— The assassin of Israeli peace pioneer Yitzhak Rabin said Monday he has only one regret — that he didn’t kill the prime minister sooner.
Appearing in court five years after he gunned Rabin down at a peace rally, a relaxed and smiling Yigal Amir chatted with reporters before a hearing about his prison conditions.
Handcuffed and wearing a brown prison services jacket in the Beer Sheba courtroom, not far from the prison where he is held in isolation, Amir was asked if he has any regrets. “Yes,” he replied evenly, “why didn’t I do it earlier?”
Amir assassinated Rabin on Nov. 4, 1995 after a rally in Tel Aviv. As Rabin was walking toward his car accompanied by security agents, Amir approached him from the back and shot him twice, fatally wounding him.
Amir, now 30, was sentenced to life in prison. A nationalist, he said he shot Rabin to stop the prime minister’s peacemaking efforts with the Palestinians.
Rabin, along with his foreign minister, Shimon Peres, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for achieving their first interim peace accord. But now — after more than a month of bloody clashes between Israelis and Palestinians — many Israelis say the peace process Rabin started is a failure.
Doesn’t Want a Pardon
A poll in a local newspaper indicated that 12 percent of the people believe Amir should receive a pardon. Israeli President Moshe Katsav said he would never sign a pardon.
Amir said he does not want one.
“I didn’t do this on a personal basis,” he said. “I did it to prevent something.”
That was little comfort to Rabin’s daughter, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, now a member of Israel’s parliament.
“I don’t trust our politicians,” she told Israel television. “If there are 12 percent today who justify his actions, I’m afraid that there could be a politician who would grant him a pardon in the future.”
Amir equated Rabin with Israel’s current prime minister, Ehud Barak. He said both were brought from the center to front for policies that mean giving up substantial parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the areas that Palestinian leaders want for an independent state.
Advice to Settlers
In July, Barak reportedly offered the Palestinians about 90 percent of the West Bank and control of Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, but Arafat turned him down.
Amir advised Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza to protect themselves against the Barak government’s policy.
“They think if they are nice, that will save them,” he said. “The settlers don’t understand that if they continue with this stupid silence, they will be thrown to the dogs.”
On Saturday night, about 100,000 people attended a memorial rally for Rabin at the Tel Aviv square where he was shot. The official memorial day is to be marked Thursday with ceremonies at his grave and in parliament and schools.