President Rivlin at memorial ceremony for Rabin
President Rivlin at memorial ceremony for RabinYehonatan Weltzer/TPS

President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday spoke at the ‘Ner Yitzhak’ ceremony at Beit HaNasi in Jerusalem, which opens the official memorials for Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin, marking the 24th anniversary of his murder. Members of the Rabin family, deputy president of the Supreme Court Hanan Melcer, MK Yaakov Margi, schoolchildren and other guests also participated in the ceremony.

“Twenty-four years after the murder and it as if the question of our joint fate still remains open,” the president said at the beginning of his remarks. “Yitzhak Rabin, prime minister, leader and military commander, man of peace and Jerusalemite, officer and warrior, special son of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, killed by a Jewish assassin, one of our own. The nightmare that none of us thought could happen turned into reality. The fear that we will, with our own hands, bring about our own downfall, remains etched in our consciousness.”

The president remarked that over 30% of today’s Israelis were not born at the time of the murder, and said “the days before the murder of the prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, were a time of deep and legitimate public disagreement. That disagreement degenerated, in some cases, into criminal incitement that encouraged the murderer to into an attempted assassination of Israeli democracy. The murderer, Yigal Amir, did not only commit the terrible crime of taking a man’s life, the prime minister. He also undermined the right of legitimate protest that the citizens of Jewish and democratic Israel enjoyed, and shook the fragile trust that exists between opposing parts of the people. Opponents, and not enemies, who disagree on various political matters.”

“For nearly fifty years of our existence, we knew deep disagreements, faced serious challenges but were always inspired by a single, higher value: the existence of a shared society, based on the fundamental values of the Jewish and democratic State of Israel,” said the president. “We believed that political and national decisions would always be taken within the rules of the democratic game, based on an understanding and a belief of shared fate. The murder, that twisted, dangerous, inconceivable act, broke that trust. It shattered the belief in the Jewish ‘together’ and exposed us to the potential crisis of Israeli democracy. It proved to us that we cannot take Israeli democracy and Jewish sovereignty for granted.”

The president noted, “the challenge we face is to ask how we can ensure that political rivalry does not turn into hatred. How we can resolve all of our sectoral identities, which include outlooks and ways of thinking, with an Israeli identity? This is no simple matter, and it should be of concern to all Israeli citizens, but primarily it is a challenge for our leaders. In the last year, we have seen boycotts, exclusion and provocation by groups in Israeli society towards other groups. A view of the world that says ‘whoever is not with you is against you’. The political culture of left and right is riven with division. Discussion and argument of the issues has been replaced by fracture and fission. It is as if we have learned nothing.”

“Could murder for one’s beliefs or for one’s ideological endeavors happen in today’s Israel? I do not know. I do know that 24 years ago, I did not believe it would happen to us. But it did. On our watch. And I know that the division has not disappeared. That the disagreements between us remain deep, and that Israeli society finds it difficult to agree on the fundamentals and on the rules of the game. If we allow that division to grow, we will once again find ourselves in deep problems.”

“We must say again and again, night and day, that political discourse must never be violent. Violence is never the way to resolve conflict. We must never forget the slippery slope that leads from incitement and hatred to bloodshed. We must do everything possible to ensure that no-one is excoriated because of their political positions, be they prime minister, president, minister, MK, journalist or citizen. I call on all camps, from right to left – calm the situation, do not lend your hands to hatred. Do not close your eyes. This is not our way. This is not the Israeli way.”

The president concluded by addressing the Rabin family and thanking Dalia and Yuval for what they do. “Family, Dalia and Yuval, who work tirelessly to repair the splits created among us, from a true sense of commitment to the future of the State of Israel. May Yitzhak Rabin’s memory be blessed and held in the heart of the nation.”