As Amir closed on Rabin,
one of the security agents
shouted "Srak! Srak!"
The Conspiracy to Kill Yitzhak Rabin
by Barry Chamish
Special to ParaScope
Just previous to the evening of November 4, 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was a very worried man. His peace process with the PLO was not going well with the Israeli public. The latest poll in the daily newspaper Maariv showed that 78 percent of the public wanted the process stopped until a national referendum was held to decide whether to continue or not. Only 18% of Israelis trusted Rabin enough to have him carry on his diplomacy without a public referendum. Rabin couldn't step out in public without being heckled. His most humiliating moment came in August when he was introduced at a soccer game and 40,000 fans jeered him in unison.
But that evening would be different. A coalition of left wing political parties and youth movements had organized a rally in support of him and Rabin knew that, for a change, he would be surrounded by thousands of well wishers.
Which made his murder that evening doubly unexpected. It all seemed so easy. At 9:15, Rabin ad-libbed a speech before 100,000 supporters gathered at a square outside Tel Aviv's city hall. A half hour later, he walked down the steps of the stage into the "sterile" area below where his car awaited him. Here he would be safe from threat because no one but approved security personnel were supposed to be there.
But something was very wrong in the parking lot below. The area, far from being sterile, was crawling with unauthorized personnel. If Rabin had been alert he would have noticed that things were not right at all.
First of all, he should have thought, where's the ambulance? There was always an ambulance stationed near his car when he made public appearances, yet this evening it was nowhere to be seen. Then he should have asked, where are the policemen? Dozens of policemen should have provided security, but only a few were in sight. The parking area was almost totally dark, whereas it was standard security procedure to illuminate his walking route.
But Rabin seemed buoyed by the success of his speech and uncharacteristically walked alone toward his car, unaccompanied by his wife, Leah. A few seconds before he reached his vehicle, a security agent of the General Security Services (Shabak) who was supposed to cover his rear stepped back, stopped and permitted an assassin, Yigal Amir, to get three clear shots at Rabin's back.
As soon as the bullets were fired, a Shabak agent yelled, "Srak, Srak," or "they're blanks, they're blanks," while another agent told Rabin's wife Leah a few moments later not to worry because "the shots were blanks." The agents next to Rabin pounced on the killer and cuffed him. His first words after being apprehended were, "Why are you handcuffing me? I did my job. Now it is time to do yours." The first question the Shabak agents asked the assassin was, "Didn't you fire blanks?"
Since there was no ambulance, Rabin was driven by car to a nearby hospital. The car was not equipped with a radio, so the policemen manning roadblocks did not the way in advance, and hospital staff were not awaiting the victim upon his arrival. A few minutes later, dozens of reporters received messages from a spokesman from an unknown group called Jewish Vengeance promising to get Rabin next time. After the announcement of his death, the spokesman called the reporters back, retracting the earlier announcement and taking responsibility for the murder.
At 11:15 p.m., Rabin aide Eitan Haber, holding what he claimed was a bloody songsheet Rabin had sang from at the rally, announced the Prime Minister's death. That task done, Haber rushed to Jerusalem and cleaned out the files of Rabin's defense ministry office. He apparently couldn't wait until the next morning and later told a reporter from the weekly magazine Kol Ha'ir that "I wanted to be sure the files were donated to the archives of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF)."
What Happened to Yigal Amir in Riga?
The accused killer Yigal Amir had served honorably in the elite Golani Brigade of the Israel Defence Forces. Immediately after his release from service, he was sent to Riga, Latvia in the spring of 1993 on some sort of mission at the behest of the Liaison Department, a covert branch of the Prime Minister's Office.
Founded in 1953 to educate and rescue Jews from behind the Iron Curtain, the Liaison Department had become a nest of spies over the years. As the daily newspaper Haaretz reported a few weeks after Rabin was killed: "The Liaison Department conducts its own diplomacy and has its own private agenda."
Amir was an activist for reputedly the most radical anti-government organization of all, Eyal. The head of Eyal, Avishai Raviv, was filmed by Israeli TV a month and a half before leading an induction ceremony in which new members vowed to kill anyone who "sold out the Land of Israel." Eyal is purportedly a secret organization; if so, one must wonder why members would allow themselves to be filmed by Israel TV, thus exposing themselves to the public.
On November 12, a week after Rabin was murdered, journalist Amnon Abramovich revealed on Israel TV that Eyal was set up by the Shabak to provoke and trap right wing radicals and that its leader, Avishai Raviv, was an agent whose code name was "Champagne," referring to the bubbles of incitement he raised.
