Why was Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin assassinated in 1995?
In the early 1990s Israel embarked on the so-called “peace process”, starting with the Madrid conference in 1991 under the leadership of the Labor Party of Shimon Peres with Yitzhak Rabin as Prime Minister. The time seemed right for negotiations with Yasser Arafat and the PLO and that approach was acceptable to most of the Israeli public and the political parties of the Israeli Left. But others in Israel were not convinced; Likud and the Israeli Right were critical of the policy and claimed it risked putting Israel’s future in the hands of terrorists dedicated to Israel’s destruction.
On May 4, 1994 the newly created Palestinian Authority (PA) began a peaceful transfer of power from Israel, starting with the Gaza Strip and Jericho. Thereafter, each terrorist attack by Hamas and Islamic Jihad originating from Judea, Samaria, or the Gaza Strip was a cause for renewed debate on the true nature of the Palestinian Authority and Arafat’s leadership. There was no indication that the PA was able or willing to act decisively against anti-Israel terrorism. Extremist Israeli groups spoke recklessly about possible violent resistance to further territorial concession to the Palestinian Arabs and even went so far as to call Prime Minister Rabin a traitor to Israel. On November 4, 1995, an individual associated with an extremist group did assassinate Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, shooting him with a 9mm Beretta pistol after a political rally in Tel Aviv’s “Malchei Yisrael” Square, a rally in support of the peace process that was attended by more than 100,000 people. A 27 year-old Jewish law student named Yigal Amir was apprehended on the scene and confessed to the crime. He was unrepentant and later told prosecutors that the assassination was meant to halt the Mideast peace process. He said that Rabin wanted to “give our country to the Arabs,” and “We need to be cold-hearted.” He was motivated by a disturbed, extremist religious and political point of view. Yigal Amir’s views and mad act were utterly rejected by Israelis, even Rabin’s most severe critics. The right wing Knesset parties expressed, without exception, their shock and abhorrence. One spokesman after another stated that a great man had been murdered — a man who worked tirelessly for the People of Israel and for the security of the State of Israel. The Chief Rabbis of Israel expressed deep shock from the attack, and, before learning of the Prime Minister’s death, called upon Israelis to say prayers and read Psalms on his behalf. Soon after the assassination, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was named Prime Minister. Even though the circumstances of the assassination seem clear cut, conspiracy theories have circulated constantly since 1995. In the aftermath, the Labor party continued to support the peace process to the bitter end at Camp David and Taba while Likud and the right continued to oppose. The assassination may have actually made the agony of the Oslo War worse. If Rabin had lived, he might have been the one to call a halt to the one-sided process before Israel’s security became as damaged as it actually did. Rabin had the prestige to say “the Emperor has no clothes”, but with Rabin dead, his ghost was invoked to justify continuing on the road to ruin.