|Parent(s)||Shlomo and Geula Amir|
|Conviction(s)||Murder, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated injury|
|Criminal charge||Assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin|
|Penalty||Life plus 14 years|
Yigal Amir (Hebrew: יגאל עמיר; born May 31, 1970) is an Israeli right-wing extremist who assassinated Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin. At the time of the assassination he was a law student at Bar-Ilan University. The assassination took place on November 4, 1995, at the conclusion of a rally in Tel Aviv, Israel. Amir is serving a life sentence for murder plus six years for injuring Rabin's bodyguard, Yoram Rubin, under aggravating circumstances. He was later sentenced to an additional eight years for conspiracy to murder.
Amir was born in Herzliya to an Israeli Orthodox Yemenite Jewish family, one of eight children. His father Shlomo was a sofer who held a post supervising the kosher slaughtering of chickens and taught Shabbat lessons at a local synagogue. His mother Geula was a kindergarten teacher, and ran a nursery school in the family home's backyard. Amir attended an Independent Education System school in Herzliya, and a high school yeshiva in Tel Aviv. He did his military service in the Israel Defense Forces as a Hesder student, combining army service in a religious platoon of the Golani Brigade with religious study at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh. Despite being in a religious unit, even his comrades considered him a religious fanatic.
In 1993, Amir began studying at Bar-Ilan University as part of its kollel program, mixing religious and secular studies. Amir studied law and computer science, as well as Jewish law at the Institute for Advanced Torah Studies. Amir was strongly opposed to the Oslo Accords. He participated in protest rallies against the accords on campus, was active in organising weekend bus outings to support Israeli settlers, and helped found an illegal settlement outpost. He was especially active in Hebron, where he led marches through the streets.
During his years as an activist, Amir became friendly with Avishai Raviv, to whom he revealed his plan to kill Rabin. While Raviv posed as a right-wing radical, he was working for Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service. Some right-wing militants have accused the Shin Bet of having orchestrated the assassination to discredit them.
In 1994, during his university studies, Amir met – and began a (non-sexual) relationship with – Nava Holtzman, a law student from an Orthodox Ashkenazi family. In January 1995, after five months, Holtzman ended the relationship after her parents objected due to Amir's Mizrahi background. She married one of his friends soon afterwards. Amir, who attended the wedding, went into a deep depression.
On November 4, 1995, after a demonstration in Tel Aviv's Kings of Israel Square (now Rabin Square) in support of the Oslo Accords, Amir waited for Rabin in a parking lot adjacent to the square, close to Rabin's official limousine. There, he shot Rabin twice with a Beretta 84F .380 ACP calibre semi-automatic pistol, and injured Yoram Rubin, a security guard, with a third shot. Amir was immediately seized by Rabin's bodyguards. Rabin was rushed to Ichilov Hospital where he died on an operating table 40 minutes later of blood loss and a punctured lung. According to the court, Yigal Amir's brother Hagai and his friend Dror Adani were his accomplices in the assassination plan.
Upon hearing that Rabin was dead, Amir told the police that he was "satisfied" and was acting on the "orders of God". At his trial, Amir said he did not care if the outcome was death or paralysis as long as Rabin was "out of the way". He expressed no regret for his actions.
The assassination had been preceded by three unsuccessful attempts that same year: at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, at the Nof Yerushalayim Hotel, and at a ceremony inaugurating a highway in Kfar Shmaryahu. These plans fell through moments before implementation.
Amir's trial lasted from January 23 to March 27, 1996. He was initially defended by attorneys Yonatan Ray Goldberg and Mordechai Ofri, and later by Gabi Shachar and Shmuel Flishman. He was prosecuted by Pnina Guy, head of the Tel Aviv District Prosecutor's Office. The three judges who heard the case were presiding judge Edmond Levy and judges Saviona Rotlevy and Oded Mudrik. The judges ordered a mental examination by three district psychiatrists and a clinical psychiatrist, who all agreed that Amir understood the meaning of his actions and was fit to stand trial.
Amir admitted to shooting Rabin and attempted to justify his actions on religious grounds, claiming that shooting Rabin was an act of din rodef. He also claimed he had only intended to paralyze Rabin and not kill him. The court rejected his arguments, and he was found guilty of the murder of Rabin and inflicting injury under aggravating circumstances over the wounding of Yoram Rubin. Amir was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Rabin plus six additional years in prison for injuring Rubin. In the verdict, the three judges wrote:
Every murder is an abominable act, but the act before us is more abominable sevenfold, because not only has the accused not expressed regret or sorrow, but he also seeks to show that he is at peace with himself over the act that he perpetrated. He who so calmly cuts short another's life, only proves the depth of wretchedness to which [his] values have fallen, and thus he does not merit any regard whatsoever, except pity, because he has lost his humanity.
