Israeli Soldier, Father Held in Rabin Assassination
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Adding to theories Yitzhak Rabin was the victim of a right-wing plot, security sources said Saturday that a member of an elite army unit has been arrested on suspicion of supplying Rabin’s killer with weapons.
Also Saturday, Israel TV reported the 25-year-old Israeli who shot Rabin had stalked the prime minister for months, and tried in vain five times to get close enough to kill him.
Police Minister Moshe Shahal has said he believed Rabin’s shooting minutes after a Nov. 4 peace rally in Tel Aviv was the result of a meticulously planned conspiracy, but hasn’t given any details.
The soldier who was reported arrested, an observant Jew from the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, is the seventh suspect in custody. He wasn’t identified, and security sources didn’t say when he was arrested. He was to appear Sunday before a Tel Aviv magistrate.
The sources said his father was also taken in for questioning.
The Israel TV report said gunman Yigal Amir plotted for months with his 27-year-old brother Hagai, who is being held as a possible accomplice.
It said the pair initially planned to kill Rabin outside his home in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Aviv, using a sniper’s rifle. They observed his movements, timetable and security arrangements around his apartment building, the report said.
It also said investigators have identified a rabbi who is close to the brothers and may have given religious justification for the assassination. After his arrest, Yigal Amir said he had acted on God’s orders, because Rabin was giving away land to the Arabs, and that shooting Rabin was justified under Jewish law.
Over the past few months, several militant rabbis reportedly issued rulings that justified killing the prime minister.
Yigal Amir insists he acted alone when he shot Rabin.
However, police say he had accomplices. They have linked some suspects to groups that follow the anti-Arab teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the Brooklyn-born founder of the militant Jewish Defense League who was murdered in New York in 1990.
Israel radio reported Sunday that a member of the extremist organization suspected of planning Rabin’s assassination gave police identifying details about the gunman weeks before the killing.
The man, whose name was not given, told a police officer in Jerusalem he overheard the assassination plans while in a bathroom stall, the radio said.
He told the officer that one of the men was 25, short, had black hair and was a member in the militant Jewish group Eyal. The description fits Yigal Amir.
The information was distributed to intelligence officers and the Shin Bet general security service, which has been blamed for the lapse that left the prime minister open to attack.
Security sources told the radio that the man, questioned again last week, had not given them enough information to find the potential killer.
As the seven-day mourning period, or Shiva, neared an end Saturday, tens of thousands of Israelis converged on Rabin’s grave on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem for a final farewell, causing a traffic jam in a city whose streets are normally deserted during the Jewish sabbath.
Some 400 boats sailed along the Mediterranean coast toward the northern port of Haifa, with black ribbons fluttering from the masts.
The mourning was due to culminate Sunday night in a mass rally attended by Rabin’s widow, Leah, and his successor, Shimon Peres, at the Tel Aviv square where he was shot. The site has been renamed Yitzhak Rabin Square.
In Israeli offices, on streets and in cafes this week, emotions plummeted. Sudden outbursts of weeping were common.
At Rabin’s grave, women clutched their faces between their hands and kissed his picture. Men recited the kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. Young people in uniform saluted.
A security official said Saturday that Israel and the United States plan to cooperate in closer surveillance of Jewish extremists in both countries.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kahane followers and other militants have been operating military training camps in the United States.
They have also bought weapons and other military equipment _ including silencers _ which would be difficult to purchase on the open market in Israel, the official said.
An American rabbi was caught at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport in November 1993 as he attempted to smuggle gun parts, bomb-making manuals, telescopic sights and silencers into Israel.
Many Israeli politicians say Jewish political extremists also raise money in the United States. The Israeli consul general in New York, Colette Avital, disclosed Thursday that right-wing Jewish groups in the United States were raising money for Amir.
Israelis shaken by Rabin’s assassination at the hand of another Jew are also having to face a question they have long avoided: Should the Jewish state restrict immigration?
Proponents of limiting Jewish immigration to Israel note that some of those encouraging violence against Rabin and his government came from abroad, especially the United States.
Uri Gordon, head of the immigration department in the semi-official Jewish Agency, proposed that Jews with extremist views be barred from the country, Israel radio said.
Gordon said that Kahane’s Jewish Defense League, founded in the United States, was the forerunner of the Israeli extremist groups Kach and Kahane Chai. Several of the suspects held in Rabin’s assassination are members of a Kach offshoot, Eyal.
``We have to examine whether the Law of Return is really suitable for the reality of today,″ Gordon said, referring to the law that grants all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel.
Changing the law would be a sensitive undertaking, opening up a debate on the definition of who is a Jew. One of Israel’s main purposes since its founding has been the drawing together of Jews.
Immigrant Absorption Minister Yair Tzaban said Saturday there was no need to amend the law, noting that it contained a clause which empowers the government to reject a potential immigrant if he or she poses a threat to public safety.
This clause was invoked once in the 1970s, when the government refused to admit reputed gangster Meyer Lansky, who faced prosecution in the United States and wanted to immigrate to Israel.