In the years that have passed, we have begun to find common ground in this memorial day. Within the storm of emotions, we have succeeded to mark this day, as a day to alert Israelis society to the dangers of political violence.
President Reuven Rivlin:
I want to begin today, by expressing my heartfelt pain and utter disgust at the terror attack which took place today in Jerusalem. There can be no absolution for those who turn cars into weapons to attack innocent civilians at bus and train stations. Those who will be harmed more than any, will be the terrorists, and those who incite and support them. We will not cease to build across Jerusalem, to impose law and order, by virtue of our sovereignty.
Days before his murder, in October 1995, Prime Minister Rabin addressed the celebrations in Washington DC, to mark 3,000 years of Jerusalem. He spoke to the people of Israel and the world, and said proudly and confidently, "My Jerusalem is the focus of the longing, and destination of the dreams of the Jewish people. That is the dream, to reach (Jerusalem). We have differences of opinion, from the Right to the Left. We disagree over the direction and over the aim. But in Israel, we have no disagreement on one issue – the unification of Jerusalem, and its continued place as the capital of the State of Israel." These were his words. And specifically now, specifically today, these words of Yitzchak are etched upon our hearts.
Honored friends, we stand here today, before the graves of Leah and Yitzhak Rabin, a Prime Minister of Israel, murdered by the hands of Jewish assassin.
Nineteen years have already passed since the blade was once again raised over Isaac (Yitzchak), who was placed upon the vile alter of political violence… Rabin’s murder has made this day one of the darkest moments in the history of the State of Israel…
A generation has grown up, which does not carry the memory of that night, which does not remember the Government of Israel making that shocking announcement…
In the years that have passed, along with the difficulty, we have begun to find common ground in this memorial day. Within the storm of emotions, we have succeeded to mark this day, as a day to alert Israelis society to the dangers of political violence.
On this day, we speak about the need to safeguard our democracy, and to trust the common rules of practice. This lesson is crucial. It is important to be taught and to be heard, even if as I have a feeling, it is not heard enough. Rabin was not murdered because of a momentary weakness in Israel’s democracy, but, crucially, against a background of a social reality that did not bring us together, but forced us apart. When we remember the atmosphere of those days, before and after the murder, it is impossible but to recognize that it was not the rules of the game that separated us, but that there was a wide gulf between us.
We had no shared language, we had no shared vision, we were not able to stress the values we shared – these are the reasons that the flames of controversy between us threatened to destroy us.
However, friends, these are not just things of the past. Israeli society will face difficult and painful challenges again in the future. Therefore, Rabin’s memorial day will continue to be one with a relevant lesson for many generations to come…
On this day, we will have to learn to ask ourselves difficult questions about the common vision that guides us, the values that bind us, and while courageously striving to find answers to those question…
Friends, it is nineteen years since the murder, and I believe that the opportunity to mold the content and meaning of this day, for future generations, still remains. Last Monday, I met with representatives of this younger generation, members and counsellors of the various youth movements. This youth, these young people are thirsty and crying out for a moral statement. These young men and women, residents of Eli, Shefaram, Kfar Saba and Bnei Brak, are looking for a new moral language, connecting them together.
No day is more relevant and more meaningful to engage in this, than the Memorial Day for Yitzchak Rabin. Let us bequeath to future generations, not just our differences; not only the dry understandings between us; but also a language to speak to each other with. May the memory of Yitzhak and Leah Rabin be blessed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
I met an hour ago with members of the Rabin family, and I told them that the trauma of Yitzhak Rabin’s murder is an enormous and historic one. Enormous first of all for our generation, those who knew Yitzhak Rabin, because of the extraordinary combination of the man and the position; historically because for thousands of years the history of the Jewish people was nearly devoid of political violence or political assassinations.
We were always proud of our democracy, which is unusual in the landscape that surrounds us, and indeed the State of Israel is not a violent country. We see this clearly in light of what is occurring around us – beheadings, throats being cut, firing squads, executions, and so on.
