Assassinations may take place in a single moment, but history is changed over a period of time. In Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel, Dan Ephron traces the parallel stories of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his assassin, Yigal Amir, for the two years leading up to the brutal murder in 1995. Ephron examines the two men’s thoughts and actions, placing them within the context of the vitriolic anti-government rhetoric of the Israeli religious right.
A seasoned journalist who served in the prestigious post of Jerusalem bureau chief for Newsweek, Ephron is able to identify and analyze the significance of the catastrophic event and bring the peacemaking process into sharp focus. We are shown how the assassination, with its far-reaching political repercussions, formed a turning point for the Promised Land, derailing the delicate peace process that had been in place.
Ephron uncovered court records, probed confessional materials, conducted family interviews, and dissected confidential police reports in order to piece together his story, which is as absorbing as a political thriller. The book narrows in on the rally during which Rabin was killed, and then shifts its focus to the subsequent murder trial.
The reader comes to understand Amir, a 25-year-old law student who became involved with Jewish extremists and believed he was saving Israel by assassinating its prime minister. We learn that the agency assigned to keep Rabin safe blundered over and over again in its security duties. Ephron dispassionately observes the radicals on both sides who undermined the peace process. But as the narrative progresses, it is impossible not to fall under the thrall of Rabin, who opened his heart to embrace PLO leader Yasser Arafat and tried with all his strength and energy to lead the way to understanding and acceptance.
Killing a King takes us from the past into the present by dissecting the relationship between current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama in light of Rabin’s assassination. In the well-paced narrative, Ephron interprets the lessons learned from the subsequent dissolution of the peace talks and speculates about how the Middle East would look today if Rabin had not been murdered.
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Linda F. Burghardt is a New York-based journalist and author who has contributed commentary, breaking news, and features to major newspapers across the U.S., in addition to having three non-fiction books published. She writes frequently on Jewish topics and is now serving as Scholar-in-Residence at the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County.