During the meeting, however, Rabin did not make the statement the Likud had hoped to hear.
"The point of this meeting is not to voice my support for one party or another, and Mr. Netanyahu knows I won't be voting Likud," Rabin declared. Asked which party would gain his support, he replied, "Labor."
Netanyahu spoke of his acquaintanceship with Yitzhak Rabin's son. "I met with him several times in the past few months, including today, and told him what I have been telling the public as well: I plan to win tomorrow and form a unity government with all the Zionist parties which will be as wide as possible, in order to ward off Israel's existential dangers.
"The threats coming from Iran are strong, and we need to protect the workplaces. This cannot be down without a broad, strong unity government."
"This is exactly what I wanted to hear," said Rabin. As he began talking, the chairman of Young Meretz, Uri Zaki, lashed out at him and said, "Your father would be ashamed of you. The entire peace camp is ashamed of you. This is a disgrace."
After Zaki was removed from the room, Netanyahu said, "This is an example of the approach which continues to divide the people instead of uniting the people. Our approach is the opposite: We cannot afford disputes and fights now. Iran and Hamas are at the gate…
"There was once a rift between us and it no longer exists," he said of Yuval Rabin.
Netanyahu and Rabin at the press conference (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Rabin explained why he decided to meet with Netanyahu: "The point of this meeting is not to voice my support for one party or another, and Mr. Netanyahu knows I won't be voting Likud, that's not the goal. The question is what the political map will look like in two days and what will be done with it. I don’t see an option for a strong leftist-centrist government.
"There is an option for a strong right-wing government, and Netanyahu is promising all of the people of Israel to form a unity government in light of all the challenged and in light of all the expected difficulties.
"These things led me to start talking with Netanyahu four or five months ago, and this is why I'm here today – for a national unity government. There will be someone who will win and lead it, but the commitment is obliging."
Not an easy decision
After the press conference, Rabin referred to the remarks made by the Meretz activist. "It's clearly unpleasant listening to such things. I know this was not an easy decision and that it will be harshly criticized, but I believe my goal has been achieved. Very clear things have been said…
"I think one of our problems in the past decade is the lack of governmental stability. My decision who to vote for stems from this consideration: We must return to a situation of two blocs rather than pieces of fashionable parties which come and go."
Sources in the Likud said the press conference was important despite the fact that Rabin voiced his support for the Labor Party. "The message Bibi seeks to convey is unity rather than a rift, and there's nothing better than a photo opportunity with Rabin to symbolize unity among the people," one of the sources said.
"This is a sort of a closure. There are citizens who still have sentiments regarding the issues between Netanyahu and the Rabin family, and if they're still there they have been dismissed now."
At the start of the election campaign, Yuval Rabin criticized the Israeli Left and expressed his solidarity with some of the Likud chairman's statements. On the eve of the elections, however, he vowed to vote for Labor Chairman Ehud Barak.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report