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Man Who Filmed Rabin’s Murder Had Premonition, Was Wracked By Guilt

December 20, 1995

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The video buff who taped Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination says he had a premonition that night, and later was tormented both with grief and a sense that fate had chosen him to record the event.

``There was a feeling in the air that something was wrong.... There was tension,″ said Ronni Kempler, a 37-year-old accountant with the State Comptroller’s Office, recalling the moments before the Israeli premier was shot Nov. 4.

The soft-spoken, fair-haired Israeli was standing on a shopping center roof overlooking the parking lot where Rabin’s car was waiting to take the prime minister away from the peace rally he had addressed.

His grainy footage, broadcast Tuesday on Israel’s Channel Two TV, shows the gunman waiting unchallenged near the prime minister’s car for minutes and then approaching Rabin from behind and shooting him in the back at point-blank range.

Although the gunman’s face is not shown from the front, in the video he resembles Yigal Amir, the 25-year-old who surrendered at the scene and has confessed to the killing.

The Yediot Ahronot newspaper and Channel Two bought the tape for $350,000, said Channel Two director Nachman Shai.

Some have criticized his well-publicized haggling this week over the rights to the tape, saying it amounted to crass exploitation of the tragedy.

In an interview with Channel Two on Tuesday, Kempler struggled to explain why he did not seize on the opportunity to make a possibly bigger profit in the days after the killing.

``I have a problem with publicity,″ he said.

In addition, Kempler said: ``A certain period must pass before you can show the pictures (as) historical and not ... a media event.″

Instead, he gave a copy to the official inquiry commission probing the assassination.

Then, he said, ``when I read in the paper that nobody (else) had filmed the murder, I simply collapsed emotionally. For two days I didn’t go to work. I couldn’t. ... I felt fate had played with me and chosen me for this.″

He said he considered Rabin ``a great man.″

When the tape’s existence became known last week, Kempler telephoned Channel Two TV journalist Rafi Reshef and invited him for a private viewing, on condition his identity remain secret. Reshef recommended he release the video.

Kempler’s decision to sell came with a growing realization that people all over Israel considered the cameraman ``the biggest sucker in the country″ for not exploiting his good fortune.

``People even asked me, `Who is that idiot with the cassette?‴ he said. ``I told myself, `They may have a point. I need to find a lawyer that can handle this.‴

Asked by the interviewer why he focused on the future assassin so often during an eight-minute sequence of video before Rabin arrived, Kempler said: ``I said to myself, suppose there is somebody here who is going to commit a murder. ... He looked like that kind of person.″

Amir, the confessed assassin, was moved Tuesday into a heavily guarded isolation cell at the Ohalei Kider Prison prison in the southern Negev Desert.

Amir is being held in solitary confinement under 24-hour observation because of concern he might be attacked by other prisoners, said Prison Authority spokesman Moshe Malul.

``Someone might want to hurt him because his crime is not so popular,″ said Malul.

The Davar Rishon daily said guards will taste his food to prevent Amir from being poisoned.

Amir’s 162-square-foot cell contains a shower and a toilet. He is allowed to read books, subscribe to one newspaper and receive half-hour visits from his family once a week, Malul said.

Amir’s trial, which opened Tuesday, will resume Jan. 23. If convicted, he faces a mandatory life sentence, and a maximum term of life plus 49 years.

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