NEW YORK, Nov. 2 (JTA) — President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat were among those who invoked the spirit of Yitzhak Rabin at a ceremony held in Oslo, where the Israeli-Palestinian peace process began.
Warmly recalling the slain Israeli leader Tuesday, the speakers not only recalled the tragic night of Nov. 4, 1995, when Rabin was felled by an assassin’s bullet. They also used the occasion to vow that Rabin’s hopes for a lasting peace should be brought to fruition.
Following are excerpts of speeches delivered at the commemoration:
“If Rabin were here with us today he would say, ‘There is not a moment to spare. All this honoring me and these nice words, they’re very nice — but please finish the job,’ ” the president told the hundreds who had gathered to pay homage to Rabin at Oslo’s city hall.
“We have now a chance, but only a chance, to bring real and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors,” Clinton said. “If we let it slip away, all will bear the consequences.”
Clinton added that Rabin’s life was a “lesson, teaching that old fears and suspicions can be overcome.”
“Peace entails difficulties and pain, but it is preferable to all” other options, Barak said. Addressing his political mentor as “Yitzhak, a soldier who fell in the battle for peace,” Barak added that the parties to the peace process are
“determined to give your death a meaning by following your legacy until we achieve peace.”
Barak also said he is determined to achieve a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians that “reflects the needs and sensitivities of our neighbors.”
At the beginning and end of his speech, the Palestinian leader gave a military salute to a large portrait of Rabin that graced the stage.
Rabin “possessed the courage to walk in the direction many of his equals considered to be taboo,” said Arafat, adding that the two sides are ready to build on Rabin’s legacy.
He called Rabin his partner and asked Barak, his “new peace partner,” to finish the job Rabin began.
He also used his speech to warn against the “destructive danger of Israeli settlement.”
The slain premier’s widow said her husband “fell on the altar of peace” and called on Barak and Arafat to build on his legacy.
“We have arrived at the shores of peace,” she said, turning occasionally to address her husband’s portrait.
Rabin’s successor as Israeli premier urged Barak and Arafat to overcome “daunting, difficult problems” and build the “Middle East of good neighbors” that Rabin had hoped for.
“Don’t give up,” Peres said. “We have to be daring.”