Rabin Is Assassinated Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin underscored not only the instability in the Middle East but also the political differences dividing Jews in Israel.

Summary of Event

Yitzhak Rabin, born in Jerusalem in 1922, spent most of his life in the service of his country. Shortly after his graduation from Kadourie Agricultural School in 1941, Rabin joined the Palmach, the commando unit of the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary defense force. This experience prepared him well for his role as chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces during Israel’s Six-Day War in 1967. Assassinations and attempts;Yitzhak Rabin[Rabin] [kw]Rabin Is Assassinated (Nov. 4, 1995) [kw]Assassinated, Rabin Is (Nov. 4, 1995) Assassinations and attempts;Yitzhak Rabin[Rabin] [g]Middle East;Nov. 4, 1995: Rabin Is Assassinated[09340] [g]Israel;Nov. 4, 1995: Rabin Is Assassinated[09340] [c]Crime and scandal;Nov. 4, 1995: Rabin Is Assassinated[09340] [c]Government and politics;Nov. 4, 1995: Rabin Is Assassinated[09340] Rabin, Yitzhak Peres, Shimon Amir, Yigal Arafat, Yasir

Rabin left the army in 1968 and became Israel’s ambassador to the United States, serving in that capacity until March, 1973, when he returned to Israel and was elected to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, as a Labor Party representative. In March, 1974, Israeli prime minister Golda Meir appointed Rabin minister of labor. When Meir retired in June of that year, Rabin became leader of his party and the first Israeli prime minister born in Israel. He served as prime minister until May, 1977, when he was replaced by Shimon Peres. Rabin went on to serve as defense minister from 1984 until 1990. In February, 1992, he was elected leader of the Labor Party and, in June, 1992, again became prime minister.

Rabin gained international recognition in 1993 when he took part in talks with the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Yasir Arafat, that led to the Oslo Accords, Oslo Accords (1993) in which Israel agreed to extend limited self-rule to Palestinians on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Rabin’s efforts in the negotiations for the Oslo Accords resulted in his sharing the Nobel Peace Prize with Peres and Arafat in 1994. Nobel Peace Prize;Yitzhak Rabin[Rabin] Nobel Peace Prize;Shimon Peres[Peres] Nobel Peace Prize;Yasir Arafat[Arafat] Two months before Rabin claimed that prize, he negotiated secretly with King Hussein I of Jordan and signed a peace treaty between Jordan and Israel. Israeli hard-liners viewed such efforts toward peace as intolerable concessions to Israel’s enemies by a dangerous political maverick.

On the evening of Saturday, November 4, 1995, a peace rally was scheduled to be held in the huge public area outside Tel Aviv’s city hall, the Kikar Malchei Yisrael, or Kings of Israel Square. Rabin was somewhat reluctant to attend the rally, fearing it would be sparsely attended, but he finally assented to joining the other Israeli dignitaries who would grace the speakers’ platform, including his political rival, Shimon Peres. Rabin’s fears that the rally would attract few people turned out to be groundless; attendance was conservatively estimated at more than 100,000.

Aliza Goren, who organized the rally, urged Rabin and Peres to acknowledge each other on the platform. At her urging, the two embraced before the cheering crowd and, also at her urging, joined with the crowd in singing the “Song of Peace.” When the singing ended, Rabin prepared to leave the square to be driven to a scheduled reception. As he left the podium, agents of the Israel Security Agency (known as the Shabak) guarded Rabin’s front and back, and two guards flanked his left and right sides. For unknown reasons, the agent walking behind Rabin fell back, leaving the prime minister vulnerable to attack. Shots rang out, but they did not sound like actual gunshots, and people in the audience shouted out that they were blanks.

The agents pushed Rabin into his waiting armored Cadillac. An agent asked him if he had been hurt, to which Rabin responded that he had been shot, saying that he had pain in his back but that it was not terrible. Those were his final words before he lapsed into an unconsciousness from which he would not awaken. Rabin was driven to Ichilov Hospital, which had not been alerted to the prime minister’s imminent arrival and need for immediate urgent treatment, a questionable oversight given that the prime minister’s car had a telephone in working order.

