(Communicated by GPO News Department)
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):
Judge Edmund A. Levy:
The current indictment is one of the severest that has [ever] been submitted to an Israeli court. The decision to murder the Prime Minister, which was made with cold consideration and clear thinking, is not another "ordinary" crime, which also must not be dealt with lightly, but was perpetrated -- at least according to the accused's version -- against a political background. Up until now, we innocently believed that this was the inheritance of others, not our inheritance.
Every case dealing with the loss of human life leaves tears and deep scars in a judge's heart. And every such file shortens a judge's days. This is what usually happens; how much more so in the current instance. Even in those moments in which we pronounce the sentence, we are accompanied by a hard feeling; we will not be exaggerating if we say that the heart grieves and the eye weeps.
We deeply regret that a man was killed, the leader of a nation and a people, who had carried the yoke of public service for many years, first as a soldier, and afterwards as a statesman. Many dangers lay in wait for him along the way, and he had succeeded in evading them all, until at the apex of his activity, bullets -- fired from an unexpected direction, not by a stranger or an enemy, but from one of our own -- found him.
The heart grieves and the eye weeps, because we -- as a people -- also have taken a chilling slap on an exposed cheek, when it become clear that criminal behavior had also reached our political life, as apparently ideological motives cut down the life of a man. And since history teaches that in any ideology which sanctifies murder as an end, murder [in its own right] becomes the entire ideology. And again we are confronted with proof that the decline in values among us, has become a plague, even such that the importance and sanctity of life -- which had been a lofty and indisputable value -- is again, no longer as it was yesterday or the day before, even in those among us whose hearts have become unfeeling.
When thought was given to the possibility of an attempt being made on the life of an Israeli leader, we dismissed it as unlikely, since we innocently believed that in this area, we were not like other peoples. And suddenly, the illusion came to an end, and the picture of the late Prime Minister collapsing after the assassin's bullets had found him, has not ceased from before our eyes. Those same bullets wounded the humanity of an entire nation and many millions who -- for a long time -- sought to believe that this was a nightmare and not reality, but who, every time they opened their eyes, again saw that awful horror. The time which has since passed has not lessened the great pain.
The commandment to respect a leader is from the Torah -- "You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people" (Exodus 22:27) -- and it would not be inappropriate to emphasize that the text sees fit to deal with both "God" and "a ruler" in the same verse.
But more important is the fact that life was sanctified even at the dawn of our birth as a people, when we were commanded at Mt. Sinai: "You shall not murder." This commandment must beat in the heart of every civilized person, and how much more so in the heart of a Jew who willingly took it upon himself to uphold the 613 commandments [of the Torah]. The measure of this commandment's importance is such that it led our sages to add layer upon layer to it, in order to bolster its status and provide it with a double validity.
What arises from this is that the acts of the accused -- especially the ludicrous attempt to argue that a difference exists between wounding Rabin, as Prime Minister, and wounding him as a person -- are a crass attempt, the fruit of a distorted thought, which is designed to sanction the murder as a religious commandment or a moral mission. And is there nothing more blasphemous than this act, in which the accused tried to find within the Torah grounds -- which do not exist -- to justify this terrible act.
The accused before us, and those like him, are the dangerous nightmare of all those who seek democracy, and it does not at all matter to which camp he belongs. Along with this, we must emphasize that the trial which has been conducted was not a "political trial," rather it was a regular criminal trial, and thus the halo with which the accused has sought to cover himself -- as if he had sacrificed himself upon the altar of his beliefs -- is a halo of lies.
It was not the accused's world-view regarding the sanctity of the Land of Israel which stood trial, nor was it the issue of whether the Government of Israel's steps since the signing of the Oslo Accords were correct. The sole question that we were asked to decide upon -- which we did -- was whether the accused perpetrated the crime of "murder" as it is defined in the 1977 Penal Code, and we answered this question in the affirmative.
