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Had Rabin died at the hands of an Arab terrorist, Israelis would have been furiously hurt, yet they would have understood. But for Jewish blood to be spilled by another Jew brought home to the country the dangers of political disagreements that burn so deep. In retrospect, it seemed a short step from strident criticisms made by mainstream rightist parties to the fanaticism of Amir. For months, Rabin's Labor Party had complained that the opposition Likud, psychological compatriot of the extremists in its dislike of the peace plan, was fomenting an atmosphere of violence. Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the assassination, saying "We must vomit from among us those who do not abide by one of the most basic rules of society: Thou shalt not kill." But he reaffirmed his virulent opposition to the peace process, showing no signs of conciliation.

At the same time, right-wing extremists had grown increasingly brazen: posters of Rabin in a kaffiyeh, in a Nazi uniform, with blood on his hands, began appearing at rallies protesting the expansion of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank, which had been dictated by the Oslo accords. Ehud Sprinzak, Israel's leading expert on right-wing Jewish violence, says, "A sense of enormous theological and personal desperation within the settlers, greatly intensified by Arab terrorism, finally produced an image of a monster in Rabin." Netanyahu himself did not help matters when he compared Rabin's Labor Party tactics to those of the late Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. According to Gadi Wolfsfeld, a lecturer in political science at Hebrew University, all the vicious talk may have inspired Rabin's assassination. "The hysterical language that what Rabin was doing was an act of treachery made someone think they would be a hero if he could stop the peace process by killing Rabin."

That someone turned out to be Amir, a third-year law student at the religious Bar Ilan University. One of eight children raised in an Orthodox family in Herzliyya, a town north of Tel Aviv, Amir was quiet and unprepossessing, except when it came to the subject of peace with the Arabs. He fraternized with members of a right-wing group called Eyal, also known as the Fighting Jews. According to a friend, Amir once said he felt he had to do something to stop the peace process, but the friend dismissed Amir's words as an empty threat.

Amir reportedly told police he had been planning to kill Rabin since at least January. The Prime Minister had been scheduled to go to Yad Vashem that month to visit the sacred memorial to the Holocaust, but when the Islamic Jihad launched a suicide bomb at a bus depot at the Beit Lid Junction in Central Israel, he canceled the visit. Several months later, Amir allegedly planned to assassinate Rabin at a highway dedication in Kfar Shmaryahu, but that time he could not penetrate the Prime Minister's security detail.

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