By Zach Thomas
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Reactions from University of Arizona students and faculty ranged from hope to helplessness following the assassination Saturday of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
"I'm devastated. It's unbelievable that this could happen," said Michelle Stark, a religious studies senior. "I feel for the people of Israel."
Rabin, 73, who led his nation toward peace with the Arabs, was shot to death at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv Saturday. Israeli police report that Yigal Amir, a 25-year-old law student with links to the Jewish extremist fringe, has confessed to the crime.
"In the peace process, there are always three steps forward and one step back," said J. Edward Wright, a UA associate professor of Near Eastern and Judaic studies. "The consequences are unforeseen at this point. It will depend on what the people want."
In Israel, hundreds of thousands of mourners filed past Rabin's coffin as it lay in the plaza outside of parliament in Jerusalem.
Laura Mazow, a third-year archaeology graduate student who has traveled extensively throughout Israel, called the killing a "turning point."
"I think its very sad to find Jews killing each other," she said. "People will be wanting to stop the killing in any way."
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, named caretaker prime minister early yesterday, told Labor Party legislators that "worry is eating my heart" over having to tackle peacemaking without his close ally, Rabin.
In addition, Israel's opposition Likud Party announced it would not oppose Peres's bid to form a new government.
Many world leaders, including President Clinton and UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, will converge in Jerusalem today to pay final tribute to the Israeli prime minister at his funeral.
Citing security issues, PLO chief Yasser Arafat said he will not attend, but said he hoped that "all of us, Israelis and Palestinians, will have the ability to overcome this tragedy against the peace process."
Despite Arafat's words, Islamic militants in Beiruit fired weapons into the air, celebrating Rabin's demise.
The killing was "the fruit of the violence that Rabin has sowed," said Mohammed Zahhar, a prominent leader of the militant group, Hamas. "I'm joyful because he was punished."
However, Israel's partners in the Middle East peace process expressed hope that Rabin's death wouldn't destroy the progress of negotiations.
Rabin's death raised immediate questions about the future of Middle East peacemaking, especially the Israel-PLO autonomy agreement on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from most West Bank towns by the end of the year.
However, Leonard Dinnerstein, director of the UA Committee on Judaic Studies, was optimistic.
"Sometimes, an assassination does the exact opposite of what is intended," he said. "It may galvanize more people to realize that they want peace."
The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona will hold a community-wide memorial service for Rabin tonight at 7 at the Congregation Anshei Israel, 5550 E. Fifth St.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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