The trial of Yitzhak Rabin’s acknowledged assassin began Tuesday with a renewed demonstration of the man’s disdain for the slain prime minister and for the legal proceedings aimed at bringing him to account.
Yigal Amir, 25, the extremist who said he gunned Rabin down because he had betrayed his people and God’s Holy Land, smiled and gestured for spectators during a brief first day of trial.
He grinned at times as the charges were read aloud, showing particular mirth at a description of his aborted plan to inject explosives into the plumbing of Rabin’s Tel Aviv apartment. Amir also shrugged and shook his head in the negative when the chief judge spoke of sorrow at Rabin’s death.
Amir’s appearance in Tel Aviv District Court came just hours before the only known footage of Rabin’s Nov. 4 assassination was broadcast, for the first time, on Israel’s commercial television Channel 2 Tuesday.
The amateur videotape, recorded from a nearby rooftop and sold at auction this week for more than $390,000, depicts parts of Amir’s long wait in ambush near Rabin’s car and the few swift strides that placed him, gun in hand, within arm’s length of the prime minister’s back.
Although dark and grainy because it was made at night, the videotape is clear enough. The first of Amir’s three shots appears as a bright muzzle flash from his 9mm Beretta pistol, the barrel so close to Rabin’s back that hot gases from the spent first round appear to touch the prime minister’s coat.
The next few frames, broadcast repeatedly in slow motion Tuesday night, show Rabin beginning to turn, then disappearing from view as he crumpled to the pavement.
Shocking for its immediacy, the videotape tends to confirm previous accounts of a remarkable failure of security. The camera first panned across Amir, who was loitering in an area presumed “sterile” by security forces, fully 20 minutes before Rabin descended from a stage at an outdoor Tel Aviv peace rally.
The broadcast, and Amir’s first day of trial, came one day after a commission of inquiry warned the chief of the Shin Bet security service and five senior subordinates that it may hold them responsible for serious flaws in Rabin’s protection.
The Shin Bet chief, whose name may not be published under Israeli laws, is unlikely to keep his job.