Law and Politics: The Trial of Rabin’s Assassin
Leora Bilsky

This article examines the judgment of Rabin’s assassin -- Yigaal Amir. It focuses on the unusual rhetoric that the court chose to employ in its verdict and asks about the relation between rhetoric and the construction of collective identity. I argue that the court felt the need to go beyond legalistic considerations and responded to the identity challenge that was advanced in Amir’s defense. The court was confronted with a radical challenge about the compatibility of the two fundamental values of the state of Israel (“Jewish” and “democratic.”)  At a moment of a constitutional crisis the court chose to advance a new collective identity that was expected to bridge the abyss between secular and religious Jews. By doing so the court had to redraw the line between insiders and outsiders according to ethnic considerations. The paradoxical effect of this move was the legitimization of the assassin’s rhetoric about friend (Jew) and foe (Palestinian). The article exposes the ethical costs of such a choice and questions its political wisdom.