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                             ISRAEL
                              FAXX

Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Nov. 6, 1995, V3, #201
All the News the Big Guys Missed

For subscriptions or back issues, please contact POL management

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin Assassinated

Yitzhak Rabin, the Zionist fighter-turned-peacemaker, had just finished speaking at a pro-peace rally when he was gunned down. The assassin was apparently not one of the radical Arabs whose continuing terrorist attacks fueled his Israeli opponents. Police arrested a right-wing Israeli law student.

Rabin was born in Jerusalem, in what was then British-ruled Palestine, in 1922, and he was the first Israeli leader to have been born within the boundaries of modern-day Israel. Yitzhak Rabin was 73 years old. His assassin, a militant Israeli opponent of the peace process, was arrested at the scene.

President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, brought a large US delegation to Israel including cabinet officials, former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush, and congressmen -- including Democrats and GOP House and Senate leaders, Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole. Former President Gerald Ford and former First Lady Nancy Reagan were invited but could not attend.

The president was expected to make brief remarks during burial services at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, following the state funeral.

The funeral began with two minutes of silence nationwide. As Israelis do on somber occasions, they stopped wherever they were -- driving on the highway, crossing the street, working in offices, playing in schoolyards -- and stood quietly at attention for two minutes.

.By then, the leaders of dozens of countries joined Israeli officials, the Rabin family and invited guests at the national cemetery. Officials said 4,000 people would attend the funeral, and some called it the biggest international event ever in Israel.

Rabin was laid to rest alongside the founders of the Zionist movement and other prime ministers, as well as hundreds of ordinary soldiers who fell in Israel's wars -- comrades-in-arms of Yitzhak Rabin.

The dignitaries also included Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein, European leaders included the British, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Czech prime ministers, the German chancellor and the president of France.

The Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, was to attend, but his spokesman says he decided against it so as not to antagonize Israelis on their day of grief.

Analysts say Mubarak's trip to Jerusalem is an important gesture to shore up regional support for the fragile peace process. Egypt was the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.

Mubarak himself took over the reins of government when President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981 by Muslim extremists opposed to Sadat's landmark peace treaty with the Jewish state.

Mubarak had resisted going to Israel until the peace process is complete. Ironically, his first visit was to mourn one of the leading proponents of that peace.

Amid the expressions of shock in Egypt is also a sigh of relief that the assassin is not an Arab terrorist. Newspaper headlines made it clear the killing was carried out by a Jewish extremist.

But not all voices expressed grief and sadness. Palestinians in Lebanon opposed to peace fired their guns and danced in the street to celebrate. In reporting the news, Libya's news agency referred to the Israeli prime minister as a terrorist. So did a Qatari newspaper, but it also condemned the killing.

Egyptian political analyst Saad Edin Ibrahim senses the tragedy will destroy the appeal of the Jewish extremists. "This will make the fringe Israelis come to their senses and realize that they are really marginal groups, that the world deplores them and they better find other methods of expressing themselves - shouting but not shooting.

Most agree Israelis must pass through a period of soul-searching after the unprecedented assassination of an Israeli leader by an Israeli.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoun Hodeibi Echoed called it divine revenge for the killing last week of the lead of islamic jihad. The militant Palestinian group has long opposed any peace talks with Israel and its members blame Israel for the killing.

What has struck most analysts and diplomats in the region now is that violence is not just reserved for Arab opponents of peace. Israelis have to face the shocking reality of murder within their own ranks. As one Israeli minister put it, Israel will never be the same again.

Rabin's death is likely to advance elections and the formation of a new Israeli government. The principal contender on the right is Benyamin Netanyahu, the head of the Likud party.

Appearing on American Television Sunday morning, Netanyahu, said that the first order of business is to stabilize the Israeli political system and to aim for national unity and coherence.

"The murder of Mr. Rabin -- an Israeli patriot, a soldier, a statesman -- it's not going to work. It's not going to be bullets but ballots that will ultimately decide Israeli policy. We have, as you know, disagreements. But we cannot have a disagreement about the fact that such horrors will not determine governments in Israel."

Since its founding in 1948, there have been virtually no political assassinations in Israel. Netanyahu says the assassination will have a profound effect on Israeli politics, but only to a point. "Mr. Rabin's tragic assassination must focus us all on the question on how to remove such excesses and such extremists from our midst. But the political argument remains in place."

Rabin and now Acting Prime Minister Shimon peres, says Netanyahu, infuriated Israeli settlers in the West Bank who saw the peace accords with the Palestinians destroying their dream of a greater Israel that would keep most of the territories captured in the 1967 war. The settlers and other Israelis, says Netanyahu, saw the concept of "land for peace" espoused by the Rabin government as a shaky one.

The Cabinet chose Peres as acting prime minister Saturday night, shortly after Rabin died. His transitional government has full powers until a new government is formed.

An Israeli military rabbi, wearing a uniform and green beret, chanted a prayer. "The lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," he sang, "Blessed is the Name of the Lord."

The rabbi was praying over the flag-draped coffin of the late prime minister, shortly after it arrived from its long, slow 62-mile ride from Tel Aviv. Rabin's body, in a plain wooden coffin in keeping with Jewish tradition, rode in a military command car -- somehow appropriate for a man who spent 27 years in the army and rose to be a general and chief of staff.

