JERUSALEM (JTA) — A speech by a Likud government minister was drowned out with boos and noisemakers at an annual rally in memory of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Many in the crowd of tens of thousands of people at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv called for Tzachi Hanegbi to “get off the stage” and “apologize.”
It was the 23rd memorial held for Rabin, who was assassinated in the same public square, then called Zion Square, by extremist right-wing law student Yigal Amir.
The rally this year was planned by the civil society Darkenu movement and the National Union of Israeli Students. Darkenu said ahead of the rally that it would “focus this year on warning against an atmosphere of divisiveness, incitement and inflamed spirits ahead of the upcoming general elections.” It said it invited representatives of both the political left and right in order to continue a “civilized rhetoric” and to fight against division and break down barriers. In previous years, politicians have not been invited to speak, in an effort to de-politicize the event. Hanegbi reportedly was the only members of the right-wing camp willing to speak at the event.
The rally was hosted by Arab-Israeli newscaster Lucy Ayoub.
The right-wing movement and especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been accused of fanning the flames of hatred against Rabin after he signed the Oslo Accords, which the left said led to his assassination.
“Many in the public, and I among them, believe the [Oslo accords] were a terrible mistake. We opposed it. But when the murderer slew the prime minister, I and each and every one of my partners in that legitimate political fight felt exactly what Israelis on the other side of the ideological spectrum felt, —immense pain and sorrow,” Hanegbi said in his speech. “Had I been there, I would have taken the bullet for Rabin.”
He called on Israelis to “choose that which unifies over that which divides, restraint and moderation over grandstanding and crudeness, not give in to a reality of superficial, divisive discourse which characterizes our times.”
“It is regrettable that the memorial rally for prime minister Yitzhak Rabin has been turned into a political gathering. Those who champion freedom of speech try to silence any who don’t agree with them,” Netanyahu said in a tweet on Saturday night.
Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid said at the rally that “what happened here in this should have made us better people… that didn’t happen. We’re not better. The murder didn’t bring us closer together. The incitement is once again a tool; paranoia once again rules us. Rabin’s murder was not just murder; it was also a threat for the next murder. Because when the prime minister is murdered, it becomes an option.”
“We’re in a struggle for our country,” said Labor leader Avi Gabbay. “From this square, which is drenched in the blood of Rabin, we will say loudly: We’ve grown tired of the politics of pitting brother against brother; we’ve grown tired of the ongoing intimidation; we’ve grown tired of the incitement against the police and the IDF chief, against the president, the media and the Supreme Court; we’ve grown tired of the search for someone to blame and marking traitors.”
In remarks aimed at the young people who were not alive at the time of the attack he said: “You did not get to know a prime minister who cared, who placed security above all.,” and still attempted to reach toward peace.