JERUSALEM (Jul. 8)
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir acknowledged that he had a “conversation” with Shin Bet chief Avraham Shalom about killing terrorists captured alive but insisted there was never a standing order to do so while he was Prime Minister.
Shamir made the statement in an interview published Tuesday in the weekly magazine Monitin. It was his second published commentary on the Shin Bet affair since the Supreme Court gave the government two weeks to show cause why it should not launch an investigation into allegations that Shalom ordered the killing of two Palestinian bus hijackers after their capture by the Israel Defense Force in April, 1984 and subsequently engaged in an elaborate cover-up of the case. Shamir was Prime Minister at the time.
With respect to killing terrorists taken prisoner, Monitin quoted Shamir as saying, “This was not an instruction. This was in the nature of a conversation between (himself) and Shin Bet chief Avraham Shalom and that does not mean you were supposed to kill someone who had survived an incident or escaped alive. It means you were supposed to try as hard as possible during combat. That does not mean killing in any circumstances.”
In an interview published in Yediot Achronot last Thursday, Shamir denied that he had any knowledge of alleged irregularities in dealing with the bus hijackers until eight months ago. He was responding to intimations that he must have known of the events because the head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, is responsible solely to the Prime Minister.
His remarks to Yediot Achronot and to Monitin contradict the statement by Shalom when he applied for a Presidential pardon last month, that he acted with “authority and permission” in every aspect of the case.
Shamir, who is also Deputy Premier and the leader of Likud, told Monitin that he was aware that there had been “a lynch” and that IDF personnel, police, Shin Bet personnel and “ordinary people” participated in it. He refused to tell the Tel Aviv-based weekly precisely what he had been told and when.
But according to the Yediot Achronot interview, Shamir said he first learned of the alleged irregularities last October 29, from Reuven Hazak, former deputy chief of Shin Bet, one of three senior operatives who brought complaints against Shalom to former Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir.
Shamir is currently consulting with Attorney General Yosef Harish and other legal counsel on the affidavit he will be required to submit to the Supreme Court shortly explaining why the government prefers to close the Shin Bet affair without further inquiry.
A number of Cabinet ministers are urging the government to establish a judicial commission of inquiry which would automatically end the Supreme Court’s intervention in the case. But Premier Shimon Peres is not reconciled to that course and the Likud ministers are firmly behind Shamir in opposing any probe of Shin Bet on grounds of State security.
SHAMIR APPROVES OF PRESIDENTIAL PARDON
Shamir told Monitin that the pardons President Chaim Herzog granted to Shalom and three of his senior aides last month were “an excellent way of ending” the affair. He maintained it would be unwise to press Shalom and other Shin Bet men by judicial means because they would react “like anyone else.”
He seemed to imply by this that they would fudge the facts to protect themselves. Shamir has flatly denied Shalom’s assertion that he acted with full “authority” in the case. He told Monitin, “It is not important what I myself did or did not know.”
The Presidential pardons have been challenged before the high court. The court asked the government to submit, within a week, detailed information about the pardons. The justices made clear that they were not questioning the President’s exercise of his constitutional right. But their intervention signified that the court might look into the validity of the pardons at a future date.
Justice Minister Yitzhak Modai submitted a brief affidavit to the court Monday outlining the circumstances surrounding the pardons. He explained that President Herzog asked the Inner Cabinet, advised by Attorney General Harish, to recommend the pardons and the ministers complied.
But Modai did not address the question that apparently bothers the court–whether Shalom and his three aides had in fact admitted guilt and could therefore be regarded as “offenders” within the framework of the Presidential Pardons Law. That law empowers the President to pardon “offenders.”