Raviv was an agitator on the campus of Bar Ilan University, where Amir studied. He befriended Amir and encouraged him to organize study weekends in Hebron. As it turned out, Raviv was no newcomer to the Shabak. Back in 1987 he was supposed to be expelled from Tel Aviv University for his radical activities by the dean, Itamar Rabinovitch, who until just recently was Rabin's chief negotiator with the Syrians. Then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir ordered his aide Yossi Achimeir to personally intervene on Raviv's behalf. Thus Raviv was not recruited after Rabin came to power.
Eyal had only two members, Raviv and Erin Agelbo. They shared a rented apartment in the Hebron suburb of Kiryat Arba in the same building where Baruch Goldstein once resided. But Agelbo, it turned out, was not just an ordinary, everyday extremist either. After the weekly magazine Yerushalyim printed his picture, a reader recognized him as a Jerusalem policeman who trained her in weapons use during a stint in the civil guard. Lo and behold, a link between the assassination and the police emerged. The Jerusalem Police Department admitted Agelbo was a "former policeman who was fired for his radical activities in 1994."
Shortly after the murder, the Israeli media began exposing some very incriminating evidence. The most serious of all was that Yigal Amir was a Shabak agent. The first to make the accusation publicly was Professor Michael Hersigor, a left wing political science professor at Tel Aviv University. On November 11, a week after the killing, he told a reporter from Yediot Achronot, "The murder of the prime minister has no rational explanation. There is no explaining the breakdown and no telling what happened. But in my opinion it would be advisable to seek the connection between Amir and the Shabak. It's possible there was a conspiracy. It turns out the murderer was in the Shabak when he traveled to Riga. He was supplied with false documents with which to receive a gun license. It sounds like he had connections to the Shabak at the time of the murder."
The heat was turned up when Alex Fishman of Yediot Achronot reported that Amir was trained by the Shabak in Riga. Soon after, Army Radio broadcast an interview with Rabbi Benny Elon, a leader of the Jewish settlement movement, who said, "The Shabak was responsible for the founding and funding of Eyal and its leader Avishai Raviv. I claim that the Shabak knew Eyal's every move before the assassination and that the Shabak funded its activities."
With the facts closing in, the government embarked on a sloppy cover-up of Amir's Riga days. In order; the government's press office announced that Amir, who spoke no Latvian and had no teaching credentials, was a Hebrew teacher in Riga for five months. The head of the Liaison Department, whose name was whited-out of a Maariv article, then changed the story to read he was a teacher for two to three months. After this, Minister of Internal Security, Moshe Shahal, told Israel TV that Amir was a security guard in Riga for two months, which was probably the closest version to the truth. Finally, running out of ideas, the spokesperson of the Prime Minister, Aliza Goren, announced in late December that the Prime Minister's Office is now certain Amir was never in Riga and that any journalist writing so "was acting irresponsibly." That ploy fell apart when the BBC filmed a copy of Amir's passport with the letters CCCP clearly stamped in it.
But this wasn't the end of the story of the Prime Minister's strange Liaison Office. In the months prior to the assassination, the State Comptroller's Office initiated an investigation of profound corruption at the Liaison Office and the unexplained disappearance of a great deal of money in the C.I.S. In late 1992, Rabin announced he was considering closing down the Liaison Office for good.
The Kempler Film
A so-called amateur photographer, Ronnie Kempler, filmed the murder of Rabin. He had no camera of his own, so borrowed one from his sister and hung around on a balcony overlooking the parking lot for over an hour, unquestioned. He claimed he had "an odd feeling" about Amir and focused in on him for long periods of time.
His film clearly shows Amir signaling someone in the distance a few minutes before the shooting and it captures the movement of an agent who circled Rabin, took over the rear position and allowed Amir in to take his shots. The tape also shows that Yigal Amir pointed a gun at Yitzhak Rabin and shot at him. But what if the bullets weren't real?
The amateur film of the Rabin assassination has since been examined by numerous analysts in frame by frame sequence and found to have been sloppily cut and edited. The strangest part of it is Rabin's reaction to being shot. Instead of lurching forward from the bullets, he alertly turns back, seemingly aware of the events taking place.
Kempler works for the State Comptroller's Office. Even the most skeptical Israeli had to ask why the fateful moment wasn't captured on film by a car salesman, postal carrier or computer programmer. Why was he employed by the very office that was investigating the former employer of the assassin?
At the very moment Rabin was shot, Kempler stopped filming. He told Israel's Second TV channel interviewer Rafi Reshef that it was because "he had seen enough." Yet he told another journalist he had dropped the camera, and another, that a policeman told him to stop shooting. When the beta film was converted for viewing on national television, the technician who did the transcribing claimed that the sound of the agent yelling "blanks, blanks" was removed.
Other than one short appearance on Channel 2 after the film was aired, Ronnie Kempler has never been quoted publicly in any newspaper -- anywhere.
