At fourth yahrzeit, Israel remembers Yitzhak Rabin

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JERUSALEM — On the fourth anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, his daughter wondered aloud whether the Knesset bears part of the responsibility for his murder.

Knesset member Dalia Rabin-Pelosoff, elected last spring on the Center Party list, addressed the legislature Thursday of last week at its annual memorial session for Rabin, held for the first time under a Labor government.

Since joining the Knesset, she said, she has found remnants of the "evil spirit that led to [her father's] murder."

"I stand here today on the podium from which my father gave dozens of speeches, from which he was subject to uncountable abusive remarks," she said. "The power of the word is apparent here every day. Did the message of violence come from this house?" she asked.

Right-wing radical Yigal Amir assassinated Rabin on Nov. 4, 1995. On the Hebrew calendar, Rabin's yahrzeit fell on Thursday of last week.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak pledged to carry out Rabin's peace legacy and warned against allowing incitement that could again lead to disaster.

"If we again let the freedom of expression become the freedom to incite," he said, "we are liable to find ourselves again shell-shocked and grief-stricken. And who knows if we can ever pick up the pieces again."

Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon also addressed the Knesset.

Although Jews are the most talented people in the world, he said, "they also know how to hate." This was both in Jews' distant past and in our contemporary history, he said, referring to incidents such as the sinking of the Altalena in June 1948 and noting that some of its victims were Holocaust survivors.

"We must all stop the hatred and incitement," he said, adding that it exists on both the left and the right. He said he could not forget the signs that covered the country against Menachem Begin, "accusing him of being a murderer and war criminal," Sharon said, causing some disconcertment among cabinet ministers and Labor/One Israel Knesset members.

"It is possible to criticize and express opinions as in all democracies, but the law must be obeyed and not deviated from, and it must be applied equally to all," Sharon added.

"We have our differences of opinion, but for the sake of all and the future of Israel, let us each extend a hand to his brother and bring ourselves, instead of hatred, more love and friendship."

Earlier in the afternoon, Barak and Rabin's son, Yuval, opened the state memorial ceremony at Rabin's Mount Herzl graveside.

Yuval Rabin addressed his father directly throughout his speech.

"I am happy to tell you that hope has returned," he said, referring to the government's efforts to further the peace process his father began in 1993 with the Oslo accords.

Leah Rabin and her children and grandchildren watched as 12 wreaths were laid by, among others, President Ezer Weizman, Barak, Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, and Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert.

"We are a nation which is very experienced in the way to die together," Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau said. "We have to show and to prove to ourselves that we know not only to die together, but also to live together."

On Wednesday, of last week, members of the Rabin family, led by Leah Rabin, gathered with cabinet members, Knesset members, colleagues, and friends to light a memorial candle at Beit Hanassi.

"In the name of the people of Israel, I salute you today, Yitzhak, in pain and in belief in the way you chose," Weizman said. "The wounds have not healed in the hearts of the people, the state, and those who seek peace in the world."

He cautioned, however, that "there are still worrisome signs of violence in our society. We must fight political violence with all means possible. Murderers cannot put an end to our way of life."

Noa Ben-Artzi, who had movingly eulogized her grandfather at his funeral, said that it is time, "after four years of mourning, of emptiness," to begin looking at "the full half of the cup."

"I speak to you as a member of the young generation," she said. "I have begun to feel that mourning is not the only path…Yitzhak Rabin was a man of deeds…Our deeds can turn us into a living, and fitting, memorial to his memory."

One of Rabin's partners in peace, who had attended the rally four years ago, was also present last week.

"I was standing next to Rabin all that night," Egyptian Ambassador Mohammed Bassiouny said later. "I shall never forget him."