As coalition negotiations are now showing on a daily basis, even the most
important aspects of state in this country often get negotiated and resolved not
all that differently from the back and forth one sees in the
That may be what will happen with the two major changes in
policy that Wednesday’s second report from the Turkel Commission recommended
regarding the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
The recommendations were
that the internal investigations of complaints against Shin Bet interrogators be
moved from “in-house” to the State Attorney’s Office, and that all
interrogations be videotaped.
These recommendations are being taken
seriously by top government legal officials, who spoke under the condition of
anonymity to The Jerusalem Post last week.
They are being taken seriously
because the Turkel Commission is viewed as being objective and unbiased against
Israel, and of impeccable legal stature.
Regarding the videotaping, the
recommendation is also heavily strengthened because it is supported by widely
admired former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin (incidentally shocking the commission
officials and many others).
With that kind of support for a change, the
change might appear almost inevitable.
However, events of the last few
days suggest that what may happen is that one recommendation, moving internal
investigations to the State Attorney’s Office, may get implemented, while the
videotaping may be ignored or significantly whittled down.
The same day
the Turkel report and Diskin’s bombshell were published, the state attorney on
behalf of the Shin Bet told the High Court of Justice that videotaping
interrogations was a danger to national security, and would allow terrorists to
understand and overcome the Shin Bet’s interrogation tactics.
day the High Court struck the petition before it seeking to compel the Shin Bet
to videotape interrogations.
The court, incredibly, did not mention
either Turkel or Diskin, and taking only one day to decide, apparently did not
think the issue was a close question.
As it does in many instances, the
court appeared to take cover from directly addressing the meat of the dispute,
using a technical “out” from deciding the case: that the issue was
There are cases where a case being premature is a right and
perfectly valid decision, but it is a strange decision in this particular
The 2002 law for interrogating suspects has a “temporary emergency”
provision exempting certain “security” suspects from having their interrogations
That “emergency” provision has been periodically extended
multiple times now for 13 years, to at least 2015.
The petition to compel
videotaping of Shin Bet interrogations was filed in 2010. Not exactly a brand
new issue that one would rush to call premature.
What is more likely is
that the court is taking a traditional stance of not intervening too much in
security issues, so petitions to the High Court to videotape the Shin Bet are
not going to go far.
How about the Knesset? When the state came to the
Knesset in mid-2012, asking to extend the exemption from videotaping security
interrogations for two more years, the Knesset decided that two was not long
enough, and on its own extended the exemption for three years.
is the fact that a top legal official told the Post last week that Shin Bet
internal investigations are already being moved to the State Attorney’s Office,
with a decision already almost made on who will head the new unit.
the above suggests that the Shin Bet, along with whoever in the government
thinks along the same lines, has decided to split the difference – and made a
tactical retreat on one issue in order to show that it is flexible, enabling it
to draw a red line on the videotaping issue.
Alternatively, the Shin Bet
may accept some videotaping, as long as it gets to choose when it
This makes sense for the Shin Bet from an institutional
perspective, as videotaping would infringe more significantly on its
Without videotaping,the method for investigating interrogations
– even if the investigator sits in the State Attorney’s Office – will heavily
depend on the Shin Bet’s presentation of background material and evidence. It
can still control the flow and direction of the investigations
Videotaping would truly make the Shin Bet subservient to the
state attorney in a more radical way.
So while Turkel and Diskin may have
influence, a deal may have already been struck on the issues in dispute that may
end the public debate.
So go negotiations in the Middle East.