Israeli security chief quits over Rabin shooting

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The Independent Online
PATRICK COCKBURN

Jerusalem

The head of Israel's internal- security service, the Shin Bet, resigned yesterday because it failed to prevent the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin two months ago.

In a letter to Shimon Peres, the new Prime Minister, the head of the Shin Bet, who is known only as Kaf, after the initial letter of his first name, said he was leaving now because he thought the organisation was "on the right track, ready for all its missions".

This was presumably a reference to the assassination in Gaza last week of Yahya Ayyash, leader of the suicide bombing campaign, which Israel has made little effort to deny was arranged by the Shin Bet.

After Rabin was shot on 4 November, Israelis were enraged when they realised how easily Yigal Amir had approached him. The Shin Bet had failed to act on a tip from within Amir's circle that an assassination was planned. Above all, there were only two bodyguards near Rabin when he was shot.

Kaf's appointment last year was opposed by the right because he was considered a specialist on violence by Israeli settlers on the West Bank. Leaflets were pasted near his office giving his name, home address and telephone number. Ironically, he has stepped down because he was deemed not effective enough in checking right-wing violence.

He is reported to have first handed in his resignation on Sunday but it was rejected by Mr Peres. Yesterday he said he insisted on resigning. He will stay at his post until his successor is nominated, although the next appointment is also likely to cause controversy.

Leaks to the press from within the Shin Bet show it is divided over Palestinian autonomy. It has also been at odds with the army over co-operation with Palestinian intelligence organisations. There are also unanswered questions about the Shin Bet's actions before Rabin's death, such as its relations with Avishai Raviv, leader of an extreme-right group and friend of Mr Amir, who was also a government informer.

The resignation was considered inevitable after the Shamgar Commission on the Rabin assassination wrote to Kaf and five other senior Shin Bet officers warning them they would be damaged by its findings. Kaf is believed to have felt his organisation was being unfairly treated by the commission.

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