Rabbis questioned about Rabin killing

JERUSALEM — Israeli police have stepped up their investigation into whether some rabbis issued a religious ruling that sanctioned the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Police investigators have questioned at least three rabbis in connection with the assassination.

At the same time, Israel's police chief, Assaf Hefetz, said investigators had so far failed to uncover evidence that any rabbi had given the go-ahead for the assassination.

He said several of the suspects detained on charges of being involved in an alleged assassination plot had approached rabbis to discuss whether halachah (Jewish law) would condone killing anyone who put lives in danger — as some extremists accused Rabin of doing by handing over land to the Palestinians.

One suspect arrested in the killing said confessed assassin Yigal Amir had asked him to get rabbinical permission for the assassination.

But, Hefetz told Israel Radio, "so far as I know, the rabbis warned them not to carry out this judgment."

He added that the investigation of rabbis would continue, but that he did not yet have reason to issue arrests.

Among the rabbis called in for questioning was Rabbi Nahum Rabinovich, the head of a yeshiva in Ma'aleh Adumim, outside Jerusalem on the West Bank.

Rabinovich was named by a fellow rabbi within days after the assassination as having given religious sanction for the slaying. Rabinovich has repeatedly denied that he made any such statement.

On Sunday, police questioned two other rabbis, Shmuel Dvir, from the Gush Etzion bloc in the West Bank, and David Kav, who taught at a yeshiva attended by Amir.

The two were questioned again Monday, after which Dvir was released on bail and Kav was released unconditionally.

Meanwhile, an American immigrant with reported ties to the outlawed militant group Kahane Chai was questioned by police this week about the assassination.

Boaz Silverberg, a Jerusalem psychologist, said he did not know why he had been summoned, and police would not state why they were questioning him.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Magistrates Court on Sunday extended by three days the detention of a minor accused of printing posters that depicted Rabin in a Gestapo uniform. The posters were distributed at an opposition rally a month before the slaying.

The inflammatory posters, along with public statements that Rabin was responsible for the deaths of Israelis because of his peace policies, have been cited as contributing to a public atmosphere that made the assassination possible.

The 16-year-old suspect, who was not identified because of his age, expressed remorse for his actions during the hearing, according to Israel Radio.

In another development, the Petach Tikvah Magistrates Court on Sunday extended the detention of Margalit Har-Shefi, a 21-year-old woman believed to have known about Amir's plans to kill Rabin.

Har-Shefi is one of nine people who have been questioned in connection with the slaying.

Amir maintains that he acted alone and according to Jewish law.