Security on Peres likely to be stepped up as threat of attack by extremists increases

 

BARELY 100 days after the assassination of the former prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, fear of a political killing is again engulfing Israel, with his successor, Mr Shimon Peres, inevitably the figure considered most under threat.

The Israeli Police Minister, Mr Moshe Shahal, yesterday warned "his cabinet colleagues that Jewish extremists opposed to the peace process with the Palestinians were again planning attacks to emulate Yigal Amir, the Orthodox Jewish law student who shot Mr Rabin last November.

Mr Peres's daughter, Zvia, revealed that she had received an anonymous phone call threatening her father's life. "Those opposed to him are losing their debate over the peace process "is no longer legitimate, but rather wild, violent, dark and chilling".

Mr Carmi Gilion, the head of the Shin Bet security agency who accepted responsibility for failing to prevent Mr Rabin's assassination, wash replaced yesterday by Mr Ami Ayalon, a former navy chief. Security around Mr Peres and other ministers has been increased since the assassination, but Mr Ayalon will likely step it up still further - as Israel's election campaign gathers pace.

Both Mr Peres's Labour Party and the opposition Likud have vowed to fight a civilised campaign in the weeks leading up to the late spring elections, but deep and emotive divisions are already surfacing. The Likud charged yesterday that Mr Peres was secretly negotiating a deal with the Palestinians over East Jerusalem - where the Palestinian leader, Mr Yasser Arafat, wants his capital, but where most Israelis insist on retaining sovereignty.

While Mr Peres slotted smoothly into Mr Rabin's position, there is no clear successor to Mr Peres in the Labour government - and the temptation among right wing extremists to try and "finish the job" started by Mr Amir cannot be ignored.

The Israeli media this weekend reported that fears of an attack on Mr Peres are being taken with grave seriousness by the Shin Bet. One newspaper published excerpts from an extreme right wing booklet, which charges that Mr Peres has for years been working as an American spy, and contains a welter of inciteful material.