JERUSALEM -- The Monday night shooting of anti-Arab militant Rabbi Meir Kahane by a gunman in a New York hotel was followed yesterday by the murder of two elderly Arabs 6,000 miles away on a quiet road near the small West Bank village of Lubban as-Sharkiyah.
In what a spokesman for Rabbi Kahane's organization suggested was an act of "revenge," by admirers of the 58-year-old rabbi, a gunman in a car with Israeli license plates shot down Mohammed al-Khatib, 73, while he was riding a donkey, and Mariam Seleiman Hassan, 71, while she was picking olives.
The shooting took place near the largely Arab town of Nablus and not far from one of the many Jewish settlements that have been built in the West Bank since Israel occupied it in the 1967 war.
"I think blood might spread and I think the reaction on both sides might be terrible," said Radwan Abu Ayyash, head of the Arab Journalists Association in the West Bank. "If the Israelis decide to take revenge, I'm afraid so will the Palestinians. I'm afraid no one can stop either."
Rabbi Kahane's murder could hardly have come at a worse time, observers said. Tension and fear between Arabs and Jews are running extremely high these days, in the wake of last month's Temple Mount clash, in which Israeli police killed at least 18 Palestinians.
Reaction by Israeli government and political officials was decidedly muted, a measure of how little mainstream politicians cared for the militant American Jew whose political career grew tumultuous and controversial, but who never established broad-based political power
As members of Rabbi Kahane's extremist political group, Kach, stormed about the organization's Jerusalem headquarters the morning after their leader's murder, Kach spokesman Noam Federman summed up the way they felt. "I suppose Rabbi Kahane's supporters and admirers will kill Arabs," he said. "It's not planned but it's what they want to do."
Then, referring to the dawn killings near Nablus, he added "They killed two Arabs already." When asked why Rabbi Kahane's supporters would gun down elderly Arab peasants, he had a simple answer. "Revenge," he said. "There is a Jewish [Biblical] law that says revenge [is called for]. That's why they do it."
He offered no evidence to back up his claim and as of late yesterday police had not determined any linkage between Rabbi Kahane's supporters and the killings.
Mr. Federman drew a distinction between acts perpetrated by supporters of Rabbi Kahane and acts approved by his group, saying that Kach was not taking responsibility for the killings, which he said had not been planned by its leaders.
Baruch Marzel, the organization's second-ranking leader, denied involvement, but praised those who committed it, saying, "I'm glad that there were good Jews who did it."
Yoel Ben-David, another Kach activist, promised "a river of Arab blood that will flow like the River Nile," as he exhorted a crowd of listeners to wipe out the Palestinians as the Jews of the Bible handled their enemies.
Angry Kahane followers massed outside Kach headquarters in Jerusalem's ancient open-air market, echoed the fury of their leaders with cries of "Death to the Arabs!" and "Erase them now!"
Later, around the city, there were reports of stone-throwing and harassment of Arabs. But, perhaps because of a strong police and army presence in all of the areas where Jews and Arabs mix, no serious outbreaks of violence were reported.
Both Israelis and Palestinians expect more to come, perhaps this afternoon, when Rabbi Kahane's body, flown back from New York, will be buried.
Several Jews recently have been attacked by Arabs wielding knives, which has prompted an increase in anti-Arab rhetoric and police measures. Rioting in the Gaza Strip last weekend was met by an army reaction that left one dead and more than 200 wounded.
Fewer than 20 members of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, rose to observe a minute of silence in his honor and Avi Pazner, spokesman for Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, limited the government's official regrets to a statement condemning "this further act of Arab terrorism."
And yet, in party politics as well as street-level extremism, Rabbi Kahane leaves a legacy. His group had seen its glory days, but his one idea -- kick the Arabs out -- is heard more and more openly these days.
When he emigrated here from America in 1971 and began preaching his doctrine of racial exclusion, he and his idea met with no favor, winning only about 5,000 votes in his early tries for the Knesset, in 1977 and 1981. But in 1984, he won 25,000 votes and a seat in the fragmented Knesset. But he was unable to run for re-election in 1988 when his party was barred from holding office because it was judged racist.
Most political observers here still believe Israel cannot, and will not try to, expel its Arabs. But talk of what Israeli politicians call "a divorce" -- some sort of separation between Israel and its occupied territories, perhaps with newly arrived Russian Jews taking over Arab jobs, has been played heavily in Israeli newspaper and magazine pages in recent weeks.
"Kahane was the first to say it," said political scientist Yitzhak Gal-Nur. "Throw out the Arabs. He couldn't care less whether it was democratic or not. It was easy to get rid of him, but not the idea. . . . Now, Kahanism grows stronger and stronger as the frustration inherent in this country's conflict with the Palestinians grow." '