Rabin rally's top cop: Unaware of threat

Lt.-Cmdr. (ret.) Ya'acov Shoval lashes out at the Shin Bet.

itzhak rabin 88 (photo credit: )
itzhak rabin 88
(photo credit: )
In a revealing interview marking 10 years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Lt.-Cmdr. (ret.) Ya'acov Shoval, who commanded the police at the fatal 1995 peace rally, lashed out at the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). He accused it of failing to do its job by not updating him prior to the rally about warnings of the possibility a Jewish extremist might try to attack the prime minister. Shoval, who recently visited the site of the murder in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that he only found out about the warnings during the hearings of the Shamgar Commission set up to investigate the flaws that led to the assassination. "When I heard about the warnings, I felt as if I was a policeman with the Palestinian Authority's police force," he said. "I had close to 1,000 cops under my command, and had we been informed, I can't say we could have prevented the murder, but we would have noticed more." Recalling the events of that fateful night, Shoval said he stood with Rabin as he prepared to enter his waiting car seconds before he was shot. "We came down the steps together and I turned to look at the crowd in the other direction, with my back to [assassin Yigal] Amir," he recalled. "Then there were shots and, together with two other policemen, I jumped on Amir and he yelled out, 'I am a Jew. I am a Jew.'" Shoval said he preferred not to think of what might have happened had he been informed of the Jewish terrorist warnings. "If there is one thing I hate, it's 'if' questions," he said. "I could ask myself what would have happened had I looked the other way, but it does no good, since there will never be an end to the number of questions." Immediately following the murder, Shoval said, everything changed "180 degrees" in the way police secured events attended by the prime minister. "Before the murder we would have had maybe three cops close off traffic when Rabin went to Labor Party headquarters in Tel Aviv," he said. "But immediately following the murder, everything changed. When Shimon Peres went to party headquarters, 110 cops were on the street and the bar nearby was cleared of people." Shoval also dismissed conspiracy theories which claim Amir was not the real murderer and that he really fired blanks at Rabin. "I can say for certain that Amir was the person who shot Rabin," he said. "An hour and a half after the shooting, I went back to headquarters and Amir, who didn't know yet that Rabin had died, was there and I told him, 'You could have killed him.' He said, 'I wish I had.'" Shoval also disagrees with former Shin Bet chief Carmi Gillon, who told the press this week that his security men should have immediately shot and killed Amir following the shooting. "Gillon is wrong," he said. "It was better that Amir stayed alive. This way the investigation was able to proceed smoothly, and the public was not able to come up with ideas about a Jewish underground behind the murder. With Amir alive, we know he acted alone and was not part of a movement."