Analysis: Shin Bet ruling that Amir was no longer threat sealed okay for visits

October 25, 2006 00:36
4 minute read.


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Unlike in the realm of public debate, law enforcement officials and institutions such as the Prisons Service, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the State Prosecutor's Office and the courts have never argued that prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, should not be allowed to father a child on moral grounds. There are many people, such as Meretz MK Ran Cohen and Rabin Center officials, who maintain that Amir should not be a father because of the particular heinousness of his crime and the possibility that he would raise his children to be fanatics and killers like himself. But that has never been the state's contention. Until it changed its mind last week, a concern for security was the only official reason it ever refused to allow the couple to be together in private. In its response to a petition by Amir to the Tel Aviv District Court in 2004 demanding the right to have time alone with his then-fiancee, Larissa Trimbobler, the Shin Bet wrote that Amir was a security prisoner who was under 24-hour closed circuit surveillance, who was imbued with a terrorist ideology and had become the idol of many. There was a danger, the agency wrote, that if he met Trimbobler without supervision, he might pass on orders through her to sympathizers on the outside. The court rejected the petition, as did the High Court of Justice - again, on security grounds. It was evident from the court's decision that the justices were influenced by the fact that Amir had assassinated the prime minister. "Amir does not accept the democratic way of life and does not regard himself as being under the authority of the rule of law and public order," the court wrote. "If he has been trying to prove that with the passing of the years the threat he poses has diminished and that he is no longer the man he once was - he has failed in his efforts. In actual fact, he continues to adhere to the same murderous and violent ideology that he did in the past." In the meantime, without the state's consent, or, for that matter, formal refusal, Amir married Trimbobler through his father's mediation. The marriage was recognized by the Rabbinical Court and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz decided not to challenge the decision. However, the fact that Amir and Trimbobler were now officially married did not change the state's mind regarding the prohibition against the consummation of their marriage. The marriage had not changed Amir or diminished the threat he represented to public safety, the state contended. This position was made even clearer when it did not object to the couple's request to employ artificial insemination. On March 5, the Prisons Service granted Amir's request to have a sperm sample delivered to Trimbobler. When two Labor Party MKs petitioned the High Court against the decision, a three-justice panel unanimously rejected their suit. In her ruling, Presiding Justice Ayala Procaccia wrote, "From the moment Amir was given a life sentence, his punishment was complete and final. From this point on, like all prisoners, he had severe restrictions imposed on his freedom and other restrictions on his human rights that were inherent to the loss of his freedom. Furthermore, he had additional restraints imposed on him related to discipline and order that are essential for prison life. "He could also, to the extent that it would be found necessary, have restrictions imposed upon him based on state security requirements or other considerations of vital public interest. Beyond these, however, Amir is entitled, as is every prisoner, [to all] basic rights," she wrote These rights include the right to a family, Procaccia wrote. Throughout the two-and-a-half year debate over Amir's right to marry, consummate the marriage and have children, the state's position remained consistent - until the past few days. It never made an official decision regarding his right to marry, it refused to grant him conjugal rights for security reasons, and it did not object to his having a child, as long as he was not alone with his wife. So what has changed now so that Amir and Trimbobler are allowed to be alone for 10 hours? Only this: The Shin Bet has decided that Amir has become more moderate and no longer poses a threat to state security. As a result, it no longer opposes the two being together in private. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that Amir has never actually posed a security threat since his arrest on the night of Rabin's assassination. After all, he was not the leader of an underground subversive movement and acted essentially alone, except for the help of his brother. It is hard to imagine that he could have whispered secrets to Trimbobler that would threaten the democratic underpinnings of the state. But that is another matter. From the beginning, the Prisons Service, the state prosecution and the Supreme Court accepted the Shin Bet's opinion. When the Shin Bet said it was too dangerous to allow the couple to meet alone, the others organizations backed it. When it said it was now safe, they backed it again. There never was, nor is there now, a moral judgment on the part of the state regarding whether a man like Amir should be allowed to father children, certainly not on the official level.

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