The Shamgar Commission
The testimony of policemen at the Shamgar Commission hampered a clean cover-up. While the Shabak chose to exonerate the police of all responsibility for the murder, the chief of the Tel Aviv Police Department, Gabi Lest, testified that his men were supposed to secure the sterile area but were not stationed by Rabin's security detail. Those policemen were shocked to see that the Shabak officers were not in place.
What those few officers in place testified to the Shamgar Commission compromises the lone gunman theory, which the Commission, personally appointed Prime Minister Shimon Peres, eventually ruled was the case.
Officers Sergei and Boaz testified that about a half hour before the shooting, they saw Amir talking with a tall, dark man in a tee shirt who he appeared to know. Sergeant Saar testified that he saw Amir's brother Hagai, who was later charged with supplying the bullets for the assassination, near the crime scene shortly before the murder. Officer Sharabi testified that "a man who we knew by face as an anti-Rabin demonstrator rushed at Rabin, shook his hand and left."
Sergei became suspicious of the whole atmosphere and specifically of Amir. He asked another officer who Amir was and was told he was working undercover. The police claimed that Amir got into the sterile area when he presented government credentials given to him by the Liaison Office.
Thus the Shabak allowed Amir, who had been filmed being taken away kicking from a demonstration at Efrat by the Shabak two weeks earlier, another known demonstrator, Amir's brother who supposedly was carrying bullets, an unknown film maker, and a mysterious man wearing a tee shirt to roam at will in an area that was meant to be cordoned off to unauthorized personnel.
Reconstructing the Murder
There are basically only two explanations for Rabin's assassination. One is that the Shabak, one of the world's most respected security organizations, is totally incompetent. The other is that agents on the scene allowed the assassination to take place. Probably with Rabin's knowledge, the Shabak set up Amir.
The theme of the gathering on the fateful night was, "No To Violence." Amir was to have shot Rabin with blanks, Rabin was to have miraculously escaped an assassination attempt and then climbed back on the stage with a stirring speech, written by his close aide, Eitan Haber. The public would react with revulsion against the attempted assassination by an extremist right-winger and the government could justify a crackdown against opponents of the peace process.
What Does Amir Know?
Consider the story of Shabak agent Yoav Kuriel who is widely believed to have been the agent who yelled "they're blanks, they're blanks." The night of Rabin's murder, his body was taken to Ichilov Hospital and its organs were removed. The government claimed he committed suicide and buried him in a closed funeral at Hayarkon Cemetery outside of Tel Aviv. Traffic was diverted for ninety minutes while the funeral took place. Maariv investigative journalist David Ronen succeeded in tracking down Kuriel's death certificate. The hospital, in a blatant disregard for procedure, left out the reason for death.
One day during his trial, Amir screamed to the reporters, "Why don't you print the story about the murdered bodyguard?" He was asked which one. "The one who yelled the bullets are blanks." In theory Amir was being kept in solitary confinement with no access to the news. How did he know the story? And Amir wasn't finished. He added, "I know enough to bring down the whole regime. The whole business has been a charade. The entire system is rotten. I will be forgiven when people know the whole story."
If that outburst was for public consumption, it was certainly consistent with what he has been saying privately. On November 29, l995, according to a report published by Maariv in early January '96, he complained to the police officer taking testimony, "They're going to kill me in here."
"Nonsense," replied the officer.
"You don't believe me, well I'm telling you it was a conspiracy. I didn't know I was going to kill Rabin."
"What do you mean? You pulled the trigger, it's that simple."
"Then why didn't Raviv report me? He knew I was going to do it and he didn't stop me? And why wasn't I shot to save Rabin?"
Who Killed Yitzhak Rabin?
By the early spring of 1996 new evidence led to the proposition that Yigal Amir shot blanks while Rabin was murdered with real bullets inside his car, not by the blanks that Amir fired.
On May 3, 1996, Yigal Amir's lawyers appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court, arguing that it had not proved that his shots actually killed Rabin. It included the testimony of Dr. Skolnick of Ichilov Hospital, who operated on Rabin and claims his wounds were not consistent with the official story that Rabin was shot from a meter away by Amir. Skolnick explained that the size of the wound and the pattern of burn and powder marks were those of someone shot from point blank range.
By mid-May, twelve doctors and staff who were on duty when Rabin was brought in were receiving anonymous death threats. In June, a closed door session of the Supreme Court heard testimony from a cab driver. On the day Amir was convicted, his passenger showed him an ID card from Ichilov Hospital which identified him as a pathologist. He told the driver that Amir's conviction was a scam and that Rabin's wounds were from point blank shots.
Amir's lawyers pointed out that the bullets may have been tampered with since there are no records of what happened to them between the time they were removed from Rabin's body on the night of November 4 and the time they were delivered to the Abu Kabir Forensics Institute at noon on November 5.
The medical reports indicated that Rabin was killed by a bullet fired from a gun against his flesh -- not from five feet away.
