Tribute to Mr Yitzhak Rabin

Message from Mr Shimon Peres
Prime Minister of the State of Israel

Presented and read out by Mr Alioune Traoré
Executive Secretary of the Prize

"Your Majesties,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Federico Mayor, has just received at this very moment an important message from the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Mr Shimon Peres, winner of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize.

Before reading the message addressed to this august gathering, I should like to inform you that as soon as the Director-General of UNESCO learnt of the tragic death of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, he decided to organize a special tribute to the memory of the late illustrious man during this ceremony. He therefore invited Mr Shimon Peres and Ms Lea Rabin to participate in the tribute.

But by a highly symbolic coincidence - or perhaps fate had a hand in it - Ms Rabin and Mr Peres are even now, as our ceremony is taking place, on Mount Herzel. There, in accordance with the immemorial precepts of Jewish religion and tradition, thirty days after the funeral ceremony, the tombstone of the deceased is being put in place in the presence of the President of the State of Israel, the Israeli Government, its Head and, of course, the family of Mr Rabin. For that reason, the two invited guests were unable to attend, although in spirit Yamoussoukro and Mount Herzel are united in one and the same ardent prayer for the memory of two soldiers of peace, Yitzhak Rabin and Félix Houphouët-Boigny.


Your Majesties,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I should now like to read out the message to you.

"I need hardly tell you how difficult it is for me to compose these few sentences, or why I am not with you in Yamoussoukro, the village where one of Africa’s leaders most admired in Israel was born: Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the "Old One", the man of peace, patience and dialogue.

On 6 July 1994, the three of us: Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the President of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, and I, were there on the podium of UNESCO in Paris, for the award of the UNESCO Peace Prize which bears the name of President Félix Houphouët-Boigny.

President Konan Bédié, you told us at the time that one of the last wishes of the "Old One", who had learnt with great joy about the signing of the Oslo Agreements by the Palestinians and ourselves, had thus come true. We were highly honoured to be awarded this prestigious prize by the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Federico Mayor, and Dr Kissinger, President of the Jury. We all know how much peace, and especially the war-torn peace of the Middle East, was dear to him.

We all appreciated the wisdom of the advice he gave, which was always accompanied by traditional African proverbs and sayings. He was for us all like a clear, deep-flowing spring, a fountain of wisdom which gave us the energy to continue on the one true path: the path of Peace!

The recent loss of Yitzhak Rabin, a hero of both war and peace, has profoundly affected us. My personal feeling of grief, and the pain felt by our people and shared by others throughout the world, cannot be put into words.

From Jerusalem, I wish to make a solemn promise to you who are assembled in Yamoussoukro: the promise to perpetuate the legacy which Yitzhak Rabin left us - to continue on the path which he mapped out, the path of peace. I know that the "Old One" can hear us; I can picture him, nodding; I can hear him saying to us in his quiet voice, "Yes, my children, you are on the right path!"

Lastly, I should like to say to His Majesty King Juan Carlos and President Jimmy Carter that no one deserves more than you to be there, today, in Yamoussoukro. Your outstanding activities earn you a place among the world's greatest peace activists. I am honoured to extend my greetings to you, and to all those present at this memorable gathering.



Mr Federico Mayor
Director-General of UNESCO

"It is not only to the former Prime Minister of a Member State of UNESCO, whose life was tragically ended by the bullets of fanaticism and intolerance, that we today pay heartfelt tribute. We also honour to the winner of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize, and the man who was convinced that peace was the only basis for developing democracy and creating happiness.

Yitzhak Rabin was a man of conviction and rectitude. His reaction to the danger hanging over his country was to show a courage and self-sacrifice which made him a hero in the eyes of his people. Then, when the dove of peace rose over the ruins, he successfully assumed the role of a vigilant and committed protector of the fluttering of its wings. Having experienced war, he knew the price of peace. He could hardly wait to give his Israeli brothers and sisters a taste of its unique savour. And he defined the peace to which he devoted all his energies not merely as the result of political agreements, but also as the fruit of a slow and sure process whereby the two peoples move towards living together and sharing a common destiny. As he said, when he was awarded the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Prize, 'Peace will be built slowly, day by day, through modest deeds and countless spontaneous details. It will be built, step by step, by people' ...'The handshakes on the lawn in Washington, the stage in Cairo, and here in Paris must be repeated by the residents of Gaza and Ashkelon, of Jericho and Ma’ale Adumim' .A man who voices such a noble and simple conception of peace deserves to be honoured by all those who share his convictions and enjoy the benefits of his action.

