Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist named Yigal Amir. Bill Clinton, who was president of the United States at the time of Rabin’s death, was one of the speakers at an event in Tel Aviv that drew an estimated 100,000 spectators.
Clinton’s remarks continued the long-running narrative of Israel as the primary obstacle to peace, which is especially hard to swallow in the midst of a “knife intifada” where Palestinians are stabbing Israelis on an almost daily basis, including the elderly, women, and children.
The Associated Press described the Rabin rally as “a rare show of strength by Israel’s dovish opposition, as speakers and demonstrators took aim at the hardline policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” Banners held slogans such as “Enough Scaring, Yes to Hope” and “Peace Now.”
“He refused to give up his dream of peace in the face of violence,” Clinton said of Rabin. “The next step will be determined by whether you decide that Yitzhak Rabin was right, that you have to share the future with your neighbors… that the risks for peace are not as severe as the risk of walking away from it. Those of us who loved him and love your country are praying that you will make the right decision.”
“Rabin’s legacy in one way is clear and untouchable,” said Clinton, in further remarks related by the Times of Israel. “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. ”
“What does it all amount to? Now that is up to you,” Clinton continued. “All of you now must decide when your leave here tonight… how to finish the last chapter of his story.”
The big push from other speakers at the rally – and from figures such as former president and prime minister Shimon Peres, who were not allowed to speak in order to keep the event from becoming overtly partisan – was for another “land for peace” initiative, carving out a hefty chunk of Israel to give the Palestinians their own state.
It is worth noting that while Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir, then a 25-year-old law student, was clearly an extremist. Notably, he and his brother complained about their inability to recruit anyone else for their assassination plot. If only the Palestinian leadership had so much trouble rounding up willing participants for its bombing, vehicular homicide, and stabbing schemes.
The day after Bill Clinton delivered his message to the Rabin rally, another knife-wielding Palestinian was shot in self-defense by Israeli soldiers; a second Palestinian rammed his car into a group of Israeli pedestrians in the West Bank; and the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian Authority for giving a state funeral, with full military honors, to two terrorists who knifed Israeli civilians.
Even as the Rabin event was ramping up on Saturday, a funeral for five other Palestinian terrorists drew a crowd of thousands, who called for revenge attacks. Perhaps Bill Clinton should have tried delivering his “you have to share the future with your neighbors” remarks at that rally.