Saturday’s memorial rally marking 19 years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin drew just a few thousand attendees, rather than the expected tens of thousands.
Israeli media reports from the event, which took place in the same Tel Aviv square where Rabin was shot, highlighted speeches by former President Shimon Peres and Rabin’s son, Yuval.
Peres, the man responsible for the disastrous Oslo Accords that set the backdrop for the Rabin assassination, was particularly provocative in insisting that those who fail to pursue peace as he did are not real patriots.
In so doing, Peres once again divided Israeli society into a “peace camp” minority that is trying to save Israel from an ostensibly war-mongering majority. This convenient division is a false representation of an Israeli society that longs for peace, but at the same time has learned the hard way not to be delusional.
The poor attendance at the memorial rally demonstrated that Israelis in general reject efforts by extreme left-wing groups like “Peace Now” and the Meretz Party to seize Rabin’s legacy.
If there was any doubt as to where this rally sought to take Rabin’s legacy, the sight of a large Israeli flag whose blue stripes and star had been changed to Palestinian black, green and red clearly signaled that the Israeli Left sees in the assassinated prime minister a beacon for a post-Zionist movement that dreams of turning Israel into a non-Jewish state.
The suggestion that Rabin endorsed or tried to implement such a worldview would seem at first a gross misrepresentation. Rabin didn’t particularly like Meretz, and he certainly didn’t like Peace Now.
There can be little doubt, however, that the Oslo Accords that so infuriated large segments of Israeli society - not least of which because the dangerous agreement stood contrary to Rabin’s own pre-election promises - resonated well with the ideology of the extreme Left.
Nineteen years after Rabin’s assassination, a clearer assessment of his legacy is emerging. Though only a handful would justify his killing, many still think that Rabin’s assassination, horrible as it was, should not cloud the fact that his betrayal of election promises, his loathing for the settlers and the predictable results of the Oslo Accords all served to divide Israeli society almost to the point of civil war.
Unpleasant as it may be, this is part of Rabin’s legacy. As such, the people who gathered for the annual memorial rally were, therefore, not seizing Rabin’s legacy for their own purposes. Rather, it seems they were representing his legacy fairly accurately.