Amir's claim that he was acting in accordance with Jewish law was rejected by the judges: "The attempt to grant religious authority to the murder...is completely inappropriate and amounts to cynical exploitation of Jewish law for goals that are alien to Judaism."
Rabin's assassination was condemned by Bar-Ilan University. Daniel Sperber, a professor of Talmud at the university, said that the assassination "in no way represents the university or the policy of the university".
Amir was later sentenced to an additional five years, and after an appeal on behalf of the state, eight years, for conspiring to commit the assassination with his brother Hagai Amir and Dror Adani. All of the sentences were cumulative. In Israel, a sentence of life imprisonment is usually reduced to a period of 20–30 years by the president, with the possibility of further reduction for good behaviour. However, President Moshe Katsav did not reduce the sentence, saying that there is "no forgiveness, no absolution, and no pardon" for Yigal Amir. Former Prime Ministers Benyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert have also said that Yigal Amir will never be released from prison.
On December 19, 2001, the Knesset, by majority of 62 members, approved the Yigal Amir Law, which prohibits a parole board from recommending pardon or shortening time in prison for a murderer of a Prime Minister. In the discussion that ensued, it was hoped the law would prevent another political murder.
Amir was held in solitary confinement in Beersheba's Eshel Prison, and moved in 2003 to the Ayalon Prison in Ramla, where a solitary confinement wing was built especially for him. In 2006, he was transferred to Rimonim Prison in Tel Mond, near Netanya. He was also granted the privileges of having no surveillance cameras in his cell, the right to receive visitors in the visiting room, rather than in his cell, and the right to speak with other prisoners. Amir was interviewed by the Israeli press in 2008, but the planned broadcast was controversial, and subsequently cancelled. As punishment for giving the interview, Amir was moved to Ramon Prison, and had a number of privileges withdrawn, including the removal of his TV and DVD player and the refusal of family visits; Amir went on a hunger strike in protest. In February 2010, the Nazareth District Court permitted the Ynet internet news service to interview Amir.
In July 2010, after 15 years of solitary confinement, Amir appealed to the Petah Tikva District Court to be permitted to participate in group prayers in accordance with Jewish law. He claimed that the terms of his imprisonment were worse than any other prisoner in the history of the State of Israel, on the grounds that no other prisoner had been in solitary for this amount of time. He said that failure to allow him to pray in synagogue would be a violation of his right to freedom of worship. In August 2010, the court ruled that Amir would be allowed to meet another prisoner for prayer three times a week, and that he would be allowed to study Torah with another prisoner once every two weeks.
In July 2012, it was announced that Amir would be released from solitary confinement. Under his new prison conditions, he will be allowed to watch television and use a phone more frequently. Though he will not be moved to an open cell block, where prisoners are allowed to spend most of the day outside their cells, he will be allowed to meet other prisoners during his two hours' exercise in the prison yard.
Campaigns for Amir's release
Amir's appeals of both sentences were rejected. Subsequently, a law was passed by the Knesset barring the pardon by the President of Israel for any assassin of a prime minister. Amir has never expressed regret for his actions.[needs update] Since 2007[update], the Amir family and the "Committee for Democracy" campaigned to release Yigal and Hagai Amir. The campaign includes statements for the media, stickers, posters, and short films.
From time to time, radical Israeli right-wing organisations carry out campaigns (via posters or videos) which call for Amir to be released. Such a campaign was held in October 2007 in which the prominent Israeli singer Ariel Zilber also participated. In response to this campaign, the Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter stated: "This man is in the closest status a person can be to a death sentence", and also added that, "A reduction of his sentence is impossible and illogical, and it will surely accompany him until he would pass away". His brother Hagai was released from prison on May 4, 2012.
Amir is married to Larisa Trembovler, who was born in Russia. She has a Ph.D. in philosophy. She has published a novel in Russian (A Mirror for a Prince), and is an Orthodox Jew. She met Amir in Latvia, where he was teaching Judaism. After her immigration to Israel, she visited Amir with her then-husband, Benjamin (with whom she has four children), for humanitarian reasons. She expressed ideological support for Amir, and they began to correspond and speak on the phone. She divorced Benjamin in 2003.[unreliable source?]
