Police handling of the Bar Noar arrests has been an embarrassment, Knesset
Interior Committee chairwoman MK Miri Regev said on Monday morning.
behavior of police so far has been an embarrassment and every event [in the
case] has ranged from a scandal to a festival,” Regev said at a meeting of the
committee to examine the police’s handling of the media, as well as the escape
of the case’s star witness last week.
In reference to the June 10 press
conference police called to reveal details of the case, only to have to retract
those revelations once the court extended the gag order, MK Nachman Shai issued
a similar critique, saying that the police handling of the gag order on the case
was “at best strange, at worst disappointing and embarrassing.”
stopped understanding the police behavior,” Shai said. “The celebration in the
media was something unique here. The table [for the press conference] was too
small for all the officers present. There were fewer journalists there than
police officers, this is not fitting of such an honorable
Shai accused the police of going over the court’s head,
and said that the embarrassment that occurred after the gag order was extended
“has now put a hex on the case, and everything happening with it has been
“You lost control of the case, and what’s most important is the
public’s faith in the police.”
The committee meeting was opened by Tel
Aviv Police Deputy Commander Shuki Zusi, the most senior police officer present
at the meeting, and was not attended by Tel Aviv Police Commander Bentzi Sau,
Israel Police head Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino, or any officers from the Tel Aviv
branch of the YAMAR investigative unit, which has carried out the Bar Noar
investigation and was in charge of protecting the state’s witness who fled a
safe house last week.
Zusi would not speak about the police’s botched
handling of the gag order, and instead focused on the terminology used to
described the state witness. Zusi argued the man had never been arrested, and
therefore did not “escape,” but rather, “left” the safe house. He added that the
man was never considered a fugitive, nor had he ever been under the watch of six
detectives, as per reports in the press, but only two.
were dismissed by Regev and other MKs present, who insisted on referring to the
witness’ 48 hours on the run as “an escape.”
MK David Tzur (Hatnua), the
former head of the Tel Aviv Police, took a less critical approach towards
police, saying that he believed holding the meeting was
According to Tzur, police must focus on two operational
questions: “Did the main suspects come up as people of interest in the case
anytime in the past four years before the witness came forward?” and “What are
the mistakes that enabled the witness to flee the safe house early Thursday
morning?” Tzur also asked if the lifting of the gag order and the media storm
surrounding the case could have encouraged the witness to flee.
served as Tel Aviv Police Commander from 2004 to 2008, and was in the post on
November 24, 2006, when serial rapist Benny Sela escaped from police custody in
transit to a court hearing.
Media coverage of the scandal and Sela’s two
weeks on the run left a stain on Tzur’s record and is believed to have cost him
the possibility of promotion.
The meeting also dealt with the police’s
decision to not place the man in the national witness protection program, which
is believed to have made his escape much easier. The escape became even more of
an embarrassment on Thursday afternoon, when Channel 2 aired a sit-down
interview they scored with the witness, at the same point he was hiding from
police. A lawyer for Channel 2 at the meeting said that the witness made contact
with Channel 2 and initiated the interview and that the channel acted
responsibly and briefed police after conducting the interview.
Yoel Hadar, legal counsel for the Public Security Ministry, said simply there
were operational reasons behind the decision to keep the man in the custody of
the YAMAR Tel Aviv unit instead of the witness program.
Horowitz (Meretz) issued a call for police to put a stop to the leaks making
their way to the press, saying that “this story has run in the press and the
public more than anything I’ve seen in years – a deluge of information in the
Horowitz, a former journalist, said “every day there is more in
the papers about what this officer or that officer said, everything is out in
the press. As a lawyer, I don’t know how you take a case like this to court. I
think that we must close the gate and get the press out to some extent, if
He added that “with this type of press coverage, who needs a
court? Why not just have a poll among readers of the papers, who can vote by
sending in an SMS? It’s absurd.”
He also called for an examination of the
decision to allow Shaul Ganon – who allegedly raped one of the suspects – to
sign an immunity deal in exchange for his testimony.
Closing the meeting,
Shai said of police handling of the Bar Noar case “If it happens once, it’s a
mistake. If it happens again and again, it indicates an illness in the