We must never forget

By BINYAMIN NETANYAHU

(November 4) - I will never forget that horrible, cursed day: the shock, the refusal to believe, the desperate hope that an alarm clock would soon wake me up from this terrible nightmare. Two years later those memories are still vivid, and will be with me always.

Violent death is not a stranger to me, nor to most Israelis. But this was different. The murder of a chosen leader is not just a tragedy. It is a major cataclysm. It produces a primal, wrenching response, an earthquake of the soul. Every one of us was betrayed when he was shot. The blood spilled was our collective blood. The wound was the whole nation's, and it is yet to heal.

I first met Yitzhak Rabin in 1975. I was a student, he was a prime minister.

Those were the "reassessment" days of the Ford administration, when US-Israel relations were on the verge of a crisis.

I offered him my assistance in enlisting American public opinion, particularly in the universities, and he encouraged me to act. The following year, he was in charge of the Entebbe operation. Since then I considered him a personal acquaintance, despite our political rivalry.

I saw him often in his last years. In public we confronted each other and argued, often vehemently, but we also met in his office for heart to heart talks, exchanging ideas and opinions with unbounded frankness. We often disagreed, but we listened to each other.

He always impressed me with his knowledge of subjects he loved, his modesty and his dedication.

I doubt that he would relish what is being done in his name today. I even doubt that he - no slouch when it came to invective - would agree with the notion that his murder was caused by incitement and campaign rhetoric.

Unquestionably, the level of political discourse in Israel must improve.

But more stable societies, in which internal disputes are settled with a minimum of turmoil, have experienced assassinations and assassination attempts. To assume collective guilt for such a heinous crime by one despicable individual is unjust to our society and far too exonerative of the murderer's unspeakable act.

Even more unforgivable is the attempt to brand more than half the population with the mark of Cain. I am convinced that no one would condemn with greater vigor this deliberate confusion between political dispute and political assassination than Rabin himself.

His murder hurt me not only as a person nor merely as an Israeli. Most of all, it hurt me as a Jew.

All Jews - secular and religious - deem life a most sacred value. All of us, from all parts of the political spectrum, feel that our people are responsible for one another. We all believe that it is inconceivable for a leader to pay with his life for his views and policies.

We must prevent the recurrence of such a crime. We must never forget what happened here. We must understand that violence is an enemy to us all. If we let it prevail, it will not let us live.

Above all, we must promise ourselves to cling to the Jewish tradition which views murder not merely as a crime, but as a heresy, and to the democratic tradition which views political violence as an intolerable blow to the very foundation of our being.

©The Jerusalem Post


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