Last updated: 29 October, 2012

Netanyahu says Rabin murder “one of worst crimes”

The murder of former premier Yitzhak Rabin by a rightwing extremist was “one of the worst crimes,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday as Israel marked the 17th anniversary of the assassination.

“The murder of Yitzhak Rabin was one of the worst crimes of the new age,” Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting, who held a minute’s silence to mark the anniversary of Rabin’s November 4, 1995 murder by a Jewish extremist who opposed his concessions to the Palestinians.

Israel marks the date according to the Hebrew calendar.

“It certainly besmirches the annals of the state and of Zionism,” Netanyahu said.

“This murder also obliges us to safeguard Israel’s democracy, to defend freedom of speech and to strongly reject all displays of violence,” he added.

Later, at a memorial ceremony for Rabin at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl cemetery, Netanyahu raised the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, which he said is a threat to the security of Israel, the region and the world.

“Yitzhak Rabin identified that menace,” he said, adding that “we must remember another principle that he understood: the guarantee of peace is our strength and our ability to defend ourselves.”

Western powers and Israel accuse Tehran of seeking to develop a nuclear bomb, charges which Iranian leaders deny, saying their nuclear energy programme is purely for civilian purposes.

Israel, the Middle East’s sole, if undeclared, nuclear power, has refused to rule out a military strike to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear military capabilities.

On Saturday night, around 30,000 people gathered to mark the anniversary in the Tel Aviv square where Rabin was gunned down by Yigal Amir as he left a peace rally.

The general-turned-peacemaker inspired both admiration and hatred for signing the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. A year later, he was jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize with now President Shimon Peres and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.