Former Chief of the General Security Service (Shabak) Ami Ayalon, now a Knesset Member, revealed Thursday night that Margalit Har-Shefi did not realize that Yigal Amir intended to assassinate Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. She was convicted in 1998 of failing to prevent the murder. In 2001, she began a serving a nine-month prison term, which was terminated by President Moshe Katzav after six months.
Ayalon made the disclosure at a meeting with Labor party supporters in Ashkelon, but he did not explain why he kept silent until now. "Har-Shefi did not know that Yigal Amir wanted to murder the Prime Minister," MK Ayalon said. "I know this from intelligence and was head of the intelligence agency."
"She was part of the crazy reality [at that time]."
Har-Shefi attended law school with Amir for three years and was accused of not preventing the murder although she allegedly knew that he planned to gun down the former Prime Minister at a rally in Tel Aviv.
Israel was sharply divided over Rabin's support of the Oslo Accords and surrendering parts of Judea, Samaria and Gaza to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which then was headed by Yasser Arafat.
President Moshe Katzav said at the time of his decision to let her out of jail that he was influenced to a large extent by the fact that ex-intelligence chiefs Ayalon and Carmi Gillon did not oppose her being released.
Ayalon, who is challenging Labor chairman Amir Peretz for his position, was asked in Ashkelon why he shortened the jail term of Har-Shefi, who is a niece of National Union MK Benny Elon and was a 23-year-old Beit El resident at the time of her conviction.
Har-Shefi did not know that Yigal Amir wanted to murder the Prime Minister
Her judge, Nira Lidski, ruled that "had Ms. Har-Shefi taken reasonable measures to prevent the crime, this despicable murder might never have been committed.'' The defendant described Mr. Amir's threat as ''sounding so imaginary and so unrealistic then'' that she did not believe it. She said she would have tried to stop Amir had she known he was serious.
When she began her jail term. Har-Shefi stated, "I am being sent to prison today for one reason only: They had to find someone to blame. They [wanted] to cover up for an entire network that fell asleep on the job - as if I, a 19-year-old girl at the time, was the one who could have saved the country from this terrible trauma."
Ayalon's admission of Har-Shefi's not knowing that Amir really planned to assassinate Rabin confirms statements made by Beit El rabbis at the time of her conviction.
Rabbi Zalman Melamed wrote, "A terrible injustice has been perpetrated on Margalit. I call upon the public to cooperate in whatever efforts are needed to help clear her name."
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner wrote, "Margalit, we know and believe that you are innocent."
Ayalon's admission still leaves in doubt the matter of Avishai Raviv, the intelligence agent who infiltrated extremist groups and encouraged Yigal Amir. Raviv was indicted, but the government overruled a recommendation by the State Prosecutor to bring him to trial.
Dennis Eisenberg and the late Uri Dan, authors of The Mossad: Secrets of the Israel Secret Service, wrote of Raviv in 1998, "He gathered up a dozen or so banners carried by young teenagers, bearing photo-montage pictures of Rabin dressed up as an SS general. He handed them over to the compliant TV crews and pressed them hard to run them that very night--which they promptly did...."
"Raviv was a brilliant success as an undercover agent. GSS handlers guided and instructed him how to infiltrate the world of students and then incite them to carry out deeds which would prove that there was a right-wing conspiracy to topple the government, when in fact none existed.
"Raviv also created his own phony group and took them to demonstrate in front of Rabin's home on Friday afternoons to chant: "Rabin and his wife will be hung like Mussolini and his mistress." In another incident, Raviv was given wide media coverage when he claimed his Eyal youth movement had murdered an Arab near Hebron in revenge for the deaths of Jews in suicide attacks. Wide criticism, verging on hysteria, was heaped on Hebron settlers. Ten days later it was found that a gang of Arab thieves were guilty of the killing.
"Evidence was brought to the [Justice Meir] Shamgar inquiry by young girls who were present at a settlement meeting where Raviv urged Yigal Amir to prove his worth as a man and kill Rabin."