Acting PM Peres at Rabin Knesset Memorial Session

Acting PM Peres at Rabin Knesset Memorial Session


  Remarks by Acting Prime Minister Peres at Special Knesset Session in Memory of the Late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

November 13, 1995

Yesterday, at Yitzhak Rabin Plaza, we saw hundreds of thousands of people who came in unearthly silence to listen to the penetrating and moving words of Leah Rabin. One could feel that mourning had enveloped the entire nation. We saw the young people of Israel mourning as never before at Yitzhak's grave.

When his heart stopped beating, a young generation revealed itself to us -- a serious generation, a generation that touched our hearts, a generation that wants to rekindle his candle; a generation that wants to pray in its own words, a generation that sheds burning tears, a generation bearing flowers of peace in trembling hands.

This young generation lost a captain who had captured their hearts, and with whom they could identify. The nation lost its captain and discovered its young generation.

A surprising identification? If so, not justly. The essence of Yitzhak's way, perhaps the secret of his leadership, lay in his total dedication to this generation, which mourns him.

The peace policy formulated under his leadership, essentially said: let us -- the outgoing generation, the experienced generation -- rise above this great dispute and render a clear decision, so that the young generation will in the future be free of the difficult dilemmas which faced us daily; so that they will be able to take off on a runway free of obstacles and illusions, and alight in the next century, able to compete with other young people from around the world, proudly carrying the torch of the new Israel.

Ultimately, Yitzhak Rabin's leadership concentrated on this great change, and not on the pursuit of short-lived power.

During our conversations, it became clear to both of us that if we continued to cling to the present, we would only deepen the impasse; an impasse produced by the dynamics of the demographic timetable over which we have no control. A timetable which clearly said: Evading a decision will automatically create a bi-national state; while only a decision, even a painful one for our generation, will ensure Israel's Jewish and democratic character, for the future as well.

We felt that it was better to decide, rather than to burden the next generation with the danger of losing its majority, the danger of losing the prospects for peace, the danger of losing the chance to form a regional coalition against the greatest of dangers: senseless fundamentalism, armed with modern weaponry.

We knew that many in this House want peace. But we also knew that peace would not be free. There can be no peace without an agreement with our neighbors. There is no peace that is territorially color-blind. We knew that an imposed peace is an imaginary and temporary peace. Real peace must be upheld by both parties to the conflict.

Yitzhak Rabin scorned illusions. He mobilized all his powers to design a realistic map that would bring security to the state, peace to its young people, and understanding with its neighbors.

At Yitzhak's grave, a young generation, suddenly political, met with a peace that is also tender in years, some elements of which are still in infancy. At Yitzhak's grave, both the young generation and the young peace, in its new manifestations, were simultaneously revealed. For the first time, here, on the soil of Jerusalem, we saw the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, representatives of Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Mauritania and the Palestinian Authority publicly bowing their heads over the grave of the leader of peace, who was also the defender of Jerusalem.

Never before has Mt. Herzl seen such a moving salute by so many of the world's leaders, a salute to Yitzhak's rare personality, and to the peace policy over which he presided and which is being forged before our eyes.

On Mt. Herzl, flowers were laid in Yitzhak's memory, and wreaths in memory of the vision of Theodor Herzl, after whom the mount is named: the father of the Jewish state, who knew that every great reality is born out of a dream that seems distant.

Mt. Herzl has never seemed higher or more promising. But as high as the mountain is, equally base are the depths of the murder. Did Yitzhak fear murder? I believe that, deep in his heart, he felt that to die of fear was worse than the fear of death. Next to the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," he placed the maxim, "Thou shalt not be afraid."

Was he concerned by disagreement among us? Heaven forbid. He viewed disagreement -- not just in debate but in demonstrations as well, as he openly said -- as the legitimate expression of a democracy. What he wanted to prevent in Israel, and what is vital that we prevent, are verbal gallows; and murderers claiming to act in the name of God, when in fact they are messengers of Satan.

In a democracy, people argue with words, and govern through words. Therefore, words must be regulated, and not allowed to lead to fiery destruction.

This House, the Knesset of Israel, is the place for national deliberation. Yitzhak took a leading part in this deliberation. He hoped that the dialogue or debate -- between all parties -- would be conducted with respect, restraint, and mutual attentiveness. Regretfully, it did not always work that way. It veered off track.

Yitzhak did not conceal his opinions. They were as organized as a well-laid table; if I may use one of his own images, like a table standing on four legs.

