Killing a King: The Assas­si­na­tion of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remak­ing of Israel

  • Review
By – May 19, 2015

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.

Index, notes, photos.

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.

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