Three things we must preserve – teaching tolerance and anti-violence, strengthening security as the basis for our existence, and striving pragmatically for peace with our neighbors. These are the three things Yitzhak Rabin believed in.
Many things have changed in Israel and around the world in the 17 years since Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. I would like to mention three main changes and three things we must preserve.
The first change that took place is that there is a new generation. Most Israeli students were born after the murder and therefore it is important that this dramatic, tragic event be taught to each and every generation. It must not become a dry fact; we must make certain that its full significance is instilled in this new generation and in the generations to come. To do so, we must first ensure that the murderer receive no absolution or forgiveness, and we must also ensure that the State of Israel has free public dialogue – free in its diversity and free from violence.
Every citizen has the right to express his or her positions and no one has the right to raise a hand against his fellows. Unity among the people will not be achieved through unity of beliefs, but rather through respecting other viewpoints, respecting our fellows, freedom of expression and a total rejection of violence. All democracies are based on these foundations, especially our democracy – Israeli democracy – which unites religious and secular, new immigrants and veteran citizens, Sephardi and Ashkenazi, Jews and Arabs, Druze, Bedouins and Circassians. The criminal act which ended Yitzhak Rabin’s life obligates us to protect freedom of expression and resolutely fight any act of violence against ideas, against ethnic groups, against religions.
The second thing that has changed in the past 17 years, and which has changed completely, is the situation in our region. All around us, a huge historic upheaval is taking place. I must say that even when Yitzhak Rabin was Prime Minister, Iran had begun to show itself as a threat to Israel, the region and the entire world. As many of you no doubt remember, Yitzhak Rabin clearly saw this threat taking shape, and since then, Iran has been methodically advancing its plan to acquire nuclear weapons. It established terrorist bases in Lebanon and Gaza, from which thousands of missiles and rockets have been fired at Israeli cities. Iran arms its proxies along two supply lines: to Hezbollah through Syria and Lebanon from the north and to Hamas from the south. Syria is in the midst of a bloody civil war; the regime in Egypt was replaced. We want to ensure the continued existence of the peace agreement with Egypt and guarantee quiet in the Sinai Peninsula.
In the face of this changing reality, we should remember a second principle that Yitzhak Rabin understood very well – the guarantee for our security and peace with our neighbors is first and foremost our strength and our ability to defend ourselves. We desire peace with our neighbors and wish to expand our treaties with our friends, but these ultimately depend on our strength. If we are weak, no one will take us into account and our enemies will not accept our existence.
That is why Yitzhak Rabin took care to nurture Israel’s military capabilities. As Chief of General Staff, he led the IDF to glorious victory during the Six Day War; as Prime Minister he strengthened the IDF and sent its soldiers to rescue the hostages at Entebbe. This is the second thing that must be preserved: the strengthening and fortifying of the IDF’s power and that of the State of Israel. This principle was always important, but in the years that passed since Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination and in light of the tremendous upheaval surrounding us, it has become even more important.
There is a third thing that has changed since the murder and that is Palestinian society. Yitzhak Rabin wanted peace with all his heart. He signed the Oslo Accords because of that same profound aspiration. He never was carried away by that aspiration and he was always realistic and pragmatic. Since the murder, agents of Iran have gained control over half the Palestinian people – the half in Gaza – and they seek to take control of the second half in Judea and Samaria. Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations do not hide their intentions to destroy Israel, and, despite the fact that six prime ministers have come and gone since the Oslo Accords were signed, the Palestinian Authority still has not completed a peace agreement with Israel with any one of them and instead stipulates endless new preconditions to renew peace negotiations with us. What could be simpler than meeting when we are only a seven minute drive apart? This increases the difficulty but does not change the need to reach a peace based on coexistence, security and mutual recognition.
These are the three things we must preserve – teaching tolerance and anti-violence, strengthening security and the IDF’s strength as the basis for our existence and striving pragmatically for peace with our neighbors. These are the three things Yitzhak Rabin believed in; these are the things which have retained their importance over the past 17 years, and these are the things that will serve as a compass to steer the State of Israel through the upheavals to come and lead us to a safe harbor of security and peace.
May the memories of Yitzhak and Leah Rabin be forever engraved on the hearts of the people.