Every murder is an abominable act, but the act before us is more abominable seven-fold, 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.
The fact that such a wild growth could sprout from within our midst, requires us to examine which parts of Israel's educational system failed in not successfully imparting and establishing the foundations of democracy into elements of the younger generation. The accused's actions are not only a personal failing, and it is not with him alone that we are coming to terms with today. It is with everyone who, directly or indirectly, specifically or in general, gave him to understand that it was permissible to a cut down a person's life on the basis of any ideology whatsoever.
Another item which we feel must be emphasized, is Israel's multi-faceted society, which time and time again has sinned by baseless hatred, and shown very little brotherly love. In a democratic regime, it is permitted -- and, at times, even required -- to disagree with the government's outlook and its political line. But we must all repeat -- day and night -- that those who treasure life do not change their leadership by an assassin's bullets, and that the only way to do so is via free, democratic elections, or no-confidence motions in the Knesset. For as long as such a decision has not been made, the elected government is the only one mandated to deal in political matters, and all are under its authority.
We, as judges, do not see ourselves as preachers, and if we have allowed ourselves the freedom to express ourselves in matters from which we normally distance ourselves as if from fire, we have done it because we are commanded to do our part in exterminating the plague and in deterring the public, in the hope that such an act -- heaven forbid -- does not recur.
On this latter matter, our hearts are filled with horror that the events of 04.11.95 might be forgotten. These are days of decisions, and already the polishing of political swords has reached our ears, and we wonder what else must occur -- after the terrible tragedy which has befallen us -- in order for everyone to learn the necessary lesson.
The debate going on among us is difficult and pointed, because it deals with basic and existential issues for the State of Israel, not only for our generation, but mainly for future generations. We all agree on a common denominator -- a genuine and sincere concern for the peace of the country on the one hand, and peace with our neighbors on the other.
As is customary in a democratic state, this discussion must be conducted firmly, yet with mutual respect and tolerance, with the latter being of particular importance especially when unpopular opinions are voiced by a minority. Furthermore, the split in the nation will neither disappear nor heal by words alone, but rather by deeds, first and foremost, the deeds of the public's leaders -- from the entire political spectrum -- who are commanded to teach themselves -- day and night-- "Wise men, be careful of your words."
"Revenge is not a factor in rendering the sentence and, heaven forbid, that it should be a consideration in weighing the sentence. Therefore, when a court of law metes out its sentence, it must be calm and rational and remove anger from its heart lest a feeling of revenge cause it to stray from the right and just." (Rabbi Shlomo Ben Aderet, 1235-1310) However when a court comes to render a verdict against a criminal who has committed such an unspeakable offense as is before us, it cannot ignore consideration of the suitability of the punishment to the offense. This is not an act of revenge but rather an expression of revulsion and disgust against this crime which, due to its severity, undermines the very existence of civilized society.
And all we can say in summation of this matter is what is clear to all, that the severity of the matter before us is no less severe than what was judged in matter 490/89 and we believe that the accused must be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.
The additional question with which we must contend is how the accused will bear his sentence in the future. In other words, whether it is our intent to give him consecutive or overlapping sentences. As such, the prosecutor -- relying upon extant law and the circumstances of the present incident -- believes that the accused should be dealt with harshly, while defense counsel Fleishman appeals for only one sentence or alternatively, overlapping sentences.
The accused intended to murder the late Prime Minister and he also knew that his gunshots would likely injure others. We believe his version that he did not intend to injure Yoram Rubin, but his repeated pulling of the trigger and a recognition of the likely dangers to an innocent victim from shooting of this kind, demonstrates that the accused was committed to his decision to achieve his goal despite the cost of injury to others.
We therefore unanimously decide to pronounce the following punishments upon the accused:
- for the crime of murder with which he was charged -- life imprisonment.
- for the crime of wounding under harsh circumstances -- six years imprisonment.
The accused will serve these sentences consecutively.