The central leg is that of security. Both detractors and supporters of the peace process understand, and must remember, that without a strong IDF, of which Rabin was a part and headed, Israel will not be able to defend itself, or to proceed on its course.

The path which Rabin chose will be kept alive if we all agree to maintain the strength of the IDF, the Israel Police, and the security services -- and if we leave them outside the sphere of partisan dispute, and prevent them from being run through the political grinder.

The IDF soldiers are our sons -- stationed at the country's gates, defending our citizens' well-being. I know how Yitzhak felt, and I feel, as he did, that even when disagreements arise, we must maintain national unity with respect to the protection of life. Not security for peace, but rather peace in addition to security -- security that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, from Metulla to Eilat. Security that ensures the unity of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The second leg is the peace process. The peace process embodies the uniqueness of the government which he headed. Not theoretical peace, but realistic peace. The prime minister was murdered because of this process. But the people have experienced a revelation, and they are following in his wake.

We have not yet achieved full peace. Even that peace which we have achieved is not yet complete. But peace is a new vista in our region, a region which has known wars and bloodshed. This is a vista with revolutionary power. We have seen this power reflected in the mourning that has descended even upon the territories. Peace now appears shrouded in a black ribbon. But this mourning has also revealed hope.

This is the mourning of peace-seekers from different sides of the border. No more calls of hatred and slogans of murder -- just profound, silent and unexpected sadness. Sadness that is like a yearning for great and real change.

We must continue the peace process. This is what Yitzhak wanted. This was the song that was on his lips, in the last moments of his life.

We will uphold every commitment that we have taken upon ourselves: security for Israel and Israelis, respect for the principles agreed upon with the Palestinians, peace with Egypt and Jordan, and the search for peace with Syria and Lebanon.

Another leg, a new and promising one, is that of economic growth. Peace, immigration and growth have joined together. It is difficult to know what begat what, but it is clear that they are bound as one. This is a productive triangle, that has enabled us to absorb the wonderful immigration of Jews from Russia and its sister republics, from Ethiopia, and from the four corners of the world.

The government headed by Yitzhak Rabin accomplished great things in absorbing immigration, in reducing unemployment, and in raising the standard of living of Israeli citizens by one-third. And, in his room, I found great plans for the future. They are waiting to be realized.

We have never been closer to becoming a state of science and technology than we have in the past few years. Israel has experienced the most impressive rate of growth in the Western hemisphere.

Yitzhak understood that political strength translates itself into economic strength -- and economic strength into security strength.

Finally, the fourth leg, the democratic leg, without which our table is neither set nor stable. Yitzhak was greatly influenced by American democracy, in which there is an explicit division between the three branches -- legislative, executive and judicial -- and in which each branch is separate from the other, complementing, not suffocating the others.

A democracy that struggles for the freedom of its citizens and fights against freedom for murderers; a democracy marked by clear implementation, along with Biblical elements. As Yitzhak grew into his role, while transfering powers and responsibilities, he displayed a growing leaning towards the moral underpinnings of the Jewish people. A people that knows that courage means governing ourselves, and that control of another people is the opposite of this. Freedom of expression, unity, rule of law, the supremacy of the spirit -- this is how he saw democracy.

For one week now, I have sat in Yitzhak's orphaned chair. From his room, our country seems brimming with ideas, full of life, a center of boundless hope.

From Mt. Herzl full of sadness, and from the orphaned government building in Kiryat Ben Gurion, I see your many plans; and I have come to tell you: as great as our sorrow, is the depth of our commitment to continue what you have begun.

I sit alongside Yitzhak's chair, veiled in black. I cannot help but recall what was perhaps our longest shared experience, when we set out together to tour the African states. We came to Kenya after it had achieved independence, and Kenyatta told us of his people's 40 years in the wilderness. We came to the court of the Negus of Ethiopia, styled as the "young lion of Judea". Yitzhak said to me: "Let's go and see the sources of the Nile." He was at the height of his vigor, young, with his red head of hair, carrying a camera on either side -- one black and white, the other color. We walked and walked, and Yitzhak photographed each and every waterfall, insisted that we climb every peak. I was somewhat surprised to see him leaping among the waterfalls and climbing mountains with both his cameras, and I asked, "Why do you have to take so many pictures?" He answered, "I have one overall picture, but I want to see each photograph separately, precisely, in detail, in black and white and in color."

This was his essence: every picture precise, detailed, in all colors, while keeping the overall view in sight. His vision was far and clear. He left behind prodigious achievements. He left behind much work to be accomplished. May his memory be blessed.

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