Police chief defends Peki'in raid

David Cohen apologizes for forces entering Peki'in; police spokesperson: Apology blown out of proportions.

dudi cohen 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
dudi cohen 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
An apology by Israel Police chief Insp.-Gen. David Cohen to Peki'in residents during his testimony before the Knesset Interior Committee stirred confusion on Wednesday, after Cohen also insisted he has no regrets over the way police handled clashes in the Galilee village on October 30. The riot was sparked by the installation of a mobile phone antenna on the roof of a chicken coop in neighboring Moshav Peki'in, and resulted in the injury of 29 police officers and 13 villagers, when police stormed the village to restore order. "Cohen's apology has been blown out of all proportion," police spokesman Rafi Yafe told The Jerusalem Post. "The main thing is that he stood fully behind the police in this operation and offered total support to the officers," he said. "The apology was offered to those residents of Peki'in who were offended by the entry of police into the [Druse] prayer house. Cohen said that police officers were unaware that the structure was a prayer house at the time they entered it, and that if anyone was offended, he was sorry." "There's no apology to Peki'in," Yaffe stressed. Asked to address grudges that remained in Peki'in following the police raid, Yafe said the village was affected by "a wider range of social and economic issues that are not connected to the police. The police is a very specific, limited channel, and we cannot address all of Piki'in's complaints. Anyone who thinks we can is both misled and misleading." Last week, an internal police probe concluded that gross organizational failures marked the police's handling of the incident. Responding to the report, Cohen told the Knesset panel: "During all my time in the police I have never seen such a severe assault on officers by masked men who were prepared in advance. The attack was completely brutal during certain times." He added that "this is the first time I have encountered a kidnapping of a female soldier with prior intention, and this is very severe. The local leadership did not have control of the residents." Cohen said he accepted the internal police report. "All of the committee's recommendations are accepted by me," he said. But the Knesset Interior Committee's chairman, Ophir Pines-Paz, told the Post that certain sections of the report were rejected by Cohen. "All along, both myself and the committee unanimously called for an external government committee to examine these events," Pines-Paz said. "This was rejected by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, and the decision was made to appoint an internal police committee. I think that fact in itself obliges Cohen to accept all of the committee's conclusions," he said, adding that "the report produced by the police inquiry turned out to be good." During the Knesset panel's session, Pines-Paz rebuked Cohen for "only partially accepting the [police] committee's recommendations on two points." Specifically, Cohen disputed the report's recommendation to hold the police's Northern District chief Cmdr. Shimon Koren directly responsible for the failures in dealing with the riots, and Cohen decided to end matters by merely reprimanding Koren. "The inspector-general did not go all the way in accepting the recommendations here," Pines-Paz said.