Don't let Yigal Amir be furloughed from prison

It appears that the lines of opposition within Israeli society are getting thicker with time, a trend that does not bode well.

Yigal Amir (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yigal Amir
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On Wednesday, the nation marks the 25th anniversary of one of its darkest days in its short history – the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
In many ways, it seems like almost no time has passed since that horrifying evening in Tel Aviv when lone assassin Yigal Amir cut down Rabin as he was leaving a massive rally at the then-named Malachei Yisrael Square to showcase public support for his efforts to make peace with the Palestinians.
The divisions and hatred that arose within Israeli society in the post-Oslo years and manifested itself in a cold-blooded political murder has not dissipated in the ensuing 25 years. In fact, it could be getting worse.
The political discourse in Israel, especially over the course of the last three elections and the current coronavirus pandemic, has sunk to a new low of mutual recriminations, accusations, finger-pointing and threats.
It’s as if nothing has been learned from the period of incitement leading up to Rabin’s assassination
A survey released last week found that almost half of Israelis (45%) believe another assassination for political ends is possible due to incitement. The survey was conducted as a special poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, together with the Department of Zionist Enterprises in the World Zionist Organization.
The respondents to the survey said that they are concerned about the high levels of incitement in their society and divisiveness in the public discourse. But indicative of today’s world, there was no consensus on who was to blame for that divisiveness.
Some 31% blamed the political leadership on the Right led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and another 31% blamed the media. Broken down to ideological divisions, 46% of the Right blamed the media as the main culprit in cultivating incitement; and in second place, the political leadership on the Left (21%). Those associated with the political Center and Left placed most of the blame on the political leadership of the Right (44% and 74%, respectively).
It appears that the lines of opposition within Israeli society are getting thicker with time, a trend that does not bode well.
The chasm was alluded to at last week’s ceremony at the President’s Residence marking the Hebrew date of Rabin’s assassination. Defense Minister Benny Gantz lauded the recent peace agreements with Arab states within the region but underscored that they are meaningless “if we do not make peace among ourselves.”
One area in which almost all Israelis are in uniform agreement is that the assassin Amir must spend the rest of his life behind bars and be awarded no special treatment whatsoever.
He already flaunted prison regulations by getting married to Larissa Trimbobler, and in 2007, smuggling sperm out of his prison cell to conceive a child. Amir has never been granted a furlough during his 25 years of incarceration, and a request this week to attend his son’s bar mitzvah on Friday was rightfully rejected by the Israel Prisons Service.
Amir filed a special petition with the Beersheba District Court to overturn the ruling and a discussion is slated to take place Wednesday. Hopefully the court will reach the same conclusion as the IPS and keep Amir in his cell and away from any semblance of society.
Aside from extremely fringe strains on social media who deem Amir a hero for killing Rabin, there is a consensus across the political spectrum in Israel of disdain for the assassin. Pinchas Wallerstein, a former head of the Yesha Council and the Binyamin Regional Council, told KAN Radio’s Esti Perez last week that he would have preferred that Amir had received the death penalty, saying anyone who assaults a national leader is simultaneously attacking the state and has no right to exist.
Israel doesn’t use capital punishment, however. And perhaps, the thought of Rabin’s killer living out his life without ever seeing outside his prison walls is a suitable sentence and a reminder to everyone that evil can never be totally eradicated.
What can be eradicated, though, or at least lowered, is the level of bile that is currently dominating discourse on every level within Israeli society. It’s the least that can be done to honor the memory of Yitzhak Rabin and to ensure that Israel will never again experience a tragedy of the same magnitude as having its leader assassinated.