Rabin Square was filled to capacity on Saturday night, and not thanks to the charisma of opposition chairman Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union). Coalition Chairman David Bitan (Likud) did the opposition’s work with his infuriating statement to the effect that “Rabin’s assassination was not political.” The tens of thousands of people who came to the square and were alarmed at his words came to prove that the tactics of United States presidential candidate Donald Trump – in which a lie becomes the truth if repeated often enough – won’t work in Israel.
But why complain about the messenger? The voice is that of Bitan’s patron – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu’s thunderous silence at Bitan’s words is a foolish attempt to rewrite history, and at the same time absolve Netanyahu of his personal responsibility for Yitzhak Rabin’s murder. Yes, Netanyahu is responsible because he allowed the unbridled incitement of right-wing circles to run riot when he was opposition leader and didn’t stop it, and in doing so granted a seal of approval for the incitement, until it raged out of control.
Rabin’s assassination is political, of course, because Rabin was murdered due to his political views, by a right-wing extremist who opposed him politically, and therefore the politician who was the head of the camp from which the murderer emerged bears responsibility. Please note: responsibility, not blame. Nobody suspects that Netanyahu intended to incite to Rabin’s murder, or even imagined that the unbridled incitement in the streets against the Oslo process and against the prime minister who led the process would lead to murder.
Netanyahu certainly didn’t even dream of the possibility of a political assassination, and therefore he isn’t to blame. But he is responsible, because a leader in a democratic country is responsible for conducting a democratic discourse, and this responsibility includes checking belligerence, preventing incitement and nipping hatred in the bud.
Netanyahu did none of those things before Rabin’s assassination, and what is shocking is that he isn’t doing any of them now either. On the contrary – his silence at Bitan’s words is an attempt to absolve himself of responsibility for his silence at the time, and the granting of a renewed seal of approval to incitement.
Because if Rabin’s assassination is not political, then the political incitement is not the cause for the murder, and therefore it is legitimate to incite once again. It is possible once again to spill the blood of journalists, judges, politicians and leftists, because there is no price for incitement. Because the fact is that even when incitement ends in political assassination, the inciters are not responsible.
Netanyahu’s resounding silence at Bitan’s words, and at the slandering of left-wing circles as traitors and people who must not be allowed to work as journalists, proves that he learned nothing from Rabin’s assassination, nor does he have any intention of learning. The only lesson Netanyahu learned from the terrible fracture in Israeli democracy, a fracture in which he played a central role, is that the fracture and its lessons can be consigned to oblivion if one lies long enough. The lie is the new truth, and Netanyahu is Israel’s present prince of lies.
Twenty-one years after Rabin’s assassination and 83 years after the murder of Chaim Arlosoroff – which was also preceded by unbridled incitement by extremist right-wing circles, and none of the leaders of the right at the time protested against it prior to the murder or accepted responsibility for it afterwards – those responsible for preventing the next political assassination are cynically and indifferently shedding their responsibility. That means that the next political assassination in the State of Israel is only a matter of time.