JERUSALEM (Jul. 1)
Deputy Premier Yitzhak Shamir appeared to lend substance Tuesday to speculation that a compromise will be worked out in the unity coalition government over an investigation into the Shin Bet affair. He said, however, that he has no knowledge of any compromise.
Speaking to reporters during a tour of Galilee, Shamir seemed to have moderated his hitherto unequivocal opposition to a probe of Avraham Shalom, the former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. He said he would accept “any government decision,” adding, however, that “In my opinion we have no need for any examination.” Premier Shimon Peres also commented extempore to reporters Tuesday. He said the problem is how to end a crisis that has both judicial and political ramifications. “Ministers are not judges, so when we have an issue of judicial character, it should be resolved judicially,” he said.
SHIN BET CHIEF REPORTED DIRECTLY TO SHAMIR
The Cabinet has yet to take a position for or against an inquiry and if there is to be one, whether it will be conducted by a full dress commission appointed for the task or a single investigator. The probe would be to determine if there is truth to allegations that Shalom engaged in an elaborate cover-up in the unexplained deaths of two Arab bus hijackers while in custody of security agents in April, 1984.
The political ramifications stem from the fact that the head of Shin Bet is responsible only to the Prime Minister and Shamir held that office at the time of the incident. Shalom applied for and received a pardon from President Chaim Herzog last Wednesday for any illegalities he may have committed. He stated in his request that all of his actions in the case were taken “with authority and permission.”
But members of the Labor Party’s Knesset faction said Tuesday that either Shamir or Shalom must be lying. “Shalom said he acted with the concurrence of the political echelon while Shamir said he was innocent. They can’t both be telling the truth,” MK Aharon Harel observed. Abba Eban, who chairs the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, said an inquiry was not only desirable but inevitable.
The Labor faction voted overwhelmingly Tuesday in favor of a commission of inquiry. They rejected a compromise proposal for a single investigator.
‘I WILL GO ALONG WITH EVERY DECISION’
Shamir, for his part, said “If there is any need, according to the counsel of the Attorney General, for some sort of inquiry, he will make his proposals and the Cabinet will act. I will go along with every decision. If there is a commission of inquiry, I will say what I have to say and everybody will be surprised, most of all our press and media will regret what they say now.”
Police Minister Haim Barlev of Labor warned Tuesday that an inquiry commission would do grave and possibly irreparable damage to the Shin Bet and the national interest. He was not opposed to a single investigator whose task would be limited to the political echelons. Such an investigator could establish the responsibility of Shamir “if Shamir was indeed culpable,” he said.
HIGH COURT HEARING CONTINUES
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court continued its hearings on petitions by a large segment of the legal profession to overturn Herzog’s pardon of Shalom and three of his senior aides.
Twelve professors of law argued in one petition that the pardon was granted in an attempt to end the scandal surrounding Shin Bet. But it threatened the rule of law in Israel, they maintained. They also charged that the President entered the political arena by his act and there is serious doubt that the pardons are legal.