Rabin funeral brings the world to Israel Royalty, presidents, prime ministers flock to Jerusalem

Clinton leads U.S. group

6 Arab countries, about 50 other nations are represented

The Assassination Of Yitzhak Rabin

November 07, 1995|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM -- Yitzhak Rabin's last breakthrough for peace came at his burial yesterday, when world leaders flocked to Israel as they never have before. Representatives of six Arab countries along with leaders fromer of Zionism, and their presence there acknowledged the changed stature of the Israel Mr. Rabin helped shape.

A siren raised its voice in a single, insistent note as Mr. Rabin's plain pine coffin arrived at the cemetery. The mournful wail echoed over the Jerusalem Peace Forest, and was repeated throughout Israel as the country stood still in mourning.

By the time he was buried, a million Israelis had come to Jerusalem to pay their last respects to the prime minister who was killed by a Jewish assassin shortly after a peace rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

The high autumn sky clouded over yesterday as the attention of the world focused on the final tributes paid to the leader of this country of 5 million, bringing a cool wind that mirrored the uncertainties felt in Israel after Saturday's assassination.

President Clinton noted the significance of the gathering, picking up a theme Mr. Rabin himself had used at their last peace gathering in Washington.

"Look at this picture," Mr. Clinton said, referring to the assemblage of dignitaries at the prime minister's funeral. "We no longer hear [Mr. Rabin's] deep and booming voice, but he brought us together."

It was truly a remarkable gathering for a nation that was born in 1948 amid much denunciation and remained diplomatically isolated for much of its existence.

Even three years ago, when Mr. Rabin became prime minister, yesterday's roster of visitors was unthinkable. Israel had made peace only with Egypt, and all other Arabs officially shunned the Jewish state.

Israeli passports were unwelcome in many countries, and international companies were wary of business with Israel because of an Arab boycott honored by much of the Third World. British royalty found their schedules too full for Israel.

Yesterday, Prince Charles was here wearing a yarmulke. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt came on his first visit after 17 years of invitations. King Hussein of Jordan visited Jerusalem for the first time since the 1967 Six-Day War when his army lost the Holy City to the Israelis. The chairs in front of Mr. Rabin's coffin were filled with presidents, prime ministers and ambassadors.

This was largely made possible by the peace process pursued by Mr. Rabin, a tough, hard-line general who blossomed into a Nobel Peace Prize-winning statesman. Mr. Rabin, among the dwindling few of the country's leaders who had fought for its independence, had succeeded in remaking much of the politics of the Middle East as he remade his own ideas.

His funeral yesterday embraced his extremes, heavy with the symbolism of his military career and leavened by accolades for his diplomacy and the presence of his wife and children and grandchildren.

"You lived as a soldier, and you died as a soldier of peace," said King Hussein, who delivered a eulogy addressed to Mr. Rabin.

"As long as I live I will be proud to have known him, to have worked with him as a brother, a friend," said the king, whose country was officially at war with Israel until last year.

'Song of Peace'

At yesterday's ceremony, Eitan Haber, a gifted speech-writer who gave the taciturn Mr. Rabin eloquence when delivering formal speeches, held up a blood-soaked page with the words to the "Song of Peace" that the prime minister carried in his pocket when he was killed.

"Five minutes before the man who shot you drew his gun, you sang the Song of Peace from a lyric sheet that was handed to you in order -- as you always said -- not to mumble the words," said Mr. Haber.

"This is the blood which ran out of your body in the final moments of your life and onto the paper between the lines and words," he said. "You, and peace, were shot."

But Shimon Peres, who was named interim prime minister, has sworn to prevent the peace from dying. Before and after Mr. Rabin was buried in Jerusalem's military cemetery, Mr. Peres held meetings with King Hussein, Mr. Mubarak, Mr. Clinton and other key leaders who had come for the funeral.

In addition to Mr. Mubarak and King Hussein, Arab dignitaries at the funeral included Moroccan Prime Minister Abdel Latif Filali and ministers from Oman, Qatar and Mauritania.

Mr. Peres' meetings stretched late into the night, as most of the dignitaries flew in only for the day and left last night. With 63 special flights of dignitaries, Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport was briefly closed to commercial air traffic.

The arrival of the officials also prompted an enormous security task, an ironic challenge for security officials now under fire for having failed to prevent the assassination of Mr. Rabin. About 10,000 police and soldiers were mobilized to provide protection to the visiting dignitaries.

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