Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi was booed loudly at the memorial rally for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, which drew a crowd of tens of thousands of people.
The booing, which lasted throughout Hangebi's entire speech, was accompanied by calls of "Get off (the stage), apologize!"
Hanegni, a member of the ruling Likud party and a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Ynet afterwards that he "attached no importance" to the booing. "I was speaking to people at home, for whom it was important to hear my remarks."
Netanyahu and the right-wing have been accused of inflaming the hatred and inciting against Rabin following the signing of the Oslo Accords. This, some believe, contributed to the climate that led to Rabin's assassination in November 1995.
The audience at the rally demanded Hanegbi to apologize for a 1995 rally against the Oslo Accords, which was held at Zion Square in
Hanegbi rejected the demands to apologize, saying "I wasn't on that balcony; I wasn't at that rally with the incitement speeches. I'm proud of the struggle I conducted against the Oslo Accords. It was legitimate."
"The attempt to attribute the actions of one zealot man to half of the people was unsuccessful," Hanegbi added, referring to Rabin's murderer, Yigal Amir. "It's a fact the public elected Netanyahu several months later."
"I spoke to the people, and to the people's hearts. It was very important that the things I believe in would be heard on this stage, without trying to pander to the audience," Hanegbi went on to say. "As you saw, my speech was about us being one people, and that message was important."
"It's important for the voice of the right-wing, the national camp, to be heard here," he added. "We won't leave the sadness and the longing we have to the other side of the political map. Our pain is the same, and therefore I'm glad I came. I was sorry I was the only one who agreed to come."
Netanyahu himself criticized the treatment Hanegbi received, writing on Twitter: "It's regretful that the memorial rally for prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was turned into a political conference. Those who herald the freedom of speech are trying to silence anyone who disagrees with them."
"A disgraceful left-wing protest; the booing against Hanegbi," Bayit Yehudi leader Education Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on his own Twitter page.
"It wasn't the right-wing that murdered Rabin, it was Yigal Amir," Bennett added. "As a right-wing leader who opposes a Palestinian state, I'm tired of the false accusations made yearly by the left-wing. Right-wingers don't need to come to a protest meant to denunciate the right wing. The conclusion of the radical left—the right wing is to blame. My conclusion—no more violence and no to civil war. You pick."
Former prime minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, slammed the right-wing: "This story of incitement on both side is a tale that allows Netanyahu to hide his inability to face the public and say: 'I made a mistake, we incited. We didn't shoot, Rabbi Dov Lior was the one behind the murderer'... Reconciliation will only come after those responsible for the incitement are able to look the public in the eyes and say 'We made a mistake.'"
Hanegbi: Oslo a bitter mistake, I would've taken a bullet for RabinDuring his speech at the rally, which marked 23 years to the murder, Hanegbi said that "We must never forget why Jerusalem came to ruin, why the Second Temple came to ruin—because of hatred. The murderer of Yitzhak Rabin was willing to bring another ruin on us. He wanted to control history, control us the citizens. He wanted to murder a soul in order to murder a policy, even at the cost of murdering democracy and even at the cost of a civil war."
While criticizing the Oslo Accords as a "bitter mistake," Hanegbi condemned the murder. "When the killer took the prime minister, me and everyone else, my partners in that political struggle, felt exactly the same as the Israelis on the other side of the ideological divide—immense pain and sorrow," he said. "Had I been there, I would've taken the bullet for Rabin."
"We must always remember we are all brothers. That is the way to preserve our country together, the country Rabin fought for its protection and existence, and was murdered because he acted based on his beliefs—which I did not agree with, but it were his beliefs," Hanegbi went on to say.
Hanegbi's invitation to speak by the Darkenu movement, which organized the rally, drew criticism in the days leading up to the event. A sign held up at the rally demanded "Tzachi, apologize," while the minister came protected by a security guard.
"I wouldn't have invited Hanegbi to the rally," Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg said. "The Likud Party led the incitement then. Moreover, it is leading the incitement against the peace camp today as well."
Warning against incitement
In previous years, rally organizers chose to steer away from politicians, but this year politicians from across the political spectrum were invited. Hanegbi was the only one from the right-wing who agreed to attend and speak.
Members of the opposition who spoke at the rally all warned against what they see as ongoing incitement.
"We're in a struggle for our country," said Labor leader Avi Gabbay. "From this square, which is drenched in the blood of Rabin, we will say loudly: We've grown tired of the politics of pitting brother against brother; we've grown tired of the ongoing intimidation; we've grown tired of the incitement against the police and the IDF chief, against the president, the media and the Supreme Court; we've grown tired of the search for someone to blame and marking traitors."
Gabbay asserted that "when Rabin was the defense minister, we knew Rabin would never mix politics with our security."
"I watch our young soldiers lying on mounds of dirt in front of Gaza, I watch in pain as anxious parents run to shelters. They know Rabin chose peace and fought Hamas. Netanyahu gave up on peace and surrendered to Hamas," he added.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who along with Gabbay heads the Zionist Union, warned that "History is repeating itself. It's enough to read the posts made by the prime minister of Israel, to see the videos, to listen to the speeches, to read the violent talkbacks this evil wind is bringing with it: the one that accuses anyone who thinks different of treason and endangering the state. We say that anyone acting for peace is not a traitor."
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said that "what happened here in the square (where Rabin was murdered) should have made us better people... that didn't happen. We're not better. The murder didn't bring us closer together. The incitement is once again a tool; paranoia once again rules us. Rabin's murder was not just murder; it was also a threat for the next murder. Because when the prime minister is murdered, it becomes an option."
"Precisely because I'm not in the left-wing," Lapid said, getting booed from the audience, "precisely because I have an argument with the left-wing, I feel the obligation to warn: When a government says that anyone who thinks differently is a traitor and a collaborator with the enemy, it is leading us on a dangerous path, and it must stop. There are margins on the Right and the Left. We have an obligation to stand against them. But not everyone who thinks differently is an extremist and poses an existential threat; not everyone who thinks differently is the enemy. Not the entire right-wing murdered Rabin; not the entire left-wing is to blame for terror attacks and terrorism."
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg asserted that "incitement is not like a heat wave in November—a bothersome phenomenon that cannot be controlled. We can't ignore the fact that what in 1995 was considered extremist margins is today the main work plan—organized and funded—of the government. When Netanyahu rode the wave of incitement in 1995, he thought maybe he could control it. Perhaps he didn't care. But today, today he has made incitement into a main tool to keep the peace camp submissive, under control, shattered. He's using incitement to ensure the legacy of the murder remains—meaning, for the legacy of peace to remain buried deep underground."