The Israel Security Agency has recently changed its assessment of the murderer of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and no longer considers Yigal Amir a dangerous criminal. Amir, who was sentenced to life in prison over the assassination, will soon be able to study Torah with other prisoners and will no longer be kept in a solitary cell.
Despite objections by the Israel Prison Authority to a court order to allow Amir more freedom to interact with others in the prison, prison officials are now considering moving Amir to a "secure wing" where he will be able to spend time with others. Alternatively, they may keep him in his solitary cell but allow other prisoners to spend more time with him during the day.
According to prison rules, prisoners are not to be kept in solitary confinement for more than six months unless a court rules otherwise. In January, after Amir petitioned the court to allow him to spend more time studying Torah with other prisoners, the court acceded to Amir's request. The ruling stated that Amir should be allowed to spend more time studying Torah with others and that the number of prisoners with whom he should be allowed to have contact should also gradually be increased.
Amir is currently permitted to meet with three other prisoners four times a week for one-hour Torah study sessions.
In June 2011, state prosecutors informed the High Court of Justice that Amir would be allowed to study Jewish texts with another religious inmate. Representing the State Prosecutor's Office, attorney Uri Keidar delivered the message to the court during a discussion on Amir's appeal against a Petach Tikvah District Court decision to keep him in solitary confinement for an additional six months.
In December 2010, the Supreme Court rejected a request by Amir to leave his isolated cell for a wing housing religious prisoners. Instead, the court suggested allowing Amir to join other prisoners for short prayer services in the future, under supervision. At that time, the Israel Security Agency opposed his request on the grounds that he "continues to follow a radical doctrine that justifies the use of violence against government officials." However, state prosecutors agreed in principle to allow another prisoner to share his isolated cell, an offer that Amir rejected.
Amir's attorney, Ariel Atari, emphasized at that hearing that Amir had been held in isolation for the longest period of time in the country's history. "He is being discriminated against compared to Arab murderers who have murdered dozens of Jews and continue to operate from jail and are not held in isolation, such as Marwan Barghouti or the murderers of the children in Itamar," he told the court, referring to the murder of an entire family in the settlement of Itamar in March 2011. "What will happen if Amir meets another inmate? Let's say he tells him the gravest things, for example that the Knesset should be bombed. Where is the danger? Will the inmate leave the prison and carry it out? Is that the suspicion?"
Many in Israel, including politicians, have denounced Amir's sentence of life in prison and claim he should have been given the death penalty. In November 2011, Kadima MK Avi Dichter said: "This is the second incident in Israel that justifies the death penalty." The only execution in Israel to date was that of senior Nazi Adolf Eichmann in 1962.
Dichter said it shocked him that the idea of execution had not been raised before for someone who had assassinated a prime minister.
"This was not just an effort to murder a prime minister. This was an attempt to murder Israeli democracy," Dichter said.
Rabin was murdered on Nov. 4, 1995. On the most recent anniversary of his death, relatives, friends and citizens gathered at the gravesite at the Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem for a memorial service. Rabin's sister, Rachel Ya'akov, said Rabin's murder should have surprised noone. "The establishment blurs the murder. We are talking about a political murder that did not just fall out of the sky. This was deliberate and organized incitement. It was not neutral."
In May this year, Hagai Amir, Yigal's brother, was released from Ayalon Prison in Ramle after serving 16 years, 15 of them for conspiring to commit a crime and unlawful possession of weapons. He served an additional year after threatening to kill then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2006.