Yitzhak Rabin Assassination

The Assassination That Tried to End the Middle East Peace Talks

Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres after they were awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (center) talks with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres (right) after they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prizes December 10, 1994 in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by Yaakov Saar/GPO via Getty Images)

On November 4, 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was shot and killed by Jewish radical Yigal Amir at the end of a peace rally in Kings of Israel Square (now called Rabin Square) in Tel Aviv.

The Victim: Yitzhak Rabin

Yitzhak Rabin was the prime minister of Israel from 1974 to 1977 and again from 1992 until his death in 1995. For 26 years, Rabin had been a member of the Palmach (part of the Jewish underground army before Israel became a state) and the IDF (the Israeli army) and had risen up the ranks to become the IDF's Chief of Staff. After retiring from the IDF in 1968, Rabin was appointed the Israeli Ambassador to the United States.

Once back in Israel in 1973, Rabin became active in the Labor Party and became the fifth prime minister of Israel in 1974.

During his second term as Israel's prime minister, Rabin worked on the Oslo Accords. Debated in Oslo, Norway but officially signed in Washington D.C. on September 13, 1993, the Oslo Accords were the first time that Israeli and Palestinian leaders were able to sit down together and work toward a real peace. These negotiations were to be the first step in creating a separate Palestinian state.

Although the Oslo Accords won Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, the stipulations of the Oslo Accords were extremely unpopular with many Israelis. One such Israeli was Yigal Amir.

The Assassination of Rabin

Twenty-five year old Yigal Amir had wanted to kill Yitzhak Rabin for months. Amir, who had grown up as an Orthodox Jew in Israel and was a law student at Bar Ilan University, was completely against the Oslo Accords and believed Rabin was trying to give Israel back to the Arabs. Thus, Amir viewed Rabin as a traitor, an enemy.

Determined to kill Rabin and hopefully end the Middle East peace talks, Amir took his small, black, 9 mm Beretta semi-automatic pistol and tried to get close to Rabin. After several failed attempts, Amir got lucky on Saturday, November 4, 1995.

At the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, a peace rally in support of Rabin's peace negotiations was being held. Rabin was going to be there, along with approximately 100,000 supporters.

Amir, who was posing as a VIP driver, sat idly by a flower planter near Rabin's car as he waited for Rabin. Security agents never double checked Amir's identity nor questioned Amir's story.

At the end of the rally, Rabin descended down a set of stairs, heading from city hall to his waiting car. As Rabin passed Amir, who was now standing, Amir fired his gun at Rabin's back. Three shots rang out at very close range.

Two of the shots hit Rabin; the other hit security guard Yoram Rubin. Rabin was rushed to the nearby Ichilov Hospital but his wounds proved too serious. Rabin was soon declared dead.

The Funeral

The assassination of 73-year-old Yitzhak Rabin shocked the Israeli people and the world. According to Jewish tradition, the funeral should have been held the following day; however, in order to accommodate the large number of world leaders that wanted to come give their respects, Rabin's funeral was pushed back one day.

Throughout the day and night of Sunday, November 5, 1995, an estimated 1 million people passed by Rabin's coffin as it laid in state just outside the Knesset, Israel's parliament building.*

On Monday, November 6, 1995, Rabin's coffin was placed in a military vehicle that had been draped in black and then slowly driven the two miles from the Knesset to the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.

Once Rabin was at the cemetery, sirens across Israel blared, stopping everyone for a two-minute moment of silence in Rabin's honor.

Life in Prison

Immediately after the shooting, Yigar Amir was apprehended. Amir confessed to assassinating Rabin and never showed any remorse. In March 1996, Amir was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, plus extra years for shooting the security guard.

* "World Pauses for Rabin Funeral," CNN, November 6, 1995, Web, November 4, 2015. http://edition.cnn.com/WORLD/9511/rabin/funeral/am/index.html

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Yitzhak Rabin Assassination." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/yitzhak-rabin-assassination-1779440. Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2020, August 27). Yitzhak Rabin Assassination. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/yitzhak-rabin-assassination-1779440 Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Yitzhak Rabin Assassination." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/yitzhak-rabin-assassination-1779440 (accessed May 18, 2021).