Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Israeli Secret Service Faces Tough Questions in Attack Shin Bet `Underestimated the Dangers of the Jewish Right'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Israeli Secret Service Faces Tough Questions in Attack Shin Bet `Underestimated the Dangers of the Jewish Right'

Article excerpt

HOW COULD IT happen? No country puts more emphasis on security than Israel.

Its Shin Bet secret service has built an enviable reputation for protecting Israeli leaders and preventing terrorist attacks.

But security broke down Saturday, when bodyguards apparently mistook a young law student for a VIP driver and let him get close enough to shoot Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin with a 9 mm Beretta.

From the start of the peace rally, the suspect stalked around the parking lot where Rabin's armored Cadillac was to park.

It's not as if there wasn't ample warning that an attack might come from Israel's religious right wing. The suspect had links to right-wing extremists.

In recent weeks, angry debate over the future of the West Bank being ruled by Palestinians spilled into the streets of Israel with right-wingers heckling Rabin at public appearances, calling him a murderer, Nazi and traitor.

His Cabinet ministers also had been threatened. Housing Minister Binyamin Eliezer was trapped in an angry crowd, Education Minister Shulamit Aloni was punched in the stomach and Environment Minister Yossi Sarid's car was forced off a highway.

Yossi Melman, an author and expert on intelligence, said security was "a total failure (at Saturday's peace rally), because the handwriting has been on the wall for the past month."

One reason for the lack of concern at Saturday's rally was that few Israelis really believed that an Israeli would kill another Israeli.

Gideon Ezrach, former deputy head of the Shin Bet, said he thought that when Rabin was in the Arab West Bank town of Nablus, his bodyguards were "more psychologically alert" than they were in Tel Aviv. "I also think that we all did not believe that such a thing could happen."

Instead, the security focused on Palestinian militants, especially Islamic extremists who had threatened to get even for Rabin's reported decision to order the recent killing in Malta of Fathi Shakaki, the Islamic Jihad leader.

"Israeli security underestimated the dangers of the Jewish right and instead focused on Palestinian terror," said Ziad Abu Ziad, a Palestinian peace negotiator. "Jewish fanaticism and terrorism is not less dangerous than Palestinian. …

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