Israel’s exceptional nature in this landscape is remarkable. We are not satisfied just by not adopting such low standards; we are a democracy and we must conduct dialogue in a non-violent fashion despite disagreements…
Israel’s security was always the focus of Yitzhak Rabin’s public activity. He was appointed Chief of General Staff in 1964 and worked to strengthen the IDF and build up our military force. To a large extent, he prepared the IDF for its historic victory in the Six Day War. When serving as the US Ambassador and during his first term as Prime Minister, he clarified that the solution to the conflict with the Arabs would only come after they were convinced that Israel would not be subdued by military force. I believe that this approached paved the way to peace. He said, "Without defensive strength, there is no security and no chance for peace."
This strategy continued throughout his second term as Prime Minister. Rabin wanted to base peace on mutual compromise while maintaining Israel’s security…
Rabin knew that Israel was taking risks for peace, but he hoped that the Palestinians would repay us in kind, that they would educate their people for peace and stop the incitement against Israel, which is at the base of hostility and terror. But this did not happen. The incitement continued and even increased. There was no change in Palestinian society regarding the right of the Jewish people to its own country – not in kindergartens, not in schools, not in textbooks, not in the government-run media – which is the only media there – not anywhere. There was certainly no acceptance of our rights in unified Jerusalem, which Rabin viewed as fundamental to any peace agreement.
Over the past several days, we have witnessed increasing incitement by the head of the Palestinian Authority, including sending a condolence letter to the family of Yehuda Glick’s assassin, and a call to prevent the entry of Jews onto the Temple Mount by any means. This incitement has found practical expression on the ground. Today’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem is the direct result of the incitement by Abu Mazen and his Hamas partners.
We are in the midst of a prolonged campaign for Jerusalem. I have no doubt we will win it. We are utilizing all the forces needed to restore quiet and security to all parts of the city, but it may certainly be a prolonged fight and we must join together all the powers in our country for the fight. This fight is not just against internal Palestinian incitement, but also against the tide of Islamist extremism, extremism that is spreading over the Middle East and to wide areas beyond it.
This is an historic phenomenon that is tied to the end of the Cold War, the shocks experienced by the Arab world and the rise of Islamist forces to positions of power. If I must pick a decisive date this change took place, it would of course be the rise of the Islamic state in Iran 35 years ago. The fanaticism of this Islamic extremism is the greatest danger to our country, to our region and to world peace.
Yitzhak Rabin clearly identified this danger. In December 1992 he said the following at the Knesset: "Our fight against Islamic terror and other terror is also meant to wake the slumbering world, especially with regard to the danger of fundamentalist Islam. It is the real danger and the most serious one to world peace in the coming years. The danger of death lurks at the feet of many peoples, and as the State of Israel was the first to identify the danger of a nuclear Iraq, so we are first on the line of fire today in the face of the danger posed by extremist Islam."
Rabin mentioned Iran many times and warned against its nuclear ambitions… We all share this hope, but we are not averting our gaze and ignoring what is happening around us.
Our region is undergoing an enormous convulsion. When regimes collapse, borders are erased, countries disintegrate and armed militias surround us, it is advisable that we understand that genuine peace, peace that will last for generations, the peace we all want – this peace will not be achieved through shortcuts or wishes.
Genuine peace will come when the squares in Ramallah and Gaza named after terrorists and considered martyrs will be filled with protestors calling for the abandonment of terror. It will come when moderate Islam overcomes extremist Islamic fundamentalists. It will come when Iran stops calling "Death to Israel" and they turn their efforts toward respecting human rights and individual freedoms. The exact opposite is occurring in Iran today. Peace will come when Abu Mazen stops calling Jews ‘defilers’ and he stops embracing murderers.
Yitzhak Rabin was proud of the State of Israel – of its development, of its achievements. He believed in our ability to overcome all difficulties. He believed in our capability to deal with difficulties, to face complex challenges, with unparalleled success. We also believe in these capabilities. We will continue to rely on our power in order to strengthen our security; we will continue to extend our hand for genuine peace with our neighbors; we will build our country and our cities; and, with God’s help, we will know days of tranquility.
May the memory of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin be forever blessed.