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Rabin's Widow Says Israelis Also Were "Terrorists''

Reuters News Service
06:58 a.m. Sep 11, 1997 Eastern

By Jeffrey Heller


JERUSALEM, Sept 11 (Reuter) - Yitzhak Rabin's widow said on Thursday Israelis were once irrepressible ``terrorists'' and they should realise Yasser Arafat had little chance of uprooting Palestinian ``terrorism.''

Speaking in bitter tones, Leah Rabin staked a clear claim to the legacy of the assassinated prime minister, striking an emotional chord the taciturn warrior-turned-peacemaker was never comfortable voicing.

``I have doubt about how much terrorism can be uprooted,'' Rabin told Israel Radio before meeting U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, on a mission to breathe life into Middle East peace talks battered by suicide attacks.

``We were also terrorists once and they didn't uproot us and we went on dealing in terrorist activities. Despite all the efforts of all of the British army in the land, we went on with terrorism,'' Rabin said.

Britain conquered Palestine in 1917 and battled Arab and Jewish militants under a mandate which ended in 1948. Israel declared a state with Britain's departure in May of that year and Arab states then attacked.

Albright said she would demand from Arafat on Thursday a crack-down on Moslem militants.

``It's possible to try 100 percent. It doesn't ensure 100 percent success,'' said Rabin, whose husband was gunned down in Tel Aviv in November 1995 by a right-wing religious Jew opposed to peace moves with the Palestinians.

``If you wait and see until there is 100 percent success in uprooting terrorism, it appears to me that peace will get farther and farther away before our very eyes. That is my assessment,'' the widow said.

Asked if she thought Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted peace, Rabin told army radio:

``Allow me to express doubt. He does everything against it.''

Netanyahu has said a clamp-down onmilitants by Arafat is a condition for carrying outpeace deals.

Rabin quoted a favourite phrase of her late husband.

``Yitzhak would say, 'We will make peace as if there is no terrorism. We will fight terrorism as if we are not taking steps towards peace'. That must be the approach,'' she said.

Since ousting Rabin's successor Shimon Peres in elections in May 1996, right-winger Netanyahu has rejected such a statement. There could be no peace, he said, while ``terrorism'' continued.

Paying homage to Rabin, Albright and Mrs Rabin made a morning pilgrimage to his grave in Jerusalem.

Albright, wearing black with a gold dove-of-peace pin given to her by Mrs Rabin, laid a wreath of red and yellow flowers.

Words in Hebrew and English on a black ribbon on the wreath bore the salutation President Bill Clinton used at the eulogy for Rabin's funeral -- ``Shalom Haver, Farewell Friend.''

Following Jewish tradition, the secretary of state, who recently learned of her Jewish roots, placed a stone on Rabin's black-and-white headstone and bowed her head.

Albright embraced Mrs Rabin, who whispered: ``Thank you.''

Arafat and Leah Rabin planned to sign a paper later on Thursday recommitting themselves to peace moves to mark the fourth anniversary of the Oslo peace accords.

``It's a ceremonial step to strengthen his (Arafat's) spirit which has fallen a lot in my view. It's very hard for him. He feels very much under pressure and justifiably. Our government has tried to bring him to his knees,'' Rabin said.

In a footnote to the peace anniversary, the trial began in Tel Aviv on Thursday of Margalit Har-Shefi, a friend of Rabin's killer. She could go to jail for up to two years if convicted on charges of failing to prevent the assassination.

Har-Shefi, a religious Jewish settler and university classmate of law student Yigal Amir, has said she never took seriously his ``crazy plans'' to kill Rabin.

Amir gunned down the prime minister after a peace rally in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995.



© Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.

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