Yona Avrushmi
Yona Avrushmi, killer of peace activist Emil Grunzweig. Photo by Lior Mizrahi
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Yona Avrushmi, who murdered Emil Grunzweig during a Peace Now demonstration in Jerusalem in 1983, was released from prison yesterday - after 27 years. If he had time to peruse the newspaper headlines, he might have read the warning from Police Commissioner David Cohen about murder being committed for political or ideological reasons.

Of course, it's only a coincidence, but one that raises questions as to whether the past will repeat itself, and whether the situation today is as serious as it was at the height of the disputes about the Lebanon War. Grunzweig's murder shocked Israel; afterward, there were signs of moderation in the public discourse and a lull in the verbal violence, but the Oslo Accords again aroused dormant or silenced forces, which brought about the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Since the murder of Rabin, there has been almost no similar crime among Israelis - a prominent exception was the attempt to harm Prof. Zeev Sternhell. Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, is supposed to serve a life sentence, literally, without his punishment being reduced. Amir will not be the next Avrushmi. But it's doubtful whether such a serious punishment will deter those plotting to harm political figures or other prominent participants in the public discourse.

The greater the fanaticism, the greater the readiness to commit suicide and the indifference to the fate of those who happen to be near the target of the assassination. The next murder attempt is likely not to involve point-blank pistol shots, as did Rabin's murder, nor sniping from a distance, but be a more powerful version of Grunzweig's murder. Avrushmi threw a hand grenade, which killed Grunzweig and injured others; the next murderer will be able to use explosive devices that cause numerous casualties.

The Israel Police and the Shin Bet security services, each of them in its own field and in accordance with its powers, must do their utmost to gather intelligence about those planning the next political killing, and to protect those who are being threatened.

Avrushmi's 27 years in prison, and the fact that Amir's life imprisonment has not been reduced, and is not expected to be shortened, should help to deter at least of some of the next would-be assassins. Murder for so-called "ideological" reasons, which is an assassination of democracy, is no less serious than an ordinary criminal murder - in fact, just the opposite is true.