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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Nov. 28, 1995, V3, #215
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Rabbis Questioned in Rabin Assassination

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli police questioned two rabbis for a second day Monday on suspicion they incited the religious youngish man who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin. The rabbis were released -- one on bail, the other unconditionally. But police say more rabbis might be questioned. Some of the alleged accomplices in the murder have referred to the existence of a religious ruling calling for Rabin to be killed. But many religious scholars in Israel, including those on the political right, have said no such ruling would have been justified.

In testimony in some of the hearings related to the investigation of Rabin's murder, police officers have quoted the confessed assassin and his brother as saying it was necessary to kill Rabin because his Palestinian Autonomy policy was endangering s. One officer said the brothers believed there was a Jewish religious ruling on the issue, what is called a "din rodef" in Hebrew -- a judgment against someone who is endangering a -- and that gave them the right to kill Rabin.

But many Israeli rabbis have said such a judgment would not have been justified. And on Monday, a prominent rabbi from the right wing settlement movement said that merely using the term in connection with a political murder is a distortion of the concept it is based on. Rabbi Benny Elon says if any rabbi issued such a ruling he should be punished.

Elon says the concept of a "din rodef" allows someone to take action, even violent action, to protect someone else who is in imminent danger. Even then, he explains, the action must involve the minimum necessary force. But he says that, from the point of view of Jewish law, or "Halacha," it is ridiculous to apply that idea to a political situation.

"To take this term, this halachic term, and to take it to the issue of Rabin, I think it is out of context, it's nonsense. I can't appreciate a rabbi that would do it. It's not responsible, and not clever."

Elon has himself engaged in harsh rhetoric against Rabin and his policies. In August, he helped other settlers occupy a hill on the West Bank in an effort to expand a settlement. He and the others had to be forcibly removed by Israeli police and soldiers.

At that time Elon referred to the Rabin government as a "temporary, minority government that represents the Arabs in Israel." But the rabbi says there is a big difference between that and coming to what he sees as the totally unjustified conclusion that it is all right, from the point of view of Judaism, to kill the prime minister.

"I used to say some things very sharp. I'm not ashamed now to say it. I used to say that this policy is a risk of life, it's committing suicide. There are many terms that you can use that are more relevant to the real risk. And the real risk is not that this (Rabin) is a rodef (threat to other s), and if you'll kill the man you'll kill the system, you'll kill everything. It's naive, it's risky, it's ridiculous, and more than that, it's terrible, it's terrible."

Still, there are some people who claim to have seen a judgment against Rabin posted in some small synagogues, and it is not unusual in settlements to see drawings of Rabin, and the new Prime Minister Shimon Peres, on a gallows with a hangman's noose around their necks.

The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a religious young man has brought to light many feelings of animosity between secular and religious s in Israel. The possibility there was a religious inspiration to the killing has made the situation worse.

The government is trying to ease the hostility by inviting a politically moderate rabbi to join the new Cabinet, and by holding talks with the religious political parties. The rabbi who leads of one of those parties made a point on Sunday of saying the government has not done anything which violates Jewish teaching.

And even some of those close to the far right end of the political spectrum, such as Rabbi Benny Elon, have been at pains to make it clear that although they condemn Rabin's policies in the strongest terms, they do not believe there was any justification, religious or otherwise, for killing him.

Israel and Qatar Airline Discuss Developing Air Link

A private airline in the Gulf principality of Qatar has negotiated with Israel to set up a regular air link with Tel Aviv, and the Israeli Ministry of Transportation is studying the request. The flights would pass through Saudi air space, and the Saudi authorities have hinted they will not object.

Meanwhile, the new official Israeli-Qatar civil aviation agreement means that the Israeli national airline El Al may soon be flying regular scheduled flights through that country's airspace to the Far East, cutting the flying time to Bangkok to eight hours, compared to the current 11-14 hours using the route over Russia.

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