Israel’s former president and Nobel peace laureate Shimon Peres has taken a swipe at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for failing to make peace with the Arabs.
“Those who have renounced making peace are … not patriots,” Peres said on Saturday at a ceremony in Tel Aviv marking the 19th anniversary of the assassination of premier Yitzhak Rabin, who had signed peace agreements with the Palestinians.
“It’s a shame that the only peace initiative was an Arab initiative. Where is the Israeli peace initiative?” Peres asked, warning that “time is against us”.
He was referring to the Arab Peace Initiative made in 2002 by oil kingpin Saudi Arabia, calling on Israel to withdraw from occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, in exchange for a normalisation of ties with Arab countries.
Rabin was gunned down at a peace rally in Israel’s commercial capital on November 4, 1995, by a right wing Jewish extremist opposed to Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
His murder came just two years after the signing of the Oslo Accords and Rabin’s historic handshake with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn.
The anniversary of Rabin’s death comes with US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians frozen, and tensions running high in Jerusalem, particularly around Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.
Al-Aqsa, in Jerusalem’s Old City, and adjacent neighbourhoods have seen months of violence, and the mosque compound has been a rallying point for Palestinian resistance to perceived Jewish attempts to take control of it.
On Saturday, Netanyahu urged Israeli parliamentarians to show restraint after one of his Likud party MPs said he would go on Sunday to the flashpoint compound, sacred to both Jews and Muslims.
Moshe Feiglin said he would go to the compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount, to protest because Jews are banned from praying there.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office said he called on all MPs “to work to calm the situation on the issue of the Temple Mount and to show responsibility and restraint”.
A controversial visit to Al-Aqsa in 2000 by the late Ariel Sharon before he became prime minister sparked the second deadly Palestinian intifada, or uprising.