Your excellency, the President of the State and Mrs. Weizman, Mrs. Rabin and members of the Rabin Family, the Honorable Chief Rabbis, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Knesset, my friend Shimon Peres:
"For you should know that a leader and great man has fallen this day in Israel..." Thus King David spoke after the political assassination which occurred at the dawn of our people's history, the killing of Avner Ben-Ner. In mourning for Avner, David described the killers as sons of iniquity. He succeeded in overcoming the terrible crisis and setting out with the people on the path of internal unity and brotherly peace, a path which subsequently brought growth and prosperity to the Kingdom of Israel.
We never imagined that such a thing would happen in our generation: a leader and great man fell last week at the hands of a son of iniquity: and even though one week has gone by since we heard the awful news, it is difficult to believe and difficult to absorb that Yitzhak Rabin is no more.
In my name and in that of the Likud Movement, in the name of the entire Opposition, I send our condolences to the Rabin family in its deep mourning, the mourning of an entire people.
Yitzhak Rabin -- may his memory be blessed -- accompanied our national struggle for independence and freedom as a central figure, wielding great influence: as a commander in the Palmah and the Israel Defense Forces in the War of Independence; as the general commanding the Northern Front in the difficult years of the Syrian attacks on the settlements of the Jordan Valley; as the Chief of the General Staff in the Six Day War when the IDF faced a combined attack by four armies and won a historic victory; as the ambassador in Washington during the years when we struggled in the political arena to retain the achievements of the Six Day War; as prime minister during the difficult period after the Yom Kippur War, when the IDF was rehabilitated and our military strength restored; as Minister of Defense during the period of the intifada, when the IDF needed to crystallize a doctrine of fighting in a reality we had not known before; in recent years, as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, in a government which guided a complicated political process, complex and controversial.
I personally remember Yitzhak Rabin especially during the period when, as prime minister, he carried through the fateful decision for the Entebbe rescue operation: it was his task to confront the fearful choice between giving in to terrorism and a determined and painful fight, and he chose the second alternative, the path of struggle; it was perhaps the most difficult decision an Israeli prime minister had to make, and a failure of that operation would have brought a frightful disaster on the State. The people of Israel, through the generations, will not forget his courage in taking responsibility for the daring operation, which presented the whole world with a model of uncompromising struggle against terrorism, and straightened the backs of all the world's Jews.
I also had the privilege of working alongside him in the recent Government of National Unity, in which he made a great and special effort to forge a defense and security policy which would win wide national support. I think those were the years of grace in internal unity of the people, and the activity of Yitzhak Rabin provided an important and decisive contribution. I believe this was the most important point in his many years of public and defense activities, for during his many years of in public service, his personality and activities served as one of the important pillars in the national unity governments. He made every effort to maintain and continue that unifying and consolidating framework, through the understanding that only by unity can we reach durable national achievements, even if the pace is slower.
In the past three years, Yitzhak Rabin directed a political process, some parts of which we supported without qualification, especially the peace treaty with the Kingdom of Jordan. As for other parts, we engaged in, and shall continue to conduct, a difficult and penetrating debate; and indeed it is a deep and fundamental argument, because it touches on the basic questions of the existence and future of the State of Israel.
How do we obtain peace for generations, and not just for the moment; where shall the borders of the State of Israel be; how, and I would even add whether, the unity of Jerusalem will be preserved; and how will the security of each citizen and of the entire State be protected? This debate, my friends, does not revolve around a national goal: all of us want to ensure the existence of the State of Israel in peace and security.
The single and fundamental difference between us is on the way this goal can be attained. Real peace between an attacker and the attacked party cannot be built on arbitrary faith that the attacker has changed his objective, but on solid facts which can ensure the attacked party against new attacks. And we shall continue to fight for these necessary defenses: we believe in the justness of our cause; we shall continue to voice it in every democratic manner.
In a democratic regime, an assassin's bullet does not change, and must not change, the government's policy nor the opposition's stand. The existence of this debate between the government and the opposition is the very life's breath of Israeli democracy, built on freedom of debate between trends and parties. And it is the supreme task of the Opposition to carry the main burden of the national debate, without which democracy becomes a tyranny of one view, an ideological dictatorship -- for without an opposition, there is no democracy.
The criminal attack on Yitzhak Rabin has revealed in full force one of the dangers menacing the openness of a free society, primarily the danger of violence by extremist individuals who do not accept the decision of the majority and the rule of law; those who preach violence and murder, and who organize to carry them out. We must fight with them all legal means at our disposal. And we must do this with joint forces, Opposition and Coalition as one, to root them out from our lives, and ensure they have no place in our midst.
But in this campaign against those few extremists, we must take care not to place collective blame on an entire group loyal to the State, which carries out its laws. I refer especially to the religious public, to the communities living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, a public which is today being subjected to harsh attack, whose tremendous contribution in all areas of our life cannot be doubted. Any attempt to exploit the tragedy to gain political advantage and to incite against half the people is, of course, fundamentally invalid.
Ladies and Gentlemen: here there are no enemies of the people, no enemies of peace. Here are no enemies! And we shall not allow anyone to take advantage of the dispute between us to turn us into enemies. We shall therefore put an end to incitement, also to that heard in recent days; we shall put an end to pointless hatred, to the delegitimization of political adversaries. We shall conduct the most stringent debates in a democratic and factual manner, with mutual respect and tolerance. And, above all, we shall remember: we are part of the same house, the same family, the same people. A house divided within itself cannot stand, as President Abraham Lincoln said; and that is sevenfold valid regarding our people, whose independence was in the past shattered by civil war, and against which huge external forces still are ranged in hostility.
Especially after the tragic murder of Yitzhak Rabin -- may his memory be blessed -- we must remember the feeling of togetherness of one family; that is a basic condition for our existence, and it is our obligation now to make every effort to rehabilitate and strengthen it.
Some 450 years after the assassination of Avner Ben-Ner, another political killing was perpetrated in Jerusalem -- that of Gedalya Ben-Ahikam, who was a leader of the remnant of the people after the destruction of the First Temple. In contrast to what happened in King David's time, this assassination caused the total disintegration of the Jewish community in the land of Israel, and its dispersion in all directions. And who are we today if not the survivors of the greatest destruction to strike our people? After that terrible holocaust, we returned to our land, settled in it, and rebuilt our independence in our ancient homeland.
And now here we stand again, once again at a fateful crossroad: shall we go the way of the remnant of the people under Gedalya, ripped apart in a civil war, or the way of King David, who knew how to unify the divided segments of the people and set up a united state whose memory and heritage are with us till today?
The choice is entirely ours. No one can decide it for us, and the main responsibility lies on the shoulders of all the Members of this House, and first and foremost on those leading the camps, on the shoulders of my friend Shimon, as head of the Labor Party and Prime Minister, and on me as Leader of the Opposition.
May we all have the strength and wisdom to choose the way of reconciliation and understanding: this is what the entire people expects of us today. This is what our wonderful youth whom we saw this week in its masses hopes for. What shall we say to our youth? We shall say that something has changed here this week on all sides of the House; we shall say we shall relate to one another with respect; we shall say: we will never forget that we are the children of one people. That is what the death of Yitzhak Rabin enjoins us all to do.
Let us all remember: Peace begins at home!