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Given the nature of the right-wing hatred, and in the wake of the Israeli Mossad's suspected assassination of a terrorist leader on Malta two weeks ago, security for Rabin seemed rather relaxed at last Saturday's rally, a rally specifically designed to counter the extremists' demonstrations. But that was Rabin's choice. In a television interview two days before his murder, the Prime Minister admitted that "there are wild inciters out there," but he never believed Jews would stoop to killing Jews. The Israeli protective service all but begged Rabin to wear a bulletproof vest and to move inside a ring of security agents, as U.S. Presidents do, but he refused to give in to fear.

And then the impossible happened. Soon after the shots were fired, Israeli political reporters were beeped by an organization that identified itself as AYIN, the Hebrew acronym for Avenging Jewish Organization. Apparently not knowing that Rabin had in fact been killed, the extremists said, "This time we missed. Next time we won't." But after Amir was taken into custody, he told investigators that he had acted alone. According to the police, Amir said he had "received instructions from God to kill Prime Minister Rabin."

Even after he was pronounced dead, the anger among Jewish extremists did not dissipate. A small group of followers of the late Meir Kahane gathered outside the hospital and chillingly chanted, "Rabin is dead," as they pounded on the cars of the Knesset members who had arrived. Almost as insensitive was the mob that responded, "Bibi [Netanyahu] is a murderer." But Shimon Peres struck the right note in a television address late Saturday night. Referring to the Song of Peace, Peres said, "He put this song in his pocket, and the bullet went through this song. But the song of peace ringing in our ears will not end."

Sometime after midnight, Cabinet members convened an emergency session, leaving one black-draped chair empty. They met to plan the state funeral and to set up a transitional government; by Israeli law, the Cabinet automatically becomes the caretaker of Israel. After two days of national mourning, President Ezer Weizman will call all the party leaders together and ask for a new government to be formed by Peres, the man who helped execute Rabin's quest for peace. Peres will almost certainly succeed, despite a parliamentary majority so razor thin that his Labor Party depends on the five Arab votes to stay in power. On Sunday, Netanyahu announced that Likud would not contest a new Labor government. "In a democracy," he said, "a government is changed by elections and not by murder."

The hope that the prospects for peace may actually improve because of Rabin's assassination may be more than wishful thinking. Amos Oz, the novelist and leading left-wing spokesman, says, "This will not kill the peace process, because under Peres the new government will continue the same policy and perhaps act with even more determination and with more anger. I believe the right-wing opposition in Israel as a whole will become rhetorically more responsible. In the short run, we are going to have a kind of restraint and perhaps a relative unity, which we haven't had in a long time."

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