Trembovler announced that she was engaged to Amir and wanted to marry him, while he was in jail. In January 2004, after their request was filed, the Israel Prisons Service declared it would not permit the marriage. In April 2004, the matter was brought before the Tel Aviv District Court. At the time, the Prisons Commissioner instructed his legal aides to defend the decision based on security considerations. But Amir's lawyers said this claim violated their client's basic rights and would not hold up in court. They noted that several Palestinians serving multiple life terms for crimes such as murder have been permitted to marry in prison. Legal analysts have said the Supreme Court would likely uphold any appeal by Amir's lawyer, unless specific legislation is enacted prohibiting him from marrying. In August 2004, Trembovler and Amir were wed in a surreptitious proxy marriage. Under Jewish law, a prospective husband can grant a form of "power of attorney" to a chosen representative, who can then transfer a wedding ring, or something of similar value, to the prospective wife. In July 2005, their marriage was validated by an Israeli rabbinical court. Trembovler submitted a petition after the Interior Ministry refused to register her and Amir as a married couple. Israel's Justice Ministry defined Amir's marriage as "problematic" because according to a past ruling, a marriage ceremony not conducted in the presence of a rabbi from the Chief Rabbinate is unrecognised.
Conjugal visits and artificial insemination
On February 6, 2006, Haaretz reported that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz had ordered the Interior Ministry to register Amir and Trembovler as a married couple. They then filed requests with the Prison Authority and petitions to court to enable them to hold conjugal visits or conceive a child through artificial insemination.
In March 2006, the Israeli Prison Service approved Amir's petition for in vitro fertilisation (IVF). The service was to study how this process would be conducted without Amir leaving the prison. A week later, Amir was caught handing a pre-prepared bag of semen to his wife, and the visit was terminated. After the incident, a disciplinary tribunal barred visits from his wife for 30 days, and phone calls for 14 days. He was fined NIS 100 (then US$21). When the IVF treatments were withheld due to a petition by several members of Knesset, Amir went on hunger strike. After being warned that hunger strikes are in violation of prison regulations, some of his privileges were cancelled.
Up until October 20, 2006, the Shin Bet security service had opposed unsupervised visits. Four days later, Amir was allowed a 10-hour-long conjugal visit. Five months later, it was reported that Trembovler was pregnant. On October 28, 2007, she gave birth to a son, who was named Yinon Eliya Shalom. The brit milah was held in prison on November 4, 2007, the 12th anniversary of Rabin's assassination.
In 2020, Amir requested a furlough from prison to attend his son's Bar Mitzvah, which the Israel Prison Service denied. Amir appealed the decision to the Beersheba District Court, which upheld the refusal.
In popular culture
On July 8, 2015, a documentary on Yigal Amir, Beyond the Fear, was premiered in Jerusalem. The film explored the thorny drama of the Moscow-born intellectual Larisa Trembovler, who married assassin Yigal Amir after he was sentenced to life in prison and, following a court battle for a conjugal visit, gave birth to their son in 2007. The late filmmaker Herz Frank, who died in 2013, spent about 10 years following Trembovler, receiving unprecedented access to her and their son, Yinon. Rabin's granddaughter called the film a "cynical use of the freedom of expression with intent to harm it".
- Odenheimer, Natan (December 1, 2020). "Trying to understand Yigal Amir 21 years on". Jerusalem Post.
- "This Week in Haaretz 1996 / Rabin's Assassin Gets Life in Prison". Haaretz. March 31, 2011.
- Kifner, John (November 19, 1995). "A SON OF ISRAEL: Rabin's Assassin – A special report. Belief to Blood: The Making of Rabin's Killer". The New York Times.
- Cowell, Alan (November 10, 1995). "ASSASSINATION IN ISRAEL: THE INQUIRY; 2 More Held in Rabin Slaying; Israeli Police See a Conspiracy". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
He was a law and computer science student at Bar-Ilan University, as well as a seminary student.
- Rabin, Eitan; Hatuni, Yossi; Shapira, Reuven; Melman, Yossi (November 20, 1995). "שמו של יגאל עמור הועבר לשב"כ כמה שבועות לפני רצח רבין (The name of Yigal Amir was forwarded to the GSS a few weeks before the murder of Yitzhak Rabin)". Haaretz (in Hebrew).
- "Ex-Undercover Agent Charged as a Link in Rabin Killing". The New York Times. Reuters. April 26, 1999.
- "'I have no regrets' Law student confesses to killing Rabin". CNN World News. November 5, 1995. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
The man who confessed that he shot and killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told police Sunday that he was "satisfied". Yigal Amir told police that he had "no regrets" and was acting on the "orders of God".
- Schmemann, Serge (December 20, 1995). "A Trial, a Tape and a Warning in the Rabin Murder Case". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
Judge Levy then had a copy of the indictment handed to Amir and read the charges, detailing how Amir had tried to kill the Prime Minister twice before, and how he achieved his goal on the night of November 4. At one point, as the judge described how Amir and his brother had considered pumping nitroglycerine into the Prime Minister's water pipes and setting off an explosion, the defendant appeared to stifle a laugh with his hand.
