Cabinet to Decide How to Respond to High Court on Shin Bet Issue

The mounting dispute between Labor and Likud over whether to launch an official inquiry into the Shin Bet affair is expected to come to a head when the Cabinet meets in special session Monday to decide how to respond to the Supreme Court on the issue.

The court on July I gave the government two weeks to show cause why the police inquiry ordered by former Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir should not proceed. Zamir’s successor, Yosef Harish informed the Cabinet Sunday that he would order the police to start an investigation unless the government decides to establish a judicial commission of inquiry.

The Labor bloc was said Sunday to unanimously favor a judicial inquiry. Likud ministers stand firmly behind Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir in opposition to any kind of inquiry. If the main coalition partners remain deadlocked, the issue may be decided by the swing votes of the two religious ministers, Yosef Burg of the National Religious Party and Yitzhak Peretz of the Shas Party.

An investigation would look into allegations that Shin Bet chief Avraham Shalom and three of his senior aides were criminally implicated in the unexplained deaths of two Arab bus hijackers in custody of security agents in April 1984 and engaged in an elaborate cover-up of the incident. Shin Bet is Israel’s internal security service.

Zamir ordered a police probe which was rescinded when Harish replaced him last month. President Chaim Herzog, meanwhile, granted blanket pardons to Shalom and his aides for any illegalities they may have committed. The four men, all of whom resigned from Shin Bet, were never formally charged with any offense and the pardons have been challenged before the Supreme Court.

ATTORNEY GENERAL FAVORS JUDICIAL PROBE

Harish told the Cabinet Sunday that he preferred a judicial inquiry to a police investigation. He made it clear that he would have no option but to order a police probe if the Cabinet remained undecided because he fully expects the high court to demand an investigation. Harish said a judicial commission could be given carefully constructed terms of reference to avoid security sensitive issues. A police investigation would be less discreet, he said.

The Attorney General’s frank appraisal is believed to have convinced Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Agriculture Minister Arye Nehamkin, who had doubts about an inquiry, to support a judicial commission.

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