Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday denied he played any role in the incitement leading up to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, and Netanyahu decried what he called "attempts to distort" events preceding the former prime minister's slaying.
Even as the nation gathered Saturday to mark 21 years since Rabin's 1995 assassination at the hands of an Israeli who opposed a policy of trading land to the Palestinians, about 300 Israeli protesters gathered to demonstrate against Netanyahu, and some politicians accused Netanyahu of engaging in the incitement that prompted Yigal Amir to shoot Rabin dead.
"Bibi is not guilty of Rabin's murder, but he was and remains the chief inciter," former Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrote on Twitter.
Barak was responding to a Facebook post from Netanyahu in which Netanyahu fought back against repeated attempts to blame him for incitement against Rabin and, as evidence, posted old videos of his denunciations of other Rabin critics' inflammatory rhetoric, adding "judge for yourselves."
"Rabin's assassination was a shocking political assassination that we all renounce," Netanyahu wrote. "Since the assassination there have been ongoing attempts to distort the historic truth and to attribute the incitement that preceded the assassination to me."
Rabin was shot dead after a peace rally on Nov. 4, 1995. In the months before the killing, political hard-liners branded Rabin a traitor and some extremists called for his death. Critics charged that the climate of incitement inspired Amir to kill Rabin. In one famous incident, Netanyahu, then the opposition leader, addressed a protest in downtown Jerusalem where demonstrators held posters portraying Rabin in an Arab headscarf or Nazi uniform.
Netanyahu claims he didn't see the banners or hear violent chants.
In one clip posted to Facebook, from just three months before Rabin was killed, Netanyahu called on others in opposition to Rabin to show respect for the Israeli leader.
“Comments like these directed at the prime minister are directed at the prime minister of Israel," Netanyahu said in the August 1995 Channel 2 interview. "It doesn’t matter which party he is from. He is the prime minister of Israel. It’s not appropriate. It’s not proper. It’s not moral. I am simply telling these people to desist from this, because we will all condemn it.”
But the Facebook post did little to pacify Netanyahu's detractors.
“Bibi always tries to twist the history. He is not loyal to anyone but himself,” Labor youth movement chairman Yael Sinai said on Saturday, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Netanyahu vehemently opposed Rabin's planned concessions and only grudgingly accepted the concept of a Palestinian state after taking office for a second term in 2009. He has since distanced himself from those comments and during his re-election campaign last year said he would not allow a Palestinian state on his watch.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.