Six years after Rabin assassination: Rabin's peace legacy continues

TEL AVIV – Approximately 100,000 people arrived for the mass remembrance for the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the Tel Aviv Rabin Square Nov. 3.

On Nov. 4, 1995, right after a similar rally in this same square under the motto “For Peace, Against Political Violence,” Rabin was assassinated by an ultra-right student as a result of a campaign of violence against him for allegedly having “sold Israel to its arch enemies, the Palestinians,” in the wake of the 1993 Oslo Accords with the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

The organizers of this year’s memorial, the leadership of Peace Now, decided that no politicians should address the rally – only songs and cultural performances would be presented.

The only exceptions were the opening address by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Rabin’s daughter, Dalia Rabin-Pelosoff, currently deputy defense minister in the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

She expressed her view that her father was acting in the interest of the state of Israel, not only when he served as commander-in-chief of the army, but also when making compromises for the sake of peace. She complained that too much smooth talk by politicians had turned the assassination of her father into a dangerous rift in the Israeli society. “Without peace at home, peace with the neighbors would be of no use to us,” she warned.

Six years ago, I was there. That rally was crammed with politics. Together with some few other correspondents, I was allowed to be on the stage of that grand rally for peace. When Rabin addressed the rally, I stood before him and recorded his speech. When he descended from the stage, he was met by the then-Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo (Jeech) Lahat, with whom I had a quite friendly relationship. Lahat called me over to introduce me to Rabin, whom I knew already from many encounters.

I asked Rabin about his estimation of the rally. He expressed his enthusiasm about the huge crowd that followed the call for peace. Then, the artists started to sing the Peace song, and Rabin, together with Shimon Peres, joined the singers.

For me, this was the sign that the rally would end soon. I descended to the underground parking lot to take off, before the exits and streets were jammed. I drove home, where my comrade-in-life Tosca was waiting for me with anxious tears in her eyes. She had seen me on television standing and talking with Rabin, and just a few minutes afterwards watched the broadcast about the assassination. She had been afraid that I had been with him when he was killed. For some reason, I did not switch on the radio while driving home and was unaware of what had happened until Tosca told me.

A three-hour-long concert as remembrance of a political assassination was seen by many as an outrage. The fact remains that the bullets that killed Rabin were pointed not only against the man, but against the “danger” of the possibility of peace.

It must also be pointed out that precisely the same instigators of that assassination are now at the helm of the state. To have a memorial without putting it in its political context is an almost grotesque shame.