Ben-Ivgi’s return

The overriding objective of Israel's courts must be to protect the law-abiding populace. Gullibility is a perilous gamble.

Moshe Ben-Ivgi 370 (photo credit: Police Spokesman's Office)
Moshe Ben-Ivgi 370
(photo credit: Police Spokesman's Office)
Fugitive convict Moshe Ben-Ivgi was extradited from Argentina last week. But that’s no success story. If anything, it has to be regarded as one of the more disheartening chapters in Israel's judicial annals. Most distressing, though, is that it’s not really unique.
In 1994, Ben-Ivgi and his accomplice Arbel Aloni both aged 14 shocked the entire disbelieving country when they cold-blooded murdered taxi driver Derek Roth in Herzliya.
Their senseless evil didn¹t end after being sentenced to only 16 years each (because they were minors).
Despite their distinct displays of extreme sociopathy, both youths were allowed leave-time from prison. During a 1998 furlough they jointly held up a grocery and sadistically battered its elderly proprietors.
Although sentenced to five additional years each and although thereafter wardens and psychologists ruled against further furloughs, the violent robbery didn’t prevent one judge from granting Ben-Ivgi leave. During a 2004 furlough, Ben-Ivgi fled overseas with a false passport, despite solemnly promising the court to stay home under parental supervision.
His known accomplices were never tried.
Ben-Ivgi eventually made it to Buenos Aires. Although Israel had no extradition treaty with any Latin American state (most countries don't), Argentina agreed to extradite Ben-Ivgi for robbery, though not the murder committed by a minor. Nonetheless, extradition was delayed because Israel's request lacked a judge's signature. When Argentina's Supreme Court afforded Israel the opportunity to file another extradition application, Israel incredibly managed to miss the 30-day deadline.
Meanwhile, Ben-Ivgi, unjailed and sporting a new surname – Sagui – married and fathered a child. From afar, he even taunted the widow with offers to trade information about Roth¹s last words for a hefty sum.
After a sequence of indefensible Israeli bureaucratic bungles and after nine years at large, Ben-Ivgi has finally returned to do five years for robbery. But this should by no means even partially put anyone's mind at ease.
Unaccounted for is the lenience which countenances vacations for untrustworthy convicts like Ben-Ivgi, who already exploited one furlough to commit serious crime.
No conceivable justification existed to allow him the benefit of another doubt.
Similar cases of easygoing judicial liberality ended horrendously.
It's a dismal record.
Police officer Shlomi Asulin died in 2011 – silent and immobile – after over four-and-a-half years in a coma. He was gravely wounded in the first week of 2007 when he sought to apprehend two car thieves on his Rehovot beat. One of them, Tareb Abu-Issa from the Beduin township of Tel Sheva, stabbed the 27-year-old Asulin in the neck. Abu-Issa was a convict on furlough, doing four years for burglary and larceny. Rafi Nahmani, who assassinated Judge Adi Azar while on furlough in 2004, was given a life sentence.
Since Israel imposes no capital punishment, Nahmani had nothing to lose. Common sense should have denied him leave.
In 2005, 15-year-old Ma’ayan Sapir was raped, sodomized and murdered near her Rehovot home by a juvenile convict with a particularly vicious past. He was freed on regular furloughs from a closed, super-security correctional facility. Given his ultra-brutal history, he should have not been set loose.
Some vacationing prisoners don¹t voluntarily return to confinement.
“Southern rapist” Meir Assur, who once terrorized the Negev, was allowed time-out too, despite the high recidivism rate of sex-offenders. For too long he evaded capture.
Furloughs are even granted routinely to violent husbands convicted of severe domestic terror. Many revisit home to kill.
The choice in certain instances mustn¹t be rehabilitation versus punishment.
Public safety must be the paramount concern. Dangerous offenders must be isolated from society so they won’t imperil ordinary citizens.
Israeli law defines furloughs as a perk, not a right. Bitter experience ought to teach our law-enforcers that it's better to err on the side of caution than treat given prisoners with the benevolent indulgence they palpably do not deserve.
The overriding objective of Israel's courts must be to protect the law-abiding populace. Gullibility is a perilous gamble. It's high time our judiciary's scale of values were ruefully reassessed in the light of the enduring Jewish adage which emphasizes that “he who is merciful to the cruel will eventually be cruel to the merciful.”