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Remarks on the Anniversary of the Assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel

October 24, 1996

Today the Yartziet candle, symbol of the anniversary of a death, burns for my friend Yitzhak Rabin. So often, we recognize the true measure of a person only in retrospect, when someone is gone, and his or her legacy becomes clear. But once in a long while, a figure of greatness stands before our eyes, and we recognize it in an instant. Yitzhak Rabin was such a figure of greatness. And virtually all of us who knew him during his life saw that immediately.

He lived the history of his nation, from the heroic struggles of Israel's birth to the repeated defense of its existence, to the quest for peace and acceptance after decades of conflict and bloodshed. He had an indomitable will which he dedicated without hesitation to the lifelong service of Israel's security.

For a people who in 2,000 years of exile were too often powerless in the face of oppression, Yitzhak Rabin embodied the independence and self-sufficiency of modern Israel. And he possessed something else: the genius to see after a lifetime of war that the greatest safety for Israel's people can be attained when peace and security are one. Through deeds as well as words, he helped bring an entire region to the threshold of a new and better day. Yitzhak Rabin was truly a light unto the nations.

It was one of the great privileges of my life to know Prime Minister Rabin and to have worked with him for the benefit of the people of Israel and all the Middle East. I'll always remember the first time we met at the White House. He told me that he had a mandate from the people of Israel to take calculated risks for peace. And I told him that I would be his partner in advancing peace and in minimizing those risks. That was my pledge to him, and that remains my commitment to the people of Israel. I will do all I can to preserve Yitzhak Rabin's legacy by helping Israel to make a secure peace with its neighbors.

A year has passed. The wounds of loss have not yet healed. But the memory of Prime Minister Rabin remains a powerful inspiration to me and to people the world over. In March I visited Har Herzl. In keeping with the Jewish tradition of only adding to the memory of those who have died and never detracting from it, I put a small stone from the South Lawn of the White House on his grave. That stone symbolizes the depth of my feeling for my friend Yitzhak Rabin and the unshakable bond between our two nations, which he did so much to strengthen.

Today, on the anniversary of his death, I ask all men and women of good will to join me in adding to the memory of this remarkable man by carrying on the struggle for security and peace for Israel and reconciliation for the peoples of the Middle East. Yitzhak Rabin made that struggle his last work. Now it is our responsibility to make good on his legacy.

NOTE: The President's remarks were videotaped at 5 p.m. on October 17 at the Sheraton Universal in Los Angeles, CA, for broadcast on October 24.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on the Anniversary of the Assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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