Speech by Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the Memorial Ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin
Oslo, Norway – November 2, 1999
Your Majesties, President Clinton, President Ahtisaari, Mrs. Leah Rabin, the Rabin family, Chairman Arafat, Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Bondevik, Prime Minister Putin, your excellencies, distinguished guests.
I came to Oslo from Jerusalem to pay tribute to Yitzhak Rabin – a soldier, a statesman and a peace-maker.
The pre-eminent author of Norway, Henrik Ibsen, wrote,
"Hvis alt du gav, foruden livet, Da vid, at du har intet givet."
"If you have given everything, except life, Then know, that you have given nothing."
These words of Ibsen capture the essence of the death of Yitzhak Rabin.
But it is Rabin’s life and vision, which shine as a beacon and inspire us to fulfill his legacy.
Rabin understood that peace, like war, starts and ends in the hearts of human beings. Standing in this very place, five years ago, Rabin said, "There is only one radical means of sanctifying human lives; neither tanks nor planes: only peace."
Acting on his own vision, Rabin lived up to his duty towards the "Young Dead Soldiers who do not Speak." The poet Archibald MacLeish expressed their sentiments: "They say: we were young. We have died. Remember us. They say: our deaths are not ours; they are yours; they will mean what you make them. They say: we leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning."
And Yitzhak was determined to give them a meaning. As he said at the peace rally, just minutes before being assassinated, "Peace entails difficulties and pain, but it is preferable to war. For the sake of our children, we must not give in. Peace will triumph over all our enemies."
And I vow to you, Yitzhak, a soldier who fell in the battle for peace, that we at the head of the new government of Israel are determined to give your death a meaning by following your legacy until we achieve peace. My government is determined to strengthen Israel and to bring prosperity to the region by putting an end to the century-old conflict between Israel and its neighbours.
We have concluded the Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement, and are currently implementing it. Ahead of us is the Framework Agreement for Permanent Status. Time is short and the challenge is demanding.
Together with my partner, Chairman Arafat, we will strive to overcome the difficulties and to reach our common goals. The road is bound to be arduous, but our positions and demands are clear and well known.
We will strive to ensure Israel’s security interests and vital needs; but, at the same time, we will seek to achieve a fair settlement which reflects the needs and sensitivities of our neighbours. All disagreements must be resolved only through negotiations. This is our duty towards our children and future generations of the entire region.
I recall the day Rabin was notified of the Nobel Peace Prize. On that very day, an Israeli soldier, Nachshon Wachsman, was murdered by terrorists. During the rescue attempt, one of our officers, Nir Poraz, son of a fallen Israeli Air Force pilot, was also killed. Wachsman’s father and Poraz’s mother are here with us today. The day of the Nobel Award for Rabin, Peres and Arafat turned into a horrible day. I was with Rabin during these moments, and I saw him in his agony. There was nothing like that day to symbolize Rabin’s entire life – the battle for freedom and security and the struggle for peace. And today, Wachsman’s father meets regurlarly with beraved Palestinian families in Gaza, illustrating that the peace we seek is not only a diplomat’s peace, but a people’s peace.
There are still many who will try to sabotage the peace process. But courageous leadership must rise to the occasion and summon the will to overcome every obstacle.
Today, we honor Norway for helping to open the way to peace, and particularly the late Foreign Minister Johan Jorgen Holst.
The journey started here led on to the White House lawn – where our friend and partner President Clinton presided over that indelible handshake of healing and hope – and then to the Nobel Peace Prize for Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat.
Today, we pay tribute to the heroes of peace, who are no longer with us – Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin and King Hussein, who walked a new road of hope and taught us that peace required painful decisions.
I still mourn the death of Yitzhak, my commander and mentor. And I tell you, Yitzhak, that you are fallen dead, but your spirit and will are stronger than ever.
So today, I pledge to you, Yitzhak, to all our neighbors, and to the whole world – to travel the course you charted and to finish the journey you’ve led towards security and peace.
Only then, when we reach this destination, will we proclaim, in the words of Walt Whitman,
"O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done; The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
O Captain! My Captain! Rise up and hear the bells; Rise up – for you the flag is flung – for you the bugle trills."
And here today I bring to all of you the prayer that we will see in the not too distant future the fulfillment of the vision of Psalms about Jerusalem, "May peace be within your walls, tranquility within your palaces".
This is our hope. This is our responsibility.