JERUSALEM (Nov. 9)
Israel this week held state observances marking the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whose peace efforts with the Palestinians have been shattered by the ongoing violence in the territories.
Flags flew at half mast Thursday as the state marked the day, according to the Hebrew calendar, when Yigal Amir, a right-wing nationalist opposed to conceding land to the Palestinians, shot Rabin as he left a rally in Tel Aviv.
At a graveside memorial ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery, Prime Minister Ehud Barak said the murderer would never be granted amnesty.
“I swear, and swear for all the presidents of Israel, and prime ministers and justice ministers who are here and who will come, that we will never forget and never pardon” the murder, Barak declared. “He will rot in jail until his last day.”
The memorial day came as violence escalated in the territories. The Fatah Tanzim vowed to extract revenge for Israel’s killing earlier in the day of a senior Tanzim militia leader, when the car he was traveling in near Bethlehem was rocketed by an Israeli helicopter.
Several other Palestinians were wounded. Israel said the official, Hussein Abayad, was responsible for the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the wounding of a border policeman in the recent violence, as well as for the Palestinian shooting attacks on the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo and the Rachel’s Tomb area.
Barak, who sees himself as following in Rabin’s footsteps, wondered how his mentor would deal with the situation today.
“We try to guess, what would he have said today. How would he respond,” Barak said, vowing to uphold Rabin’s pursuit of both peace and security.
“If we are persistent, without veering from daily headlines or passing moods,” he said, and remember “the thousands of years of history behind us,” the day will come when “we can assemble here, opposite this place of rest of Yitzhak Rabin, and say, `Yitzhak, your work has been completed…your way has won,'” Barak said.
The Knesset convened in a special session. In opening remarks, Likud opposition leader Ariel Sharon also wondered how Rabin would have dealt with the current situation.
“It is impossible to know what Rabin would have done in these days. Even I wonder this often. He would have done it differently, entirely differently,” said Sharon, who added he missed the ability to consult with him.
U.S. President Clinton taped a special message, saying one of his greatest privileges as president was to have had the opportunity to know Rabin and to work with him.