- Schmemann, Serge (December 6, 1995). "Rabin's Killer Charged With Murder, 2 Others With Conspiracy". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
The Amirs and Dror Adani] had considered a variety of ways to kill Rabin, including putting nitroglycerine into the plumbing of his house and setting it off, planting a bomb in his car, shooting a missile at his home or at his car, or approaching him with a camouflaged gun. Amir had made two earlier attempts to approach Mr. Rabin with a handgun, but failed both times.
- "Excerpts of Yigal Amir Sentencing Decision". mfa.gov.il. March 27, 1996.
Following are excerpts of the sentencing decision which was rendered today (Wednesday), 27.03.96, by a three-judge panel of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa District Court in the case of the State of Israel vs. Yigal Amir (the panel was composed of Presiding Judge Edmund A. Levy, Judge Saviyona Rotlevy, and Judge Oded Mudrich: ...
- AMIR TESTIFIES HE SHOT ONLY TO CRIPPLE RABIN
- Yitzhak Rabin's Assassin, Yigal Amir, Sentenced to Life Imprisonment
- Murder taints 'tolerant' campus
- Fay Cashman, Greer (November 4, 2005). "Katsav: No pardon for Rabin's assassin" (full access requires payment). Jerusalem Post. p. 3. Retrieved April 25, 2009.
President Moshe Katsav declared on Thursday that there was "no forgiveness, no absolution and no pardon" for Yigal Amir, the assassin of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Katsav said Amir "has no right to clemency", adding that there was no reason to feel pity for him. Katsav said he would recommend to the next president not to allow the subject of a reduced sentence for Amir to come up for consideration.
- Frenkel, Sheera Claire (November 2, 2006). "Olmert: Yigal Amir will never go free". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
'... According to law, the murderer of the prime minister cannot ever go free – and it is impossible to grant him clemency, not now and not in the future', said Olmert of the survey, taken last week, during his remarks at a special Knesset session to mark the 11th anniversary of the Rabin assassination. [...] Olmert's position was echoed by opposition leader Binjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, both of whom stressed that Amir never be allowed to walk free.[permanent dead link]
- "Yigal Amir transfers jails, now without video surveillance in cell". Yediot Ahronot. June 20, 1995. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
- Ben-Zur, Raanan (November 30, 2008). "Rabin murderer on hunger strike". Yediot Ahronot. Israel News.
Yigal Amir, the assassin of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, began a hunger strike on Sunday in protest of his punishments for giving unauthorized interviews to the media in late October. [...] Following a public outcry, the television stations decided to archive the interview with Amir at this time without airing it.
- "Yigal Amir: I'm not a security threat". Yediot Ahronot. June 20, 1995. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
- "Yigal Amir Appeals for Minyan". Israel National News. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Yigal Amir to have a study partner in prison". Yediot Ahronot. June 20, 1995. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
- Rosenberg, Oz (July 4, 2012). "Rabin assassin moved from solitary confinement for first time since arrest". Haaretz. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
- "ynet דיכטר: יגאל עמיר משול למומיה בכלא – חדשות". Ynet. June 20, 1995. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
- "Yigal Amir and Larisa Trembovler". Archived from the original on October 26, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
- "AG orders state to recognize marriage of Rabin assassin Yigal Amir – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News". May 21, 2011. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "This story is no longer available – Washington Times". www.washingtontimes.com. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Yigal Amir caught sneaking sperm – Israel – Jerusalem Post". www.jpost.com. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Amir convicted for semen smuggling attempt". Ynetnews. December 3, 2006. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Yigal Amir denied fertilization; refuses food – Israel – Jerusalem Post". www.jpost.com. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Rabin Killer Yigal Amir to Begin Conjugal Visit With Wife". Haaretz. October 24, 2006. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Rabin assassin to be father". The Sydney Morning Herald. March 13, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Amir brit to be held in prison". Ynetnews. January 11, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
- "Yigal Amir's request to attend son's bar mitzvah denied". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
- "Israeli anger over Rabin killer film". BBC News. June 16, 2015. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
- Karpin, Michael and Friedman, Ina. (1998) Murder in the Name of God: The Plot to Kill Yitzhak Rabin. Granta Books. ISBN 0-8050-5749-8.
- Ephron, Dan. (2015) Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393242096.
- Excerpts of the State of Israel vs. Yigal Amir, March 27, 1996
- (in Hebrew) Yigal Amir vs. the Prison Authority at the Supreme Court of Justice, August 8, 1999
- (in Hebrew) Yigal Amir, Hagai Amir and Dror Adani vs. the State of Israel at the Supreme Court, August 29, 1999
- (in Hebrew) Yigal Amir vs. the Prison Authority at the Supreme Court of Justice, November 8, 2004