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World Leaders Pay Final Tribute to Yitzhak Rabin

By Marjorie Miller
Los Angeles Times
JERUSALEM

The world was his witness.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, born in the Jewish promised land and gunned down for forging peace with hostile neighbors, was buried in Mount Herzl national cemetery on Monday with kings and princes, presidents and prime ministers, friends and former enemies at his graveside.

U.N. General Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Jordan's King Hussein, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and a host of other leaders who once considered Israel an international pariah embraced the tiny country in its moment of deepest grief.

Together with President Clinton, they vowed that the abrupt end to Rabin's life would not become the abrupt end to his dream of Middle East peace.

The most heart-wrenching moments of the prime minister's state funeral, however, came not from dignitaries, but from those who knew Rabin best. His 18-year-old granddaughter wept over losing the man she called "my eternal hero" and "our pillar of fire," a reference to God leading the Jews through the desert.

"I know we are talking in terms of a national tragedy, but how can you try to comfort an entire nation or include it in your personal pain, when grandmother does not stop crying," Noa Ben Artzi said, her voice breaking. "We are mute, feeling the enormous void that is left by your absence."

Soldiers and police burst into tears over her words, along with many of the dignitaries and members of Rabin's close-knit family. His widow, Leah, covered her eyes.

King Hussein, wearing a red headdress with his black mourning suit, also spoke in a voice resonant with sorrow over the loss of his friend and partner in peace.

"Never in all my thoughts would it have occurred to me that my first visit to Jerusalem in response to your invitation ... would be on such an occasion," Hussein said.

"Let us not keep silent. Let our voices rise higher to speak of our commitment to peace," he shouted.

"As long as I live," Hussein said, "I will be proud to have known [Rabin], to have worked with him as a brother, as a friend, and as a man."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak made his first trip to Israel for the funeral, although the two countries signed a peace agreement 17 years ago. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was killed by Islamic fundamentalists for that agreement.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who signed the 1993 peace accord with Rabin, stayed away from the funeral to avoid riling hard-liners who do not want to see him in the disputed capital. But he sent a delegation of ministers from his ruling Palestinian Authority.

The simple pine coffin, draped in an Israeli flag, traveled in a slow-moving procession past thousands of weeping mourners to the cemetery, named for the country's Zionist forefather, Theodore Herzl.

All of Israel came to a standstill as the funeral began with the wail of a two-minute siren. It was the same bone-chilling call that commemorates the Nazi Holocaust each year and on Memorial Day for the war dead.

Rabin's son, Yuval, said Kaddish, the Jewish mourning prayer, at the ceremony.

The mourners gathered near the tomb of Herzl included scores of past and present state leaders who had worked with Rabin over the decades, among them President Clinton and former presidents Bush and Carter, England's Prime Minister John Major and Prince Charles, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and a host of others.

The foreign ministers of Qatar and Oman -- Persian Gulf states that have been reluctant to engage with Israel -- also attended.

President Clinton in his remarks echoed Rabin's own words at the signing of an interim peace agreement with the Palestinians in Washington, D.C., last month. "Today, my fellow citizens of the world, I ask all of you to take a good, hard look at this picture," Clinton said.

"Look at the leaders from all over the Middle East and around the world who have journeyed here today for Yitzhak Rabin and for peace. Though we no longer hear his deep and booming voice, it is he who has brought us together again here in word and deed for peace," said Clinton, who wore a black skullcap.

The 25-year-old law student who killed Rabin told a judge in Tel Aviv on Monday that God had been his accomplice in the murder. The judge ordered Yigal Amir held for another 15 days while police gather evidence and return with an indictment.

Amir's 27-year-old brother, Hagai, was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of cooperation in the killing, police revealed. They suspect that Hagai Amir customized the bullets that killed Rabin into hollow, exploding "dum-dum" bullets.

Police also said they were investigating Amir's relationship to the outlawed Kach organization, and whether the extreme-rightist group might have been behind the killing. The murder took place on the fifth anniversary of the murder in New York of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the spiritual leader of Kach.

Security officials had been warning Rabin for months of possible attempts on his life by potentially violent right-wing groups that viewed Rabin as a traitor for his willingness to give up Jewish land and settlements to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. But they continued to focus their attention on potential threats from Arabs rather than Jews.

Police Minister Moshe Shahal called for a state inquiry into Rabin's security detail and how the assassin managed to cut through security lines and get close enough to the prime minister to fire three bullets at nearly point-blank range.

Protecting Jerusalem and the hundreds of foreign dignitaries from 86 nations who arrived for Rabin's funeral was Israel's largest security operation ever.

Leah Rabin, who met hundreds of people gathered in front of her house on Sunday night to offer their condolences, told them, "It's a pity you all weren't here when there were demonstrators on the other side of the street here calling him a traitor and murderer."