Admirers around the world mourned the violent end Saturday to Yitzhak Rabin’s quest for peace in the Middle East, while his enemies there lit up the skies with celebratory gunfire.
In Lebanon, Palestinians in a refugee camp in Sidon danced in the streets and fired rocket-propelled grenades into the air upon word of Rabin’s assassination in Tel Aviv.
“Rabin is dead! Rabin is dead!” chanted one motorcyclist driving through Beirut’s Hamra district, announcing the news to the few celebrants who did not know. Strangers handed out candy and flowers to one another.
An emotional President Clinton praised Rabin as one of the world’s “greatest men,” calling him “a warrior for his nation’s freedom and now a martyr for his nation’s peace.”
Choking back tears in a hastily called appearance in the White House Rose Garden, the president also voiced both sympathy and strong U.S. support for the people of Israel. “Just as America has stood by you in moments of crisis and triumph, so now we all stand by you in this moment of grieving and loss,” he declared.
White House spokesman Mike McCurry indicated that Clinton will fly to Israel to attend Rabin’s funeral, which is scheduled for Monday. The president signed a proclamation requiring that flags be flown at half-staff in this country in respect for Rabin and for the Middle East peace process.
Around the world, some of the other leaders who had worked closely with Rabin on peace in the Middle East voiced similar expressions of sorrow.
A statement issued by the office of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called Rabin “a man who gave to the peace process his ample energies and thought for the sake of achieving security and peace for the people of Israel and of the region after wars and bloody struggle.
“Egypt condemns this criminal act … and asserts that achieving a just and comprehensive peace is a mission that only brave men can take upon themselves. Many principled men have fallen along the path toward achieving it, sacrificing their lives for the sake of their people.”
That last sentence was an apparent reference to former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who, like Rabin, was assassinated by opponents of peace within his own country.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, there were those who made it plain they were not unhappy about Rabin’s death.
In Iran, the official state news agency, Irna, said Rabin had been “paid in his own coin,” suggesting that he may have played a role in the recent assassination of Fathi Shikaki, the leader of the extremist Islamic Jihad movement. “Rabin was an ardent advocate of state terrorism, and he believed that the Zionist entity should break every international norm in the pursuit of its sinister goals,” the Iranian statement said.