JERUSALEM (Aug. 18)
Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir today gained full Cabinet support for his recommendation last week to put Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Mordechai on trial for his involvement in the deaths of two terrorist hijackers last April.
Zamir’s recommendation, later overruled by the Israel Defense Force Judge Advocate who urged that Mordechai be placed before a disciplinary court, developed into a political controversy this weekend over the role of Israel’s Attorney General. Mordechai was today acquitted by a disciplinary court of the charges.
But Zamir today received strong support for his actions in the case of Mordechai. Premier Shimon Peres said at the weekly Cabinet session that the Attorney General should be able to act free of outside pressures and even if some of his recommendations do not please some of the Cabinet Ministers, the Attorney General should be allowed to operate diligently and honestly.
A special commission of inquiry issued its report after a one-year investigation into the death of the terrorists who had hijacked, along with two colleagues, an Egged bus near Ashkalon. Security forces stopped the bus in a Gaza Strip town.
The bus was stormed by security personnel and two of the hijackers were killed during the rescue operation. Two others were seen being led away from the scene. They were apparently killed during interrogation by security personnel who were trying to determine whether there had been a bomb placed on the bus.
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMISSION
Zamir, following the recommendations of the commission, sought to have Mordechai, chief infantry and paratroop officer, court-martialed, though he decided that Mordechai not be charged with homicide in the terrorists’ deaths. The commission determined that Mordechai was not responsible with the deaths of the terrorists.
Zamir also agreed with the commission’s recommendations that five members of the Shin Bet internal security force be brought before a disciplinary court on a charge of conduct unbecoming of their position. Three policemen are to be tried for unnecessary use of force.
But the Army decided last Thursday that Mordechai would be brought before an IDF disciplinary court on two charges of violent behavior. Zamir wanted him charged with causing grievous bodily harm and for conduct unbefitting an officer.
The relatively minor action taken against Mordechai followed heavy political pressure by rightwing politicians to ignore Zamir’s recommendations, and triggered an angry reaction from the Attorney General, especially to the call by Minister Yosef Shapiro of the Morasha Party who urged that Zamir be relieved of his job.
Zamir said he did not intend to resign. Israel television reported that Zamir felt the criticism was injust as his critics did not know the contents of the commission of inquiry’s confidential report.
Zamir told the Cabinet ministers today that they were entitled to criticize him but that they should stick to the facts and refrain from political criticism. He cited the promise of former Defense Minister Moshe Arens that there would be no whitewashing in the case of the killing of the terrorists.