Permit me to say that I am deeply moved. I wish to thank each and every one of you, who have come here today to take a stand against violence and for peace. This government, which I am privileged to head, together with my friend Shimon Peres, decided to give peace a chance — a peace that will solve most of Israel’s problems.
I was a military man for 27 years. I fought so long as there was no chance for peace. I believe that there is now a chance for peace, a great chance. We must take advantage of it for the sake of those standing here, and for those who are not here — and they are many.
I have always believed that the majority of the people want peace and are ready to take risks for peace. In coming here today, you demonstrate, together with many others who did not come, that the people truly desire peace and oppose violence. Violence erodes the basis of Israeli democracy. It must be condemned and isolated. This is not the way of the State of Israel. In a democracy there can be differences, but the final decision will be taken in democratic elections, as the 1992 elections which gave us the mandate to do what we are doing, and to continue on this course.
I want to say that I am proud of the fact that representatives of the countries with whom we are living in peace are present with us here, and will continue to be here: Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco, which opened the road to peace for us. I want to thank the President of Egypt, the King of Jordan, and the King of Morocco, represented here today, for their partnership with us in our march towards peace.
But, more than anything, in the more than three years of this Government’s existence, the Israeli people has proven that it is possible to make peace, that peace opens the door to a better economy and society; that peace is not just a prayer. Peace is first of all in our prayers, but it is also the aspiration of the Jewish people, a genuine aspiration for peace.
There are enemies of peace who are trying to hurt us, in order to torpedo the peace process. I want to say bluntly, that we have found a partner for peace among the Palestinians as well: the PLO, which was an enemy, and has ceased to engage in terrorism. Without partners for peace, there can be no peace. We will demand that they do their part for peace, just as we will do our part for peace, in order to solve the most complicated, prolonged, and emotionally charged aspect of the Israeli-Arab conflict: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
This is a course which is fraught with difficulties and pain. For Israel, there is no path that is without pain. But the path of peace is preferable to the path of war. I say this to you as one who was a military man, someone who is today Minister of Defense and sees the pain of the families of the IDF soldiers. For them, for our children, in my case for our grandchildren, I want this Government to exhaust every opening, every possibility, to promote and achieve a comprehensive peace. Even with Syria, it will be possible to make peace.
This rally must send a message to the Israeli people, to the Jewish people around the world, to the many people in the Arab world, and indeed to the entire world, that the Israeli people want peace, support peace. For this, I thank you.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by right-wing religious settler fanatic Yigal Amir at a giant peace rally on the evening of November 4, 1995. The rally had been called to protest violence that had been rising on both sides, and to reaffirm the commitment of the government and the Israeli people to peace. Amir assassinated Rabin in order to prevent the continuation of the peace process, as he said.
The assassination was preceded both by Palestinian violence in the territories, despite pledges by the PLO to renounce violence and terrorism, and by constant agitation by Israeli right-wing settlers and religious fanatics. Rabbis in the West bank gave sermons in which they proclaimed that Rabin was a traitor and a persecutor of the Jewish people, worthy of death. This agitation was aided and abetted by members of the opposition Likud party and other right-wing politicians. The Likud and the right had long since replaced themselves in the national consciousness of Israelis as the true “fathers” of the Jewish state, rather than the Zionist movement. They called themselves “The National Camp” (Mahaneh Leumi) as opposed to “The Other Camp.” The implication that the opposition was composed of traitors and supporters of terror – “Ashafistim” was made either implicitly or explicitly at countless rallies. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu presided over a right wing rally at which posters were carried showing Yitzhak Rabin in the uniform of a Nazi SS officer. An atmosphere that legitimized violence against political leaders had been created.
Rabin had devoted his life to the defense and security of Israel. He played a key role in defending Jerusalem against the Palestinian blockade in 1948, served as Chief of Staff in the 1967 Six day war and as Prime Minister in 1976, presided over the daring raid that rescued a hijacked airliner at Entebbe in Uganda. These achievements were apparently unknown to settlers and their supporters, who were alienated from the historic mainstream of Zionism and from the democratic traditions of Israel.
Rabin’s funeral was attended by dignitaries from all over the world, including HM King Hussein of Jordan, who broke the taboo of Arab leaders against visiting Jerusalem to pay tribute to his friend. US President Bill Clinton coined the epitaph for Rabin, “Shalom, Haver” – Goodbye, Friend.
But nothing could change the fact. Rabin was gone. The unthinkable had happened in Israel. Israel had entered upon a new era. Fanatic groups gave tacit approval to the assassination and justified it. Though opposition Likud leaders all disavowed any association with the act, and condemned the violence and the assassination, the act paved the way for the return of the Likud to power. Though politicians vowed that the course of Israeli democracy would not be determined by an assassin’s bullet, it was. In a world of replaceable people, Yitshak Rabin was indispensable to the success of the peace process. It is likely that only he had the credentials and the commanding presence to lead Israel out of the mud of the occupation. Only his sure hand and clear mind could reassure Israelis that security issues would be handled correctly, and that the peace would be worth the sacrifice. Only Rabin had the understanding of the United States and the prestige in Arab countries and international forums to ensure that the PLO would keep their side of the bargain. With Rabin gone, the Israel Labor party began its slow and sure disintegration. Shimon Peres did not have the charisma and leadership ability to keep the party united and to attract voters. Aided by election fraud and Arab voters who stayed home, Benjamin Nethanyahu won the elections in 1999, and proceeded to adopt an aggressive policy of building settlements deep in Palestinian territories. As he alienated the United States and Arab countries, Nethanyahu was also unable to summon the support needed to quell growing Palestinian violence and lawlessness. The fate of the peace process was sealed. Aided by Palestinian and Israeli extremists, Yigal Amir got his wish.