Six generals and two police commanders acted as official escorts. Crowds lined the road and thousands of vehicles fell in behind the procession. The road passes through an area captured by a unit Rabin commanded in Israel's War of Independence in 1948.

Tens of thousands of people lined up to walk past the coffin, many bringing flowers. Thousands took advantage of free buses and trains provided by the government to come from the far corners of the country. There were also candle-light vigils in public squares in many Israeli cities. But there were also reports of some celebrations by right wing Israelis, who agree with Rabin's assassin that the policy of turning over land to the Palestinians is sacrilege. Some school principals asked for psychological services for students who tried to inspire celebrations Sunday morning, and organized right wing groups disavowed such behavior.

The attacker, 25-year-old law student Yigal Amir, was arrested immediately after he shot Rabin. The police say he has expressed no regret, says God told him to do it, and said he was ready to kill Foreign Minister Shimon Peres as well.

As acting prime minister, Peres faces a challenge unique in the short history of the State of Israel.

Peres was born in Poland and came as a child to what was then British-ruled Palestine in 1934. After Israel won its independence in 1948, Peres became defense minister, the first of his numerous cabinet jobs. He was prime minister from 1984 to 1986, when he was replaced by the right-wing Yitzhak Shamir of the Likud party. Shamir's government was, in turn, ousted in 1992, when Rabin became prime minister, paving the way for the peace process.

People worldwide are reacting to Saturday's assassination of Rabin. Many people expressed their feelings sitting in front of a computer.

Out in cyberspace, men and women have been using the Internet to share their reaction to the developments in Israel.

Many of the messages were from people who comments transcended their opposition to Rabin and his peace policies. Ephriam, at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, wrote "May this terrible moment in the history of the Jewish people...wake us up to stop the internal strife...It is a time of reconciliation for all the Jewish people."

Others used the occasion to attack the right wing. One message was directed at what were described as "hard-line religious fanatics, "Are you happy, you murderers? Your hands are covered with this good man's blood!" But a response came just a couple of hours later: "Stop it, right this minute!!! " Wrote a man named Shlomo from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. "What our nation needs now is to stick together ... Rather than searching for more scapegoats." Another message from someone named Amiki said, "I never thought I would say this, but I trust the Palestinians now more than I trust all these right-wing people.

Many just wanted to pour out their feelings. A former US Peace Corps volunteer in Iran wrote "The lovers of the cause of peace have lost a brother. ... May the work of reconciliation continue."

A man who identified himself as a Moroccan and a Muslim and an Arab said it feels like he has lost a member of his family.

The majority of Israeli citizens are in shock, bewildered by an act which no one believed could happen here. But there have been some expressions of outright happiness over Rabin's assassination. Reports of school children in religious schools cheering, one shopkeeper in an very religious neighborhood of Jerusalem told Israel Radio that Rabin's killing was the logical result of a country that had abandoned religious values.

The assassin, Yigal Amir, may have been acting alone as he claims, but the killing reflects the deep divisions within Israel over the peace process. This opposition is particularly acute among Jewish settlers in the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Who are furious and fearful about the Rabin government's decision to transfer authority to the Palestinians. Rabin had been the constant target of settler protests, some of which turned into violent confrontations with police.

David Wilder, a spokesman for the Hebron settlers group, admits that settlers have referred to Rabin as a traitor, but says the community condemns the assassination. "I think that the terminology that has been used does not reflect on the actions that were taken, in fact the people felt very strongly about Rabin's policies concerning the Arabs and his policies concerning the Land of Israel, are very upsetting, his policies still are very upsetting, but there's a difference between words and deeds."

Russian President Boris Yeltsin said he was shaken by the news of Rabin's assassination. Recovering from heart trouble in a Moscow hospital, Yeltsin said the murder was an attempt to derail the Middle East peace process and push the region into an abyss of blood and suffering.

Last Remarks by Prime Minister Rabin at Tel Aviv Peace Rally

Permit me to say that I am deeply moved. I wish to thank each and every one of you, who have come here today to take a stand against violence and for peace. This government, which I am privileged to head, together with my friend Shimon Peres, decided to give peace a chance -- a peace that will solve most of Israel's problems.

I was a military man for 27 years. I fought so long as there was no chance for peace. I believe that there is now a chance for peace, a great chance. We must take advantage of it for the sake of those standing here, and for those who are not here -- and they are many.

I have always believed that the majority of the people want peace and are ready to take risks for peace. In coming here today, you demonstrate, together with many others who did not come, that the people truly desire peace and oppose violence. Violence erodes the basis of Israeli democracy. It must be condemned and isolated. This is not the way of the State of Israel. In a democracy there can be differences, but the final decision will be taken in democratic elections, as the 1992 elections which gave us the mandate to do what we are doing, and to continue on this course...

There are enemies of peace who are trying to hurt us, in order to torpedo the peace process. I want to say bluntly, that we have found a partner for peace among the Palestinians as well: the PLO, which was an enemy, and has ceased to engage in terrorism. Without partners for peace, there can be no peace. We will demand that they do their part for peace, just as we will do our part for peace, in order to solve the most complicated, prolonged, and emotionally charged aspect of the Israeli-Arab conflict: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.


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