Amir's attorneys cited the evidence of police ballistics expert Baruch Glatstein, who said his laboratory tests of Rabin's clothing showed that the first bullet to hit him was fired from a distance of less than 25 centimeters, while the second was fired with the gun actually touching his clothing. Glatstein pointed out that the marks made by the second bullet could only be made by a gun fired while touching the clothing. Glatstein also examined the shirt of Rabin's bodyguard, Yoram Rubin, and found traces of lead and copper in the bullet wounds. According to forensic evidence gathered by Glatstein, the bullets which wounded Rubin could not have been fired from Yigal Amir's gun. Amir's bullets were made of pure copper while Glatstein found traces of lead mixed with copper in the bullet hole in Rubin's shirt.
One of the very first media reports on the murder was an eyewitness account given to Israel TV by Miriam Oren. She said when she saw Rabin get into the car "he did not look at all like he was shot. He climbed in on his own." When Kempler's film begins again after the shooting it shows Rabin's car speeding off. Just before the car leaves the back passenger door (Rabin entered the car through the rear driver's side followed by Rubin) closes. Someone was already in the car waiting for Rabin and as the Prime Minister entered, grabbed the car door and shut it from the inside.
Amir's appeal was also based on the testimony of dozens of eyewitnesses who testified that Amir was never close enough to Rabin to have fired these shots. The eyewitnesses say that the gunshots had an odd, distinctive sound, whereas tests of Amir's gun showed that its sound was perfectly normal. In July, police officer Yossi Smadja was quoted in Maariv as saying that he was almost next to the assassination site and heard five shots, three clear and two muffled.
What these people heard were the muffled shots of the bullets that killed Rabin coming from inside the car. Amir told the police immediately after the event that he had put nine bullets in his gun. Since four bullets were fired at Rabin, two which hit him, one which hit Yoram Rubin, and one which missed both men but was later found at the site, there should have been five bullets left in Amir's gun. However, there were eight.
Then there is the testimony of Shimon Peres, who saw Rabin's body in the hospital. He claimed in Yediot Ahronot in late September that Rabin's forehead was swollen and bruised, he thought from being pushed on the pavement after he was shot. This is in direct contradiction to the eyewitness report of Miriam Oren who was beside Rabin after Amir pulled the trigger. She told Israel Television news moments after the incident that Rabin walked into the car under his own power. Where, and how then, did the bruises that Peres claims he saw occur?
Finally, there is the indisputable proof offered unintentionally by Rabin's aide Eitan Haber. While Rabin was being operated on at Ichilov Hospital, for reasons unexplained to this day, Haber rifled through his suit and shirt pockets looking for something and pulled out the songsheet Rabin had held at the rally. Haber produced it for the cameras as he announced Rabin's death and it clearly shows a bullet hole through the bloodstains. Unless Rabin put it in a non-existent back pocket of his suit, he was shot from the front.
On September 20, two Israeli newspapers printed interviews with most unexpected subtle advocates of the conspiracy thesis. After nine months of silence Shlomo Levy gave an interview to Yerushalayim. Levy was an associate of Amir's who was a soldier in the Intelligence Brigade of the IDF. After hearing Amir's threats to kill Rabin, he reported them to his commander who told him to go to the police. The police took his testimony very seriously on July 6, 1995 and transferred it to the Shabak where it was ignored until three days after the assassination.
The report concludes, "Levy's was only one of a number of reports the Shabak ignored about Amir...The fact that the Shabak let the reports gather dust until Rabin was murdered lends credence to numerous conspiracy theories."
Levy was asked, "If you did the right thing, why have you been hiding in your home out of fear?" He replied, "The Shabak is big and powerful and I'm a little guy. The assassination is an open wound with them and who knows how they'd react if I let myself be interviewed." On the same day, Rabin's son Yuval was interviewed in Yediot Ahronot. Asked if he believed his father was killed in a conspiracy, a question that said much about the public's interest, he replied, "I can't say yes or no. It's not hard to accept it... One thing is certain, no one was punished. The worst that happened to any Shabak agent was he lost his job."
Considering the evidence, Yitzhak Rabin was not killed by Yigal Amir. It's possible that most of Rabin's security guards and most likely Rabin himself, thought it was going to be an elaborate plan to catch the "right wing radical," Yigal Amir, red-handed. Amir himself may have been drugged or duped into believing that his bullets were real and that he really did kill Rabin. He may have be programmed to take the blame.
Whoever was behind this coup d'etat also had the help of the Shamgar Commission, whose conclusions merely reinforced the manufactured media image in the Israeli public's mind that radical Jewish extremism was responsible for the murder. The cover up was as insidious as the crime.
Barry Chamish is the editor of Inside Israel, a political intelligence report on Israeli affairs. He can be reached at:
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