Israelis mourn Yitzhak Rabin

Tens of thousands of Israelis have packed the Tel Aviv park where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated 10 years ago to mourn the former prime minister.

    Tens of thousands participated in the memorial rally

    The mourners expressed hopes that Rabin's memory would spur new efforts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

    Rabin's killing by an ultranationalist Jew, opposed to the premier's peace efforts with the Palestinians, stunned the country, revealing the depth of Israel's internal conflicts and badly damaging hopes for peace.

    The Israelis at the memorial rally on Saturday sang songs of peace, held candles and waved Israeli flags as they remembered Rabin as a strong leader who loved his people and made the ultimate sacrifice for peace. Images of Rabin played on a huge television screen towering over the square.

    Many had been in the park 10 years ago at the massive peace rally where Rabin was killed. Charles Abelsohn, 63, said he could still picture standing in the square and watching Rabin speak at that rally.

    "This is not just the [memorial] for a man but also for a direction," he said. "By being here tonight, it will re-energise the peace process."

    Clinton's tribute

    Rabin, who shared a Noble Peace Prize for signing the Oslo interim peace accords with the Palestinians, was shot and killed as he left the peace rally on 4 November 1995 by Yigal Amir, an extremist Jew who considered Rabin a traitor for making concessions to the Palestinians.

    Since the killing, relations with the Palestinians have steeply deteriorated, finally collapsing in a wave of violence that began more than five years ago.

    Clinton said he missed Rabin
    constantly and painfully

    Though violence has significantly decreased over the past year, efforts to revive peace talks have faltered.

    "It's been unbelievably 10 years since that dark day when we lost Yitzhak Rabin and what I still believe is our best chance for a comprehensive and lasting peace," former US President Bill Clinton said at a conference in Jerusalem before the rally.

    "Not a week has gone by in those 10 years when I have not thought of his family, his allies and Israel's struggle."

    Clinton, who said he missed Rabin "constantly and painfully," was scheduled to address the rally later on Saturday, accompanied by his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and their daughter Chelsea. Amir Peretz, the new leader of Rabin's Labour Party, said Rabin's sacrifice had not been in vain.

    "The way of Oslo is still alive and well. The way of Oslo is still the path to peace," he said.

    Tight security

    Israel marked Rabin's death with television specials and many Israelis visited the site of the killing, now named Rabin Square, in recent days for a series of memorial events.

    "Rabin stood for democracy and peace. I came here because I don't want to forget"

    Tomer Ben Nun, 15,
    Participant at the rally

    Former Rabin aide Eitan Haber said that if Israel wanted to preserve Rabin's memory, "to walk his path of peace and security," then Israelis of all political beliefs should gather in the park next year for another memorial.

    "Tears have no political colour, they are all equally salty," he said.

    Many in the crowd were teenage members of dovish youth movements who had participated in seminars about Rabin's legacy before the memorial.

    "Rabin stood for democracy and peace," said Tomer Ben Nun, 15. "I came here because I don't want to forget."

    Security at the rally on Saturday was tight, with 1500 police and security personnel deployed out of fear that Palestinians or ultranationalist Jews would make the rally the target of an attack, police said.

    Police said that while they had no warning of a planned attack they were taking no chances.

    "We are treating it as if we had a warning," Ilan Mor, chief of operations for the Tel Aviv police, told Israel Radio.

    "From our point of view, we are on maximum alert and security checks will be at a maximum."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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