For 19 years Israelis have been gathering in the spot where the prime minister, who championed the peace process, was gunned down. Today, many are questioning what his legacy really is.
Text by Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man
Photos by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org
Tens of thousands of Israeli marked 20 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin Saturday night in the Tel Aviv square where he was murdered, which now bears his name.
Memorial rallies have been held in Rabin Square every year for the past 19 year, although participation has shrunk in recent years, reflecting waning confidence in the peace process the slain prime minister has come to symbolize. Organizers said some 100,000 people attended Saturday night.
Israelis understand Rabin’s legacy in very different ways, especially 20 years after his death. +972 has published a number of those interpretations over the past few days.
While Rabin led the peace process with the Palestinians, after 20 years of failed attempts at reaching an agreement, some now point to the fact that he never even sought a two-state solution, Yakir Adelman reminded us. Others, like Ron Gerlitz, point to the fact that Rabin is Israel’s only prime minister to ever enter a political alliance with Arab parties in the Knesset.
Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man notes that Rabin changed his ways from a bone-breaking army general to a man of peace, which should inspire Israelis and Palestinians to start looking beyond the two-state solution in the quest for civil rights and peace. Noam Sheizaf reminds us that Rabin’s most important accomplishment was to recognize and acknowledge the Palestinian people, which we should not take for granted.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who facilitated the peace process two decades ago between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, also spoke at the rally. Clinton offered his own take on the matter of Rabin’s legacy:
“Rabin’s legacy in one way is clear and untouchable. He risked his life to create and defend Israel. He spent his life serving Israel to advance your values and your interests. And he gave his life so that you could live in peace,” Clinton said.
Clinton added that one of the things he most admired about the late prime minister is that, “he never stopped seeing his adversaries as human beings whose children were entitled to the same opportunities as his own.”
“The next step in the journey of Israel,” the former president added, “will be determined by whether you decide that Rabin was right, that you have to share the future with your neighbors, that the risk of peace is not as severe as the risk of walking away from it.”
President Barack Obama delivered a video message.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also spoke to the crowd. Former president Shimon Peres and former prime minister Ehud Barak were also seated on the stage.
The rally marked 20 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, not Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Netanyahu is alive and well. We apologize for the error.