A memorial gathering in Tel Aviv Saturday night marking 12 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin drew a crowd of about 100,000 people. Roads surrounding the centrally located Rabin Square were closed to traffic, and hundreds of police officers and volunteers provided security.
Several politicians and other public figures spoke at the event, including President Shimon Peres, Labor party head and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Rabin's son Yuval. Leading entertainers such as Shlomi Shabat, Rami Kleinstein, Sarit Hadad, Ahinoam Nini, Aviv Gefen, and others performed.
In his speech, Yuval Rabin sharply criticized the justice system for permitting the convicted Jewish assassin, Yigal Amir, to hold a circumcision ceremony for his son in prison on Sunday. Both Rabin and Barak charged that public incitement led to the assassination, and that such incitement continues today. Barak said that there are public figures who incited to murder "still walking among us." President Peres told the attendees at the gathering that they were "Yitzchak Rabin's heirs."
Several leftist groups and political parties were represented among the crowd, with some handing out stickers calling on the government to create an additional Arab state. Other demonstrators carried signs saying, "We will not forget and we will not forgive."
There were no public figures in attendance from the Likud party, headed by Binyamin Netanyahu, or from the Kadima party, headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Knesset Member Nissan Slomiansky of the National Union-National Religious Party attended the event, as he has done every year since Rabin's death.
'Don't Make Due With the Belief That it Won't Happen'
"It is inconceivable," Yuval Rabin declared, "that, in emotional insensitivity and disregard for public opinion, the prosecution would support, and the Attorney General would back, and the High Court would approve, the shameful decision of two days ago in the Tel Aviv District Court. In outrageous astonishment, Judge Tzvi Gurfinkel wondered what great disaster there was in holding the [Amir] circumcision ceremony in jail, concluding that the appellant is a Jew. A Jew, in my eyes, is a law-abiding person of values, a son of the nation who bequeathed to humanity the universal moral code of the Ten Commandments, among them, the commandment 'Thou shalt not murder.'"
Rabin warned that the potential release of Yigal Amir is near: "What began as permission to get married and have children and perform the circumcision will end with the killer happily walking free among us in the company of his children.... Don't make due with the belief that it won't happen."
Touching on the political legacy of his father, Rabin claimed that the land-for-peace concept has proven victorious: "What was the daring of yesterday has become the consensus of today."
Former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin launched the Oslo Process in 1993 to bring peace by granting land and arms to Yasser Arafat and his PLO terrorist organization in exchange for promises of peace. Since the September, 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, some 1,500 Israelis were murdered by Arab terrorists in Israel.
'Yitzchak is Not Here, But You Are'
"Yitzchak is not here. But you are here. You came not just to remember, but to take responsibility, to continue along the path, not be frightened, never to give up, to remain solid as a rock when moving towards peace. You have the right to speak - raise your voices. If you have the ability to lead - use it," President Shimon Peres told the crowd. "The torch is in your hands. There is nothing more important than to carry it. You are Yitzchak Rabin's heirs. Yitzchak Rabin's legacy is an Israel of security, peace and light."
Regarding the peace process, Peres declared, "No peace ever resembled the plans made ahead of time, but every peace [process] ended in peace."
'We Long for the State of 12 Years Ago'
Defense Minister Ehud Barak took his speech in an explicitly political direction, apparently swiping at Prime Minister Olmert and other national figures, saying, "We miss the state and society we were 12 years ago - even if we eliminate nostalgia - a state in which leadership was a mission and not a job, a state in which shame placed boundaries to insolence, a state in which most citizens knew in most issues what was bad and what was good, what was appropriate and what was not, even without legal opinions from the Attorney General and without decisions of the High Court of Justice."
Continuing the political theme, Barak called the upcoming multilateral Middle East conference in Annapolis "an opportunity and not a threat." He went on to instruct the crowd, "The obligation of our camp today is to open new channels for peace everywhere possible. And we promise you, Yitzchak, that your path will be victorious. We will do all in our power to reach the peace for which you fought and for which you fell."
Barak also charged, "There are walking among us even today public leaders - with or without quotation marks - who were partners to the incitement [that preceded the Rabin assassination] and I am not sure if they ever recognized their part...."
As for the assassin, Amir, Barak said, "His punishment will not be commuted, he will not be pardoned, and the prison doors will remain closed to him until the end of his days."