In this same speech, he warned his audience in what were, alas, premonitory terms: '...the enemies of peace are even more numerous than we imagined. Extremists on both sides are lying in wait for us, and we (...) must not fail'. How right he was! The finest tribute we can pay to him today is to ensure that the act of terrorism which took his life strengthens the determination of the international community to make his ideas triumph. Notwithstanding the bereavement of his family, his people and all those who favour peace in the Middle East, we can make so bold as to say that Yitzhak Rabin still lives because his faith in dialogue, tolerance and peace will never die.

I wish to pay my respects to his grieving family, Government and people, represented here by Ms Shulamit Aloni, the Israeli Minister of Communication, the Sciences and the Arts, to whom I should like to renew my heartfelt condolences.

Shalom, Salaam, and may the peace of God, which is now with Yitzhak Rabin for evermore, help us to establish peace among men.

As a mark of respect to the memory of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who was made a martyr to peace, I ask you to stand up and observe a minute's silence".


Mr Henri Konan Bédié
President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire

"It was after having sung a magnificent song of peace accompanied by an immense crowd of people in the Square of the Kings of Israel which now bears his name, that this universally respected Statesman was gunned down by a fanatic.

The latter thought he would thus silence a just man who, throughout his life, was always steadfast in defending, with courage and sincerity, his convictions and the ideals towards which his energies and his devotion to duty were directed.

When the lives of his people had to be defended, Yitzhak Rabin was a resolute military chief whose determination and bravery were recognized even by his adversaries. As a soldier and general, he was a strategist. But when the time came for the peace of the brave, he successfully became a resolute peacemaker in the Middle East, showing courage and the same self-sacrifice.

He was in the habit of quoting this sentence by former President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, 'Let us proceed slowly, for we are in a hurry'. Yes, we are in a hurry to help accomplish the ultimate ambition of the late great man: that the land of the three divine messages should once again become the fertile valley which will be the meeting point for both common aspirations for peace and hopes for fraternity and love. All people of goodwill, accompanied by his grateful people and inspired by the gentle sounds of his last song, will strive to achieve this ambition with the quiet determination of people who are fighting for a cause which they know is just. During the Ceremony for the Award of the 1993 Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize, Mr Yitzhak Rabin spoke, in very moving terms, about the history of a family, the Kaplans, whose members were destroyed, one by one, by war. And Mr Rabin had decided to receive his award in honour of the last surviving member of the family, Amiram Kaplan.

Today, in Israel and throughout the world, all the Kaplans, that is all those who have endured the torments of war, will rise up at the name of Rabin to make the cause of peace and justice triumph everywhere.

To conclude, I wish to offer my condolences to his widow, his family and the people of Israel. I should also like this ceremony to be enhanced by a fervent thought addressed to the late great man, the prizewinner and friend of Africa who still lives in our hearts and whose final song of peace will never be silenced by the bullets of intolerance. His sacrifice will not be in vain. This is our vow to him.

Thank you".


Mr Abdou Diouf
President of the Republic of Senegal

"Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin knew about the nature of war perfectly well. About what it meant to make war, be subjected to it and go through it unceasingly, seeing children, one's own and those of one's adversaries, prepare for it. It is admirable that he became a man of peace and that, with other exceptional men and visionaries such as Prime Minister Shimon Peres and President Yasser Arafat, he came to have the conviction that the endless cycle of war had to be broken. This required intelligence of both the mind and the heart, and he showed both to the highest degree.

Thus, the finest tribute which can be paid to him lies in the recollection of the images, both poignant and full of hope, which were transmitted around the world after he was tragically assassinated. They showed young people, adolescents and children in communion around lighted candles, bereft of a voice which, for the first time, had shortly before sung a song of peace for Israel, the Middle East and the world".


Mr Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Secretary-General of the United Nations

"In honouring Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, the international panel meeting in UNESCO prophetically bore witness to the meaning - in every sense of the word - of the Peace Prize.

For the intent of the Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize, awarded that year jointly to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, was to crown the efforts made by those three men to lead their peoples onto the path of recognition and reconciliation.

The tragic death of the Israeli Prime Minister has demonstrated yet again how dangerous that road is, and the extent to which a man of peace immediately becomes a target for every kind of fanaticism and for all extremists.

Thus, we are here today to honour his memory. But you will understand if I wish to associate with it also the memory of President Anwar Sadat.

The tragic coincidence of the fate of these two sons of Abraham is a sign that it is our duty to recognize. It contains a message which we must be able to read. It carries a lesson which must instruct us and guide us.

Like Moses, neither one of them was able to reach the promised land. But, like him, they were able to be the shepherds of their peoples. Like him, they opened the way to the future.

Eighteen years ago, it was my privilege to accompany President Sadat to Jerusalem and to see the former enemies exchange words of peace".


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