Jerusalem (Jan. 7)
– Interior Minister Yosef Burg appeared in the Knesset today to defend his dismissal of Police Inspector General Herzl Shafir and to deny Shafir’s allegation that he had asked him to defer a police investigation into possible financial irregularities within the ministry until after this year’s Knesset elections.
Burg, a leader of the National Religious Party, spoke in reply to agenda motions by three opposition MKs supporting Shafir’s request for a special commission headed by a Supreme Court Justice to investigate the circumstances of his dismissal. At the same time, Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir asked the police today for a secret file code-named “peach” which Shafir kept and which is believed to contain information gathered by the police about illegal transfers of funds by certain functionaries of the Interior Ministry.
Burg insisted that he could not have ordered Shafir to freeze the police inquiry into these mat
ters because Shafir never told him such an inquiry was in progress. According to Burg, the Inspector General informed him a month ago that “anonymous rumors and accusations” were reaching the police. Shafir would not disclose their nature but characterized the material so far collected as “nonsense,” Burg said.
The Interior Minister said that inasmuch as this is an election year and unsubstantiated charges can be used for political purposes, he had simply urged Shafir to ensure that none of the material would be leaked to the press.
Burg said he subsequently fired Shafir because of a “crisis of confidence” that developed from “an accumulation of incidents,” among them secret tape recordings by the police of confidential meetings they had with senior Interior Ministry officials.
Burg did not specifically oppose an inquiry into the circumstances of his dismissal of Shafir. He proposed, however, that the agenda motions be referred to the Knesset’s Interior Committee where, presumably, they will be taken up by a special subcommittee on police matters. The three MKs– Amos Hadar of the Labor Party, Naftali Feder of Mapam and Uri Avneri of Sheli– agreed.
GROUP OF SHAFIR SUPPORTERS DENOUNCED
But the Interior Minister’s distaste for a special commission of inquiry emerged obliquely when he launched an attack on “Citizens for the State,” a group of former senior army officers formed in Tel Aviv several days ago to support Shafir’s efforts to have his dismissal reversed. Shafir himself is a former army officer, having served for a time as Deputy Chief of Staff.
Burg denounced the new group as a “junta of generals” and charged that it was a dangerous, anti-democratic organization which could bring disaster to the nation. Several Labor and Likud MKs expressed similar fears. Laborite Danny Rosolio and Chaika Grossman of Mapam called on Shafir to dissociate himself from the group “if democracy in Israel is precious to you.”