"Israel is the state of the Jewish people, it is a Jewish state, but it is also a democratic country that guarantees full and equal rights to all its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike. This is the essence of the Declaration of Independence," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday amid the uproar surrounding his attempt to amend the Citizenship Act, under which non-Jewish citizens would be required to pledge allegiance to a "Jewish and democratic" state.
Speaking at a memorial service for Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl Cemetery, Netanyahu said the minister was assassinated by Palestinian terrorists "because he was a proud son of the Jewish nation."
The PM, who recently began direct peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, noted Ze'evi's adamant objection to the partition of the Land of Israel.
"We are all the children of this land. No other nation had such a connection to the Land of Israel," Netanyahu continued. "This is our land. This (Jerusalem) is our city. Gandhi understood this, despite growing up as a member of Palmach. This connection should unite us, not divide us.
"There are those who are trying to blur the connection the Land of Israel and reject the 'State of Israel for the Israeli nation' paradigm," according to the prime minister.
Minister Ze'evi was gunned down on October 17, 2001 at the Hyatt Hotel in Jerusalem by terrorists belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine a day after he submitted his resignation over the withdrawal of IDF forces from some positions in Hebron.
President Shimon Peres also attended the memorial service. "Gandhi tried to understand the Arab side and proved that friendship was possible even in a general state of animosity," he said.
Ze'evi's son Palmach said in his speech, "Your whole life you claimed that we must know our past, because a nation that is not familiar with its past – its existence is unstable. You possessed a Jewish pride that no American can defeat. Towards the end you split from the mainstream, which ran frantically towards the peace."
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