November 5, 1995
Web posted at: 11:20 a.m. EST (1620 GMT)
From Correspondent Walter Rodgers
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The man who reportedly confessed to assassinating Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Saturday was no stranger to Rabin's bodyguards. He was part of the growing and increasingly violent opposition to Rabin's policy of peace with the Palestinians.
Rabin had refused to be cowed by the increasing threats. A few weeks ago, he narrowly escaped assault as a man who rushed toward him in a crowd was pushed away and tackled by security agents. (700K QuickTime movie)
At another gathering a young man who shouted hatefully at Rabin was pulled away. (950K QuickTime movie) That demonstrator is the man now in custody -- Yigal Amir, a student with no prior criminal record. Amir has been associated with right-wing causes and may have been stalking the prime minister for weeks.
Even as opposition increased to the peace process among right-wing groups in Israel, there were never more than several hundred hard-core militants committed to violence. Still, there was an ugliness in the anti-Rabin crowds unlike anything seen before in Israel. They often they called Rabin a traitor and caricatured the prime minister as a Nazi, the very worst epithet a Jew can throw at another Jew.
It was clear Rabin was very upset by the ugly tone the domestic political debate took over peace with the Palestinians. More than once he complained that opposition from the Likud Party, which also opposes the peace process, was stirring up the right-wing hatred. The political climate had become so volatile that fears of an assassination attempt had been voiced at recent Israeli cabinet meetings.
The aftershocks of this assassination will reverberate for weeks and months to come as Israelis ask themselves why and how this could have happened . Meanwhile, the world is waiting to see the impact of the assassination on the peace process.
It was the vision of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, named acting prime minister in a transitional government, that led to peace efforts with the Palestinians. The challenge before Peres now is to hold together what was already a fragile coalition government. His Labor Party holds only a one-seat majority in the Israeli parliament. And after an appropriate period of mourning, the Likud Party seems certain to challenge Peres as it continues its bid to stop a peace process it has been fighting for months.
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