Rabin Assassination: Israel's Political Succession
(November 5, 1995)
Classified diplomatic cables, leaked by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks, contains situation reports released by the Embassy in Tel Aviv immediately after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. This cable discusses the possible next steps for Israel's political succession in addition to voicing concerns from Likud, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu about possible accusations of blame and anger towards the Israeli Right.
C O N F I D E N T I A L TEL AVIV 017504
SUBJECT: Rabin Assassination: Next Steps in Israel's Political Succession
1. Confidential- Entire Text. Classified by Section 1.5 (B) and (D). NIACT Precedence because of government crisis in Israel.
2. Summary: Acting Prime Minister Shimon Peres will need to consider three possible options following the November 5 funeral for assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Peres could Presdient Weizman to recognize the existing rules coalition; form a new ruling coalition; or dissolve the Knesset and call early elections. New elections would place 90 days after the 13th Knesset is dissolved. Political and peace process factors will obviously influence any decision concerning if and when new elections are held. Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu told us last night that Likud and the Right will be directly blamed for the violence leading to the assassination of Rabin. He called the death of Rabin "a disaster for the Jewish people, a disaster for Israel and a disaster for the right which will be deimated if elections are called soon." END SUMMARY.
3. The November 4 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Tabin has no precedent in Israel's forty-seven year history. Lacking a constitution, Israel's Basic Law provides that a temporary acting prime minister be named by the Israeli cabiner. In emergency session last night, the Cabinet named Foreign Minister Shimon Peres acting Prime Minister. A decision taken with the concurrence of President Ezer Weizman.
4. Following a seven-day mourning period (which will run from the day of burial November 6 to Sunday morning November 12), the acting Prime Minister has three basic options with repect to succession: 1) continue with the existing ruling oalition with the approval of the president, 2) form a new coalition with the approval of the President, 3) call for new elections.
5. We expect acting Prime Minister Peres to consider his options after the November 6 funeral for Rabin. We have heard preliminary reactions from Cabinet members and Labor Party leaders that Peres may want to call for early elections. Already the Labor Party had named Nava Arad, a member of the 12th Knesset and an advisor to the prime minister on women's rights, to replace Rabin's position on the Labor list and retain a plurality of 44 seats in the Knesset and a working majority of 63. We have learned from the Prime Minister's military advisor, General Danny Yatom, that the acting Prime Minister will take over the defense portfolio, since Peres is barred from naming new ministers until he becomes prime minister. It is possible that in the near future Ehud Barak, Interior Minister and former Chief of Staff, could be named defense minister, a move that most of the Israeli press has discussed in today's papers. Barak is currently racing back to Israel from a U.S. visit to attend the funeral of Rabin tomorrow.
6. If Peres decides to call for new elections, he would have to dissolve the current 13th session of the Knesset and begin a 90-day election period during which a campaign would be conducted. The new election law permitting the direct election of the prime minister and separate election of Knesset factions will take effect. Several technical issues still remain unresolved and will need to be addressed before an election could be held. For example, the issue of a no-confidence vote needs to be resolved, since Labor and Likud have already agreed that a simple Knesset majority would be inadequate to remove a directly-elected Prime Minister.
7. Political and peace process factors no doubt will greatly influence a decision by acting Prime Minister Peres on whether and when to call for new elections. Since Oslo II is a commitment of the Government of Israel, Labor and Likud sources told us that redeployment would continue during an election period. Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu told Poloff last night that the assassination of Rabin is a "disaster for the Jewish people, a disaster of Israel and a disaster for the right which will be decimated if elections are called soon." Other Likud sources referred in a panic to the 1930's murder of Haim Arlosoroff for which the entire revisionist movement was blamed and feared the Left will do the same again with Likud and the Right in 1995.