Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks at at an event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, Israel, 25 October 2015.  EPA
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin speaks at at an event to commemorate the 20th anniversary of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, Israel, 25 October 2015. EPA


Jerusalem – President Reuven Rivlin vowed on Sunday at the opening state ceremony for events marking the 20th anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination that he will never commute assassin Yigal Amir’s life sentence.

“As long as I am president of Israel, his murderer will not be freed. Curse my hand if it should ever sign a pardon for that evil man,” Rivlin said, noting also how the country had been shaken by the slaying.

“Never. After the murder, a well-known national-religious rabbi spoke with me, and gave expression to the notion that a political assassin is not just simply a murderer.

But he is one who secretly hatched a heinous plot to commit murder against not only the leader of Israel, but the very country itself.”

Looking out at peer generation members seated in the large reception hall at the President’s Residence, Rivlin said: “We are the generation whose world was overturned by the murder. We are the generation that remembers the chasm that was emblematic of the disputes between us during the period preceding the assassination.

“We are the generation that remembers that in the aftermath of the assassination we were terrified of the possibility of a civil war and the fear that Israel’s democracy and the Jewish state might be destroyed.”

Rivlin questioned whether enough had been done or is being done to heal the schism in society since Rabin’s slaying and to engrave on the nation’s consciousness how potentially destructive political violence can be. He admitted having been part of the right-wing camp strongly opposed to the Oslo accords, and that he had strenuously disagreed with Rabin and the path he had chosen.

As a champion of democracy in his current role and in his previous role as speaker of the Knesset, Rivlin warned of the danger posed to democracy by radical and extremist fringe elements.

Shimon Peres, Rivlin’s immediate predecessor in office, said how moving it was for him to see Rabin’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren at the ceremony for a man who was not only their grandfather but that of an entire nation.

In a voice choked with emotion, Peres recalled how at the peace rally in Tel Aviv only a few minutes before the shooting, the eyes of the thousands gathered in the square had glistened with hope as they enthusiastically identified with Rabin’s passionate rejection of violence in favor of peace.

Peres remembered how Rabin’s face had beamed and how his voice had shook as he joined the rapturous public in singing the Song of Peace.

“Let the sun rise. Sing a song of peace…”

Then turning from the audience, as if to Rabin himself, Peres spoke of how much he misses him, how much his absence is felt, how much children need him to learn about a Jewish and democratic state; how much soldiers and security forces in general need him when they are deployed on the streets to defend citizens from terrorist attacks.

“You were the symbol of strength and purity of arms,” Peres said. “You are missed by mothers and fathers who yearn for a leader like you, and have not abandoned their hope for a true peace.”

Peres spoke of the alleyways of the Old City of Jerusalem where troops had once marched in triumph and where today “so much blood is being spilled and where the stones of the Western Wall are shedding tears.”

Peres said it was impossible to forget the incitement and the verbal abuse against an elected prime minister.

“Your murder, Yitzhak, was a crime that was born from within and echoes a warning even today. Baseless hatred from within is just as dangerous as external organized hostility,” Peres said.

“Today, 20 years after the murder, I say that the criminal who tried to destroy Israeli democracy and all hope for peace, he is a murderer, not a victor. A killer like him should rot in prison until his dying day,” Peres said.

Peres praised Rabin for understanding the need for territorial compromise.

“They killed you, beloved and loyal leader, but your way remains alive and beating,” Peres said.

After Peres stepped down from the podium, Rabin’s daughter, Dalia, seated near the end of the row, rose, walked up to him and kissed him. She did not do the same when Rivlin finished speaking.

Yonatan Ben Artzi, Rabin’s grandson, said that despite the passing of the years, Rabin’s family feels he is still with them. He denounced Amir as the Jew who killed the peace process and possibly our last chance to reach an accommodation with our neighbors.

“By killing Yitzhak Rabin, he changed the landscape in which we live. We remember the state we had and have not had since that fateful night of hatred and destruction,” he said.

Alluding to attempts by those opposed to Rabin’s ideals to diminish his reputation, Ben Artzi said: “We must not allow extremists to blur the accomplishments of Yitzhak Rabin. He was a man of deeds who never said something just for the sake of talking. His words were always followed by deeds, and his vision demonstrated that he believed that ruling over 1.5 million Palestinians was not synonymous with democracy.”

Ben Artzi mused that if his grandfather was alive today, he would seek a strategic solution to the sorry reality in which Israel finds itself, and bemoaned how as he saw it, Israel’s “leadership has no path and no solutions.

As reported by Vos Iz Neias