Rabin's Murder Marked As Terror Threat Puts Israel on High Alert

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel marked the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Friday. At the same time, Israeli troops went on high alert along the northern border amid warnings of a Hizballah terror attack.

In 1993 Rabin became the first Israeli leader to sign an agreement with PLO leader Yasser Arafat, paving the way for official Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to end decades of hostilities.

Rabin, along with then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Arafat, shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for their peace-making efforts. But Rabin was assassinated as he concluded a peace rally in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995, by a religious Jew opposed to his policies and concessions regarding the Palestinians.

World leaders, including some who would not otherwise have visited Israel, traveled to Jerusalem at the time for Rabin's funeral.

On Friday, family and friends of Rabin gathered on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, where Rabin is buried, for a private ceremony.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav opened the official commemoration ceremonies on Thursday. They will continue for more than a week.

Katsav said he would never pardon Rabin's killer Yigal Amir, who reportedly is planning to ask for a retrial.

Speaking at one of the ceremonies near Jerusalem on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the Oslo agreement had sobered Israel and given Israelis a "balanced perception" of the moves it had to make for peace.

"There is no doubt that it forced Israeli society to self-examination that led to the conclusion that Israel must return to its correct borders and that it should be a Jewish and democratic state," Olmert was quoted as saying.

But a man who has studied Rabin, Prof. Efraim Inbar, said he would never have allowed the peace process to continue for so long in the face of continued Palestinian violence.

"With the P.A. clearly unable and unwilling to live up to its commitments to secure the peace -- the situation we face today -- I believe that Rabin would have said, 'Stop the process. The Palestinians have forfeited [their] right to a state on Israel's borders,'" said Inbar, director of the BESA Center for Strategic Studies and author of a book on Rabin's impact on national security.

"There is no way [Rabin] would have accepted the situation we're now in -- a situation in which a violent and corrupt P.A. continues to benefit from Israeli and Western support for Palestinian statehood," Inbar said.

One of the key commemoration events will be the Nov. 14 inauguration of the Yitzhak Rabin Center, which will be attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton as well as other international dignitaries.

US presses talks

While here, Rice will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to discuss the current Israeli-Palestinian impasse. According to media reports, she will pressure the two sides to return to negotiations.

"The message that [Rice] will bring to the Israelis and the Palestinians is...that [the U.S.] is looking for ways and looking for concrete areas where the Israelis and the Palestinians
can work together to resolve existing issues between the two of them," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

She also will talk to both sides about their responsibilities under the road map peace plan, McCormack said.

Rice met with Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz in Washington on Thursday. Mofaz told Rice that Israel would not interfere in Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections scheduled for January.

Hamas, which still calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, is running in those elections and is expected to do well. Hamas said this week that it would not continue its "period of calm" beyond the end of this year unless Israel releases all Palestinian security prisoners.

Israel said earlier it would not facilitate the P.A. elections by permitting free travel through the West Bank for campaigning and voting if Hamas participated.

But Mofaz's comments indicated that Israel has reconsidered its position. Nevertheless, Mofaz said Israel would not give "freedom of movement" to terrorists.

High alert

Israeli forces went on high alert along the northern border due to warnings of a possible Hizballah attack.

The army has been concerned for some time that Hizballah would try to kidnap soldiers at the border to be used as bargaining chips for the release of prisoners.

The border area heats up every few months. The last serious incident took place in June, when an Israeli soldier was killed and three others wounded in a mortar shell attack on an Israeli outpost at the northern border. In return, the Israel Air Force targeted five Hizballah outposts.

Overnight, Israeli troops arrested eight wanted Palestinians in the northern West Bank.
On Thursday, a Palestinian youth was critically wounded in the West Bank when he pointed a plastic M-16 rifle at soldiers.

From a distance of about 420 feet, soldiers mistook the toy for the real thing, the army said. Israel expressed its regret over the incident. The 13-year-old boy, who was visiting the town with his family for the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, was evacuated to an Israeli hospital.

Israel, meanwhile, is permitting West Bank Palestinians and Israeli Arabs with close relatives in Gaza to travel to the Gaza Strip for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

On Thursday, an Israeli soldier was lightly wounded by a mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip. A day earlier, five Israelis were lightly wounded in a mortar attack on the Israeli farming community of Netiv Ha'Asara, which is just across the border from the Gaza Strip.

Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.