Did Benjamin Netanyahu, in the 1995 election campaign against Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, refuse to denounce virulent critics of Rabin, who termed him a traitor for agreeing to turn over territory to the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo Accords? And did Netanyahu’s failure help create the violent atmosphere that contributed to Rabin’s assassination?
The answer is that Netanyahu absolutely denounced such charges, and there’s documentary evidence, including video, to prove it. But this hasn’t stopped some pundits from recycling the already discredited charges.
it’s important to appreciate the possible consequences of this type of toxic discourse. It’s sobering and instructive to look to another pivotal political moment, in another fractious and imperfect democracy, Israel. (Trump, Rabin and the danger of indecency, Boston Globe, August 7, 2016)
Teichman then goes on to allege that in that 1995 campaign:
… protests were marked by a drum beat of venomous personal attacks directed at Rabin. Zealous and frenzied protesters chanted “Death to Rabin” and brandished posters of him in the cross-hairs of a rifle scope. They called Rabin a murderer and depicted him in a Nazi uniform.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition Likud party and Rabin’s main political rival, vigorously denounced the Oslo initiatives at a series of large rallies, which some warned him would lead to violence.
Teichman closes the circle by charging that:
Before his death, Rabin accused Netanyahu of incitement, but Netanyahu rejected appeals to restrain his supporters. Fearing he’d lose their support, Netanyahu refused to repudiate their invective and offered no denunciation of their violent speech and actions. He never distanced himself directly and only offered a mild rebuke of just “let’s defeat” him.
Netanyahu refused to repudiate? He offered no denunciation? In fact, contrary to Teichman, Netanyahu repudiated, denounced and silenced such criticism of Rabin.
For example, in this rally on April 17, 1995 Netanyahu remonstrated with some in the crowd who were chanting that Rabin was a traitor:
Netanyahu: He [Rabin] is not a traitor. He’s not a traitor. He’s mistaken. He’s greatly mistaken. And he will end up stepping aside. But he’s not a traitor. He is not a traitor. No, no. No, he is not. We are dealing with political rivals, not enemies. We are one nation.
And regarding anti-Rabin incitement at the perhaps the largest rally in the campaign, at Zion Square in Jerusalem on October 5, 1995, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, no friend of the Likud or Netanyahu, reported:
The crowd chanted ‘Rabin Traitor’ and Mr. Netanyahu silenced them, saying such calls do not belong here. ‘We will not replace the government through fire and blood but through the ballot box, and through it alone.
As for the Nazi poster that some carried at that rally, Netanyahu could not have seen it from hundreds of feet away, but when he was made aware of it via television reports, he denounced the poster on the Knesset floor.
But there is more to be said about the Nazi-Rabin poster – it was created by followers of Avishai Raviv, a supposed far-right activist who was actually working for Israel’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet. Raviv was tasked with infiltrating Israeli right wing groups, but rather than just acting as an informer Raviv acted as an agent provocateur. He brought the infamous Nazi poster to a Netanyahu rally and made sure that journalists saw it.