Demands Persist for Probe of Shin Bet Chief Despite His Resignation and Pardon

Demands for a full scale investigation of charges against Avraham Shalom mounted within the Labor Party and other coalition factions Thursday despite Shalom’s resignation Wednesday as chief of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security services and the pardon given him and three of his senior aides by President Chaim Herzog.

Shalom, accused of a cover-up in the unexplained deaths of two Arab bus hijackers in custody of security agents in April 1984, was never tried or convicted of any offense. The pardon, supported by Premier Shimon Peres and a majority of the Inner Cabinet, was seen by many as a deliberate ploy to avoid an investigation which Attorney General Yosef Harish said he had been prepared to launch.

Herzog said in an Army Radio interview Thursday that his decision to pardon the Shin Bet chief did not mean that any further inquiry was ruled out. “It was not my business… It is for the government… the government did not ask anything of me. The Shin Bet asked, and I had to decide,” he said. But unrest is growing among Cabinet members who had urged an inquiry. Energy Minister Moshe Shahal, a Laborite, and Communications Minister Amnon Rubinstein of the Labor-allied Shinui Party, said Thursday they would introduce a proposal at this Sunday’s Cabinet meeting to set up a judicial commission of inquiry.

Shahal said that now that the issue of Shalom and his aides has been resolved by the President, opposition to an inquiry should decrease. Another powerful Laborite, Deputy Premier Yitzhak Navon, Herzog’s immediate predecessor as President of Israel, spoke out Wednesday night in favor of an inquiry. Immigration Minister Yaacov Tsur, a bitter critic of the pardon, and Ezer Weizman, Minister-Without-Portfolio, whose Yahad Party is aligned with Labor, added their voices to the growing chorus.

Shinui announced Thursday that it would “reconsider” its partnership in the unity coalition government in light of what the Cabinet decides on Sunday.

Most political commentators believe Peres will weather this storm without creating an inquiry commission which is fiercely opposed by Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, leader of Likud.

FORD’S PARDON OF NIXON CITED

Shamir reportedly made it clear during the Cabinet’s deliberations Wednesday that he was prepared to force a coalition crisis if there was any investigation of the Shin Bet chief. It was at that point, according to leaked reports from the Cabinet session, that the idea of a Presidential pardon was raised. The formal application for pardon was made by Shalom and his private attorney, Ram Caspi.

Herzog defended his decision Thursday. He told the Army Radio that he was confident that “though controversial now, it would be recognized in the future as the right decision–just as everyone in the United States now recognized the rightness of President Ford’s decision to pardon President Nixon” after the Watergate scandal in 1974.

NEXT STORY