Yonatan Ben Artzi claimed Netanyahu’s ouster ended “the hatred…the division which tore Israeli society apart,” but in the same breath he himself sowed hatred and division.
By Atara Beck
Opposition Leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was notably absent from a state ceremony Monday that marked 26 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But who can blame him?
Ever since the assassination, carried out by right-wing extremist Yigal Amir on November 4, 1995, the Rabin family has been blaming Netanyahu for allegedly inciting hatred that culminated in the murder. Netanyahu, who attended the annual ceremony each year when serving as prime minister, has repeatedly denied the allegations.
In fact, addressing the Knesset ceremony later in the day, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads the right-wing Yamina party, called for an end to the divisiveness, saying, “It wasn’t the right or the religious who murdered Rabin. Yigal Amir murdered him.”
Yet Yonatan Ben Artzi, Rabin’s grandson, reaped division again this year and offended at least a quarter of the Israeli population at a graveside memorial by celebrating the end of the Netanyahu era and claiming it marked the end of “the hatred once again filled the streets [and] the division which tore Israeli society apart.”
Despite his inability to form a coalition in the 120-seat Knesset, the Likud leader had more votes by far than any other candidate, winning 30 seats. Next in line was Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, who garnered 17 seats and now serves as foreign minister and alternate prime minister. Bennett won a mere seven seats.
Nonetheless, Ben Artzi used his platform to slam Netanyahu and show contempt for his voters, claiming the former Israeli leader’s ouster ended “the hatred once again filled the streets [and] the division which tore Israeli society apart.”
Referring to the end of Netanyahu’s premiership, Ben Artzi said that “2021 was a turning point. After dark years of fear and silence, the people of Israel stood up.”
Each Netanyahu victory over the course of his 15 years of leadership was gained through democratic elections and the will of the voters. Yet, according to Ben Artzi:
“After a long war for its freedom and democratic character, the people of Israel were victorious. Against open violence both verbal and physical, facing a culture of dictatorship and lies, the Israeli spirit triumphed, and government of the people defeated the government of the individual.”
Furthermore, he said, “For the last quarter century, Israel has been suffering from post-trauma which is being fueled by those people who take delight in the pain. But I can say that this morning, 26 years after that terrible night…I can tell you that now that terrible period is over.”
Lapid, too, took the opportunity — at an event that should have been a solemn occasion and a call for unity — to attack his political opponents, saying, “The last election was a referendum on democracy, on the question of whether we still want to live in a democratic regime with the rule of law, or whether we want to move to a populist, authoritarian, extremist and nationalist regime.” Ironically, Lapid trailed behind Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, who attended the Knesset event, responded:
“Over the years I have heard at these events abusive and false claims about the camp I represent and about me personally, but I gritted my teeth,,I restrained myself. I fulfilled my duty to be there as Prime Minister in accordance with the State Protocol…
“We treat the late Yitzhak Rabin with deep respect for his many virtues, for his great contribution to Israel’s security, and yet we do not hide for a moment the disagreements between us. This is statesmanship,” he declared.
In 2019, responding to that year’s attack by Ben Artzi on the former premier, Netanyahu responded:
“The memorial has become a disgraceful political outburst. They take advantage of the official memorial ceremony for false political propaganda. We see a direct link between this disrespectful behavior and the difficulty of uniting the people, healing the wound.”