Israeli President Isaac Herzog speaks Monday at the state memorial ceremony for the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the Mt. Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, on Monday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Israel marked the 26th anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on Monday.
Rabin was a Nobel Peace Prize winner, along with serving as the country's first native born prime minister from 1974-1977 and from 1992 until his assassination in 1995. He also served as chief of staff of Israel Defense Forces in 1964 and oversaw Israel's victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Right-wing extremist and Bar Ilan University law student Yigal Amir, who opposed the Oslo Accords, which Rabin signed to create peace with Palestinians, assassinated him on November 4, 1995. On the night he would later be assassinated by Amir, Rabin declared: I believe there is a chance for peace--a great chance," The Jerusalem Post noted.
A huge memorial candle known as Ner Yitzhak, is lit each year to kick off annual memorial events, including official state memorial ceremony, symposia, conferences, a special Knesset session, school lectures across the country, tours of the Rabin center and peace dialogues in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, which was named in his honor, according to the Jerusalem Post. Various memorial events will continue until Nov. 4, the Gregorian calendar anniversary of his death.
This year President Isaac Herzog lit the memorial candle at a ceremony where four generations of Rabin's family were in attendance, and then participated in the state memorial ceremony at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery, along with other Israeli officials.
"Our words and [words] of our associates are the most combustible material," Herzog said at the memorial event," urging elected officials and public servants to exercise "moderation, caution and reassurance," The Times of Israel reported. "We will always remember that a rift caused the murder of a leader in Israel and we will do everything so such an incident does not happen again."
After Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennet gave remarks at the state ceremony.
"On November 4, 1995, Israel was on the brink of an abyss," Bennett said. "The lesson I took away from Rabin's murder -- under no circumstances, no matter the situation, should the nation be torn apart."
"We mustn't burn our house down," he added. "We are brothers. The only comfort from this terrible murder is the fact that we managed to flourish, to correct."
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who served as prime minister of Israel from 1996-1999 and from 2009-2021, was notably absent, at the memorial ceremony.
During an event held earlier in the day at the president's residence, Rabin's grandson, Yonatan Ben Artzi, hailed the new government that removed Netanyahu from power.
"After dark years of fear and paralysis, Israel has won," Artzi said. "In the face of a culture of tyranny, the people won."
"The rule of the people defeated the one-person rule," Artzi added. "It is thanks to this victory, achieved 26 years after that horrendous night, that I can look you in the eye...and say: Mourning time is over. Let us learn from our past and embark on a new road."
Netanyahu did not explain his absence, but his office said he was not obligated to attend and would speak later at a special Knesset session, according to The Times of Israel.