The Shin Bet is a “professional organization that does its work with dedication,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.
Netanyahu was responding to criticism of the organization by figures on the right, in the wake of the arrest and detention of five minors accused of participating in a rock-throwing attack that led to the death of an Arab woman.
“We owe the Shin Bet a great deal,” Netanyahu said. “There is no place for the attacks on it.”
The agency has been accused of using heavy-handed tactics in the pursuit of an investigation against the youths; they were held in custody for at least a week without being allowed to meet with attorneys, and their lawyers accused the agency of trying to intimidate the youths in order to extract a confession, using threats and violence.
At a press conference Sunday, the attorneys slammed the agency for “burying” the youths “in a dank, smoke-filled room for a week, in order to break them,” the attorneys said. Right-wing activist and attorney Itamar Ben Gvir, who is representing one of the youths, said that the timing of the Shin Bet’s revelation “indicates that the case is falling apart. There is no evidence against these kids, so an hour before I and other attorneys were scheduled to go public with the case, they issued their statement to make us look bad.”
Attorney Adi Keidar of the Honenu organization, representing several of the other youths, said that “we met with our clients for the first time and we heard about how they were questioned – with methods that no Israeli citizen would agree to for their children. If the Shin Bet wants to present its evidence, we are in favor – we will present our side and let the public judge. If this is not what is called ‘torture,’ I don’t what is.”
In its statement, the Shin Bet slammed critics of its methods. “Since the beginning of this matter the Shin Bet has identified an organized and ongoing effort from special interests to ruin the good name of the agency and its workers, and to delegitimize its activities. This effort should be condemned, and it will not prevent the Shin Bet from acting to prevent terror, Palestinian or Jewish. The detainees are getting all the rights they are entitled to.”
According to the Shin Bet, the five were involved in a rock-throwing incident that occurred on a Friday night, December 10, 2018. The youths, who are students at Yeshivat Pri Haaretz in the Shomron town of Rechelim, are accused of leaving the yeshivah late Friday night and throwing stones at Arab vehicles. They struck a vehicle in which the woman was riding along with her husband. As a result of the attack, the vehicle skidded and overturned, injuring both seriously. The woman, 48, died of her wounds in the hospital.