Fifteen years have passed since that same bitter and terrible day when, to our great tragedy, the bullets from a Jewish murderer’s gun struck you down. Much has changed in the world and in Israel during those years, for the better but also for the worse.
We have not yet achieved the longed-for peace, and I am not entirely certain I am surprised by that. You were skeptical and cautious, wary and suspicious, calculating the odds as well as the risks, and yet still you were determined to continue to march forward on the path leading to conciliation and an agreement, and not to despair. Although the events that occurred throughout the years frequently increased the doubts, I share your attitude that we must continue to try, continue to strive for an agreement, because I believe that we should know if a peace agreement is obtainable; and if it is obtainable, we must try.
In the fifteen years that have passed, fundamentalist Islam – which you rightfully called the enemy of peace – has reared its head and strengthened exponentially. It struck at the heart of the United States; it threatens Europe; it won the elections in Gaza; it has taken control of the Gaza Strip and South Lebanon; and it has armed Israel’s enemies in the north and the south with tens of thousands of missiles and rockets. Now – to the worry of the entire world – it continues to attempt to build a destructive nuclear force. We will need to join hands with the free world, and we will also need to find the strength in our internal unity, in order to stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of the enemy of our country, of the Jewish people and of freedom and democracy.
The major change that has occurred for the better occurred within our ranks, within the people of Israel. Today, we are no longer divided into two opposing camps, each of which was convinced that it was entirely right and just, and were it not for them, the country would be destroyed and disaster would be brought upon it. There is a good deal less shouting and animosity. We listen to each other more; our positions have grown closer together; the gaps have narrowed. One part of the country recognized that it is impossible to exist for long without a political arrangement and without compromise. And the other part today understands that it is not alone in seeking peace; it has learned that Israel does not stand on the verge of an apocalyptic vision; that not everything is in our hands.
Today the majority of Israel’s citizens better understand, I believe, that even when a peace agreement is achieved, Israel will have to continue to very carefully safeguard its security assets. Because security preserves the peace, and undermining security dissolves it. Because of this, I believe that there is broader national agreement today, as there is broader agreement regarding the purpose of our existence here, which you, Yitzhak Rabin, defined so well.
In the final speech you gave in the Knesset, you said: “We aspire to reach, first and foremost, the State of Israel as a Jewish state… At the same time, we also promise that the non-Jewish citizens of Israel… will enjoy full personal, religious and civil rights, like those of any Israeli citizen.” “Judaism and racism,” you said, “are diametrically opposed.” “We are convinced that a binational state will not be able to fulfill the Jewish role of the State of Israel, which is the state of the Jews”.
Distinguished President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres,
Speaker of the Knesset,
Madam President of the Supreme Court,
Honorable Chief Rabbis,
This is the fundamental point of view that guided Yitzhak Rabin – a State of Israel that fulfills its Jewish and democratic role, one that lives in peace and security with all its neighbors, first and foremost its Palestinian neighbors – and I believe that this aspiration today unites the vast majority of the nation. And I believe that, with our combined forces, we will be able to realize it.
May your memory be blessed, Yitzhak Rabin. May your mark be forever engraved in the heart of our nation.