Killer with a smile re-enacts assassination

Rabin investigation: Lax security exposed as Yigal Amir demonstrates how he shot Israeli Prime Minister
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The Independent Online
Protected by a white bullet-proof vest, Yigal Amir rushes up to a man wearing a paper tag reading "Yitzhak Rabin" and pretends to shoot two bullets into his back. The policeman playing the role of the murdered prime minister crumples to the ground just like the real Rabin did on the night of 4 November.

"You killed Rabin, you piece of garbage," shouts an Israeli watching the re-enactment of the assassination by the back steps of Tel Aviv city hall early yesterday.

Police hold back another man trying to break through their barricade who yells: "You should have protected the prime minister like this."

Mr Amir pays no attention but, like a stage director, pushes policemen into the places where he remembers people were standing moments before he fired 12 days previously. Everyone except for a single bodyguard - 20 Shin Bet security agency guards were meant to be protecting Rabin that night - is ordered back.

When Mr Amir is satisfied that everybody is in position the policeman in a red check shirt who plays Rabin starts to bow his head to get into a limousine, the door of which is opened. As he does so Mr Amir moves smartly forward into a wide open space behind him and his right arm goes up as he points a toy gun at Rabin's back.

Police re-enactments of crimes are common in Israel but the demonstration by Mr Amir of how he killed Rabin underlines the chronic failure of Israeli security. Earlier Mr Amir pointed out to police the public phones behind the steps where he waited for hours for Rabin to leave the platform where he was addressing people at a peace rally.

At 3am, when the re-enactment took place, there are not many people in the streets of Tel Aviv; those who did watch were kept well back. The ferocity of the invective - "Take off your kippa [skullcap], you dog!" shouted one onlooker - shows the depth of the anger felt by many Israelis over the killing. At one point Mr Amir appeared to grin at the abuse.

The Shin Bet security service and the police are still fighting over who is responsible for letting Mr Amir get a clear shot at Rabin. In theory the Shin Bet has taken full responsibility for intelligence and operational failures. But it has also revealed that the head of Rabin's security detail had told the police officer in charge on the night of the assassination that there were not enough men guarding the steps down which the prime minister was about to walk. The police officer replied: "Don't tell me what to do."

Violence is still not far below the surface despite back-peddling by militant rabbis who had previously denounced Mr Rabin as a traitor. Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch, who runs a military-theological college with 200 students at Ma'ale Adumim settlement to the east of Jerusalem, while denying allegations that he set the stage for Rabin's death, is recommending to his students that they plant mines if Israeli soldiers try to remove settlers from the West Bank.

In a tape-recording made by an orthodox moderate named Yitzhak Frankental and later published in the Israeli press, Rabbi Rabinovitch says that if soldiers come to uproot settlers he intends "to scatter the area with roadside bombs like the Arabs do". Asked about Israeli soldiers who might be killed by the mines, Rabbi Rabinovitch says that only "evil men" would obey orders to evacuate settlements.

Dror Adani, one of eight suspects under arrest as possible members of the conspiracy to kill Rabin, said yesterday he had been sent by Mr Amir to a rabbi to get authorisation to kill the prime minister. He says the rabbi turned him down but it is not known if Mr Amir was able to get the required blessing from another one of Israel's 5,000 orthodox rabbis.

Shimon Peres, the acting prime minister, says he will also take over as Defence Minister when he announces his new cabinet next week, Israel radio reports. This means that Ehud Barak, the former chief of staff, will take over as Foreign Minister. The Defence Ministry will play a critical role in organising the redeployment of israeli troops from Palestinian cities on the West Bank.

Harmony Street

Jerusalem (AP) - A Hebrew-Arabic adaptation of Sesame Street will bring conflict resolution to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Children's Television Workshop said yesterday. The programme will include Israeli segments produced in Tel Aviv and Palestinian segments produced in east Jerusalem.

"We're thinking about having two Sesame Streets, an Israeli street and a Palestinian street, and the possibility of some in-between no man's land where the characters might meet," said Daoud Kuttab of the Jerusalem Film Institute. He said the segments would not always bring Israeli and Palestinian children together, but that "we are breaking much new ground with what we are doing."

Roberta Fahn, an Israeli consultant to the project, said that of all the international Sesame Street productions, this would be the first addressing a specific conflict.