Thirteen years ago, the late Yitzhak Rabin, along with Shimon Peres and a great many good people, started out on a path which was unavoidable. The direction was inevitable and reality proved that it was stronger than the murderer’s bullets.
Address by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the special Knesset session marking 13 years since the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
Madam Speaker of the Knesset, Dalia Itzik,
Honorable President of the State, Shimon Peres,
President of the Supreme Court, Justice Dorit Beinish,
Members of the Rabin Family,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of Knesset,
Every year we return to the Knesset in order to make proclamations in commemoration of a prime minister, the only one in the history of the State, who was murdered by a fellow Jew. Yitzhak Rabin – may his memory be blessed. We have a choice – to speak festive words, fill the space of this special hall with slogans, pay lip service to the special circumstances obligated by this special event – or we can pretend for a moment that we are in a closed room, sealed off from the clamorous voices outside and speak to one another in simple words whose meaning cannot be mistaken. Let us speak truthfully.
I do not intend to stand at this podium many more times, but while I am here, I wish to say to you that which is essential to say so that we do not miss this shared opportunity to do some soul-searching about our existence, our future, our fate – with honesty.
Yitzhak Rabin was murdered 13 years ago as a result of a methodical campaign of hate, incitement and instigation, and in which many parties played a part – near and far, fellow Israelis and consultants from abroad – until someone evil and despicable drew the murder weapon.
Shortly after Rabin’s murder, Haim Guri, the late Prime Minister’s friend and fellow classmate at the Kadouri Agricultural School, wrote the following lines: "I had heard that a political murder such as this one could be a turning point in the life of nations, during which consciousness changes and things seem different, and therefore Israel afterwards would necessarily be better. They say that an entire young generation, one thrown into such a frightening experience, would never make peace with the violence, the blindness, the hatred and the despair which led to this disaster…"
Unfortunately, Guri’s hope has yet to be realized. Today, 13 years later, the incitement is not reduced; the instigation has not decreased; the hatred has not dissipated. Israeli citizens strike Palestinians who wish to harvest their olives, as they have for centuries in the places where their personal and family homes were located, with brutal violence – and no one puts a stop to it.
Young Israelis, gripped by messianic dreams which have no basis in the reality of our lives – beat our soldiers, break their bones, threaten their lives – and no one stops them.
I say these difficult words not just to other people, but also to us, to the Government, to the law enforcement agencies, to my ministerial colleagues, and first and foremost to myself.
We stand here using grandiose words about what was and can never happen again, and accept those things which are increasingly leading to the next murder – and we do not do the simplest, most obvious things to stop it. This cannot continue. I will not let it continue.
There is no political consideration or temporary convenience that can prevent me from exercising all the powers granted the prime minister in order to stop it. And I am not thinking of myself, but rather of the prime minister who will follow me.
Thirteen years ago, the late Yitzhak Rabin, along with Shimon Peres and a great many good people, started out on a path which was unavoidable. There was a basis for disagreement with them – and I too was part of it and I shared my opinion and even voted against them. However, the direction was inevitable and reality proved that it was stronger than the murderer’s bullets. I am not trying to retroactively justify the Oslo Accords, with which I disagreed. However, a direction was defined – and that direction was inevitable.
Since that time, after having learned to live with the feelings of guilt and pain resulting from the costs of the Oslo Accords – the continuation of terror and the disappointment of the diplomatic standstill – we have returned to the heart of the disagreement. Only this time, the decisive moment is growing closer and we are standing at its threshold.
This decision will be difficult and painful and will intensify the internal disagreement which for years has been and is being conducted by the Israeli public. Any new Government will not be able to avoid such a confrontation. If it wants to: it will have to risk a difficult domestic confrontation unlike any previously experienced. If it refuses: it will lose the international sympathy and support granted to the State of Israel by the international community since the Disengagement and for the duration of the present Government’s tenure.
Whoever thinks and believes that he can avoid the decision while at the same time maintaining Israel’s international position; whoever assumes he can continue the internal status quo and also benefit from the warm and supporting embrace of the leaders of the Western world, especially those who support Israel and are friendly towards it – is deluding himself and may deceive the Israeli public. Whoever thinks it is possible to avoid the decision and continue to build a broad system of relations with Arab and Muslim countries, as we are doing today – is living in a dream.
I am convinced that we have no realistic option other than an internal decision, and I am afraid of its consequences to the fragile fabric of the tense relations which already typify sections of the Israeli public. The Government, any government, must tell the truth, and this truth, unfortunately, will obligate us to rip away many portions of the homeland – in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. This decision, when it is made, will not be an indictment against the settlers, the vast majority of whom are not violent, but rather an integral part of a dedicated, loyal public, one which loves the land and builds it up.
This is the time to appeal to that public and say: you are unparalleled in your love of the land, in your dedication to it, in your willingness to sacrifice yourselves for it. There were moments, which we were all party to, during which we desired with all our hearts to leave our indelible mark on the land. I too was party to it. We were wrong; we did not see the big picture; we thought we could succeed in having a country which was Jewish, democratic, decent, violence-free, one which welcomed and embraced its neighbors within the borders of our sovereignty. It will not work. It is already not working. It claimed a price from us which we do not have the moral strength to bear – and it will claim even heavier costs – which will unravel the fragile bonds which still preserve the social solidarity of Israeli society.
I am not criticizing anybody nor am I preaching. I do not have the right to do so. However, I do have the duty to appeal to you, the builders and settlers, and tell you with great respect and appreciation that you too must search your souls and reach a decision.
Not due to conflict and strife, not due to the rift which will tear the most sensitive fabric of our agonizing society, but rather as a result of inevitable acceptance, as a result of noble understanding – that this is the only way – one strewn with dangers and uncertainty, paved with obstacles – but the only way. What is the significance of these memorial ceremonies in honor of Yitzhak Rabin if they do include the understanding that we cannot assist – under any circumstances, in any case – in the creation of an atmosphere that regresses to those dark days.
I see you before me – Dalia, Yuval, Rachel and the entire family. You do not need the collective memory of your father in these events, for he is engraved in your personal consciousnesses each and every day of the year.
You are here, we are here, the people of Israel are here – in order to learn a lesson, to establish stable values so that we can build a future worthy of the actions and memory of your father, a leader of Israel, a courageous fighter in the battlefield and in the field of diplomacy.
I am bound by this command – every day, until the final day of this Government. The Government will continue to strengthen the country’s borders, to ready a response for those who attack it, to stop the terrorists who threaten us – while at the same time not stopping to conduct negotiations on all fronts and with all possible partners – the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Lebanese – as part of a genuine effort to reach an agreement, or at least establish its foundations, so that it cannot be evaded in the future.
This is how I honor the late Yitzhak Rabin – and so will the Government of Israel under my leadership – all its members, anyone who serves in it.