JERUSALEM – Israel on Wednesday marked 15 years since Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist who opposed his concessions for peace with the Palestinians.
At ceremonies around the country, speakers assessed Rabin's legacy, and many warned that the incitement to violence that preceded his assassination has not disappeared.
In 1995, Israel was in the midst of a peace process that aimed to create a Palestinian state in much of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. The process, which began with secret negotiations in Oslo, Norway in 1993, broke down in violence in 2000, and many Israelis now believe it was a mistake.
Rabin was shot dead on Nov. 4, 1995. Israel marks the event according to the Hebrew calendar date, which fell on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and other dignitaries joined Rabin's family at a ceremony at his grave in Jerusalem.
Instead of just eulogizing Rabin, Netanyahu addressed the slain prime minister as if he were alive, recounting what happened in his absence.
"We haven't yet reached the desired peace, and it is not clear if this would have completely surprised you," Netanyahu said at the ceremony in the Jerusalem military cemetery on Mount Herzl.
Today's peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which started in early September in Washington, have stalled over Netanyahu's refusal to extend a building slowdown in Jewish settlements in the West Bank — a territory that Palestinians seek for their future state.
Weeks before the assassination, Netanyahu — at the time a bitter political enemy of Rabin — vilified his planned concessions in a vitriolic rally in downtown Jerusalem. After taking office for a second term last year, Netanyahu for the first time accepted the concept of a Palestinian state.
At Wednesday's memorial, Netanyahu said many Israelis "understand that we cannot exist long term without a (peace) agreement and without compromises."
At a separate memorial in the central Israeli city of Rehovot, longtime Rabin aide Eitan Haber complained that extremist rabbis who backed violence were not arrested.
Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, "would not have carried out his murderous act if he had not felt backing from his religious leaders," said Haber, warning that extremism and incitement are still common.
Israeli newspapers featured pictures of Rabin and memorial ceremonies on their front pages. The Haaretz daily carried a picture of youth forging a six-sided Star of David from traditional memorial candles at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, named for the fallen leader after the assassination.
Echoing the findings of a public opinion poll, columnist Ben Caspit wrote in the Maariv daily: "Yigal Amir must never be released from prison."
(This version CORRECTS that Netanyahu took office last year, not this.)