Israel reacts with fury after Rabin's killer reveals his marriage plans

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The Independent Online

Israelis reacted with shock and anger yesterday to the news that the man who murdered the former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 was engaged to be married.

Rabin's daughter, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, was rushed to hospital with chest pains and severe heart palpitations when she heard the news.

The head of the Israeli prison service said he would refuse any request from Yigal Amir, who is serving a life sentence in solitary confinement with no chance of parole, to be allowed to marry in prison.

Amir's wedding plans prompted condemnation across the Israeli political spectrum. "Eternal curses on the murderer, on his wife and on his seed," said Yossi Sard, a left-wing Israeli MP. "I would have been more pleased had I been invited to Yigal Amir's funeral and not his wedding."

Daniel Ben Lulu, of Ariel Sharon's right-wing Likud party, said Amir could not be allowed to marry. "In the absence of a death penalty in Israel, the only right that Yigal Amir has is to live," he said.

Shimon Peres, who served as foreign minister in the Rabin government, said a law should be passed to prohibit the marriage. "In other countries they execute people. We don't. But to allow him to enjoy a normal life, that is a bit too much," he said, adding that he feared allowing Amir to marry could be the first step towards his eventual release.

Amir shot Rabin dead in November 1995 in a square in central Tel Aviv, because he could not accept the Oslo peace process and Rabin's willingness to return parts of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Palestinians.

To most Israelis, Rabin was a hero, not only because of his distinguished military record ­ he was chief of staff during 1967's Six Day War ­ but also because he was the only Israeli leader considered to have made progress towards peace.

The murder horrified Israel, and condemnation was heaped on Amir. He was sentenced to life in prison. Parliament passed a special law stating that he would never be eligible for an amnesty.

But, to a small section of Israeli society, on the ultra-nationalist, often racist, far right, Rabin was a traitor, because he was willing to cede part of what they considered the land of Israel ­ including the occupied West Bank ­ and Amir is a hero for killing him.

Amir is kept in solitary confinement but he is allowed visitors, and that is how he met his fiance. Her name is Larissa Trimbobler. An ultra-Orthodox Jew in her 40s, she emigrated from the former Soviet Union with her then husband, Binyamin Vinicov.

Ms Trimbobler has refused to answer questions since her engagement was reported over the weekend, saying it was a "private issue". She has reportedly received death threats. But she did speak about her meetings with Amir in prison to Makor Rishon, an Israeli weekly, about a year ago.

It seems she and her former husband were immediately struck by Amir as soon as she heard the news that he had shot Rabin. "What particularly affected us was the atmosphere after the murder," she said. "All these images of Yigal Amir with the caption 'monster'... this whole demonisation campaign got out of proportion."

Ms Trimbobler began writing to Amir. She and her husband applied for permission to visit Amir in prison. Mr Vinicov's application was rejected, and Ms Trimbobler began to visit Amir alone, bringing him philosophy books.

She said that Amir did not accept that his killing of Rabin was murder, but considered it a "targeted killing" ­ the phrase the Israeli military prefers for its own assassinations of Palestinian militants, and one calculated to enrage Israeli public opinion when used about Rabin's death.

Ms Trimbobler divorced her former husband six months ago. Her lawyer said that the divorce had nothing to do with Amir.

Yaakov Ganot, the head of the Israeli prison authority, told a hastily arranged press conference yesterday: "Despite the fact that no request has been submitted by [Yigal Amir] or his family, the Prisons Authority, at an urgent consultation this morning, has decided to reject any future request to marry."

But legal experts said that the only possible grounds Mr Ganot could argue for such a decision were security risks, and that Amir would have the right to appeal to the courts, which would almost certainly overturn the decision and allow him to marry.

A lawyer acting for Amir, Shmuel Kasper, said Palestinians serving life sentences for militant attacks have been allowed to marry in Israeli prisons. He said that though no formal request had yet been made, Amir would apply for permission to marry by April.

* Hizbollah guerrillas claim they destroyed an Israeli vehicle, believed to be a bulldozer, that crossed into Lebanon yesterday. Israeli military said one Israeli soldier was killed and another wounded but deny the vehicle crossed a border.