Rabin had been struck by two bullets, one of which ruptured his aorta; the other penetrated his spleen and lodged in his spine. Hospital physicians performed emergency surgery to remove his spleen, and they massaged Rabin’s heart for a full hour in a futile attempt to save him, but all their efforts failed. Rabin’s death was announced on Israeli television at 11:00 p.m. on November 4, 1995.

Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) shakes hands with PLO chairman Yasir Arafat on the White House lawn at the signing of the Oslo Accords on September 13, 1993. President Bill Clinton stands behind them. Rabin was assassinated two years later.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, an Israeli political and religious extremist of Yemeni extraction, was apprehended. Before the shooting, he had been lurking in a restricted area near the stage on which Rabin appeared. It was eventually revealed that Amir, with the complicity of his brother, Hagai Amir, Amir, Hagai and a close friend, Dror Adani, Adani, Dror had earlier planned three different attacks on Rabin but had been thwarted in their efforts. Shabak agent Avishai Raviv Raviv, Avishai had heard Amir discuss ways of assassinating Rabin, but he had not taken such threats seriously and had not reported them, causing some people to speculate that the Israeli Security Agency might have been complicit in the murder.

Yigal Amir was brought to trial, where he served as his own attorney. On September 11, 1996, he was found guilty of conspiracy and of murdering the prime minister. He received a sentence of life imprisonment plus six years; this was later increased to life plus fourteen years.

Significance

The Rabin assassination immediately resulted in heightened attention to security in Israel and moved the Knesset to enact legislation forbidding the commutation of a sentence imposed on anyone who assassinates a prime minister. This legislation served to assure the public that Amir would never again be free.

Rabin’s assassination emphasized that Jews, who had been fellow sufferers in many situations, were capable of turning on their fellow Jews. Extremists such as Amir believed that Rabin’s efforts to bring about peace with the PLO were destructive to the state of Israel. The assassination, therefore, highlighted not only the violence between Arabs and Israelis but also the political differences within Israel.

Ironically, at the time of Rabin’s death, Israel was approaching its fiftieth anniversary as a sovereign state, and the nation’s citizens had cause for optimism. Israel had established diplomatic relations with ten Arab states and had embassies in 150 other countries. The tourism industry had grown dramatically, from 1.5 million visitors in 1992 to 2.5 million by 1995, and per-capita income had increased from eight thousand dollars per year in 1985 to fifteen thousand dollars per year in 1995. Foreign investment in Israel had grown from fifty million dollars in the early 1990’s to two billion dollars in 1995. Rabin was instrumental in bringing about these improvements in his country’s financial stability. Assassinations and attempts;Yitzhak Rabin[Rabin]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Karpin, Michael, and Ina Friedman. Murder in the Name of God: The Plot to Kill Yitzhak Rabin. New York: Henry Holt, 1998. Presents material suggesting that Rabin’s assassination was the result of a plot by members of right-wing religious groups in Israel who deplored the prime minister’s attempts to bring about peace between Israel and Palestine.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kirkham, James F., Sheldon G. Levy, and William J. Crotty. Assassination and Political Violence. New York: Praeger, 1970. Presents a thorough theoretical analysis of the roots of assassination in societies under significant political stress. This discussion is directly applicable to the political situation that beset Israel during the 1980’s and 1990’s.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Morrison, David. Lies: Israel’s Secret Service and the Rabin Murder. Hewlett, N.Y.: Gefen Books, 2000. Presents compelling evidence that Rabin’s assassination was part of a well-orchestrated conspiracy involving the Shabak.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Peri, Yoram, ed. The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000. Collection of essays by an impressive group of Hebrew scholars presents a balanced account of Rabin’s murder and of the events that led up to it.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rabin, Leah. Rabin: Our Life and His Legacy. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1997. Memoir by Rabin’s wife presents a heartfelt account of his life as a statesman.

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