring to the shots fired by Amir. “We must take an unbending position against those in the margins, to eradicate brutality.”

At the special Knesset session, Barak called for a united effort to fight political incitement.

Netanyahu appealed to the legislators to overcome political rivalry and put an end to the sharp rifts in Israeli society.

“I hope we can extend hands and together put out the fire of hate,” the premier said. “Peace is made first with brothers.”

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