Zeev Rosenstein
Crime boss Zeev Rosenstein. Photo by Michal Fattal
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President Shimon Peres rejected underworld kingpin Zeev Rosenstein’s request for a presidential pardon over the weekend. Peres accepted the recommendation of Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and leading law enforcement officials who objected to a pardon for Rosenstein, who is currently serving two consecutive 17-year sentences for murder and attempted murder of his rivals.

Rosenstein had made the request on the basis of his deteriorating health, but law enforcement officials argued that his release would be a danger to the public because the convicted criminal is still a target for assassination by underworld figures.

They also maintained that granting Rosenstein a pardon would undermine law enforcement given the enormous efforts made to bring him to justice, and that an early release would create a discrepancy between his crimes and the sentence served.

‘Still a danger to the public’

“Rosenstein is not a legend; he is a human being and it is to be hoped that in the future his request will be granted with compassion,” Rosenstein’s attorney, Yifat Winkler, responded.

When Rosenstein submitted his request for a pardon in October 2011, he described the conditions of his initial incarceration in the United States as harsh and claimed that they had compromised his health. He was subsequently transferred to Israel to serve out the remainder of his sentence.

In October 2003, three passersby were killed and 20 people injured in an attempt on Rosenstein’s life on Yehuda Halevy Street in Tel Aviv, in what was deemed the worst attempted hit in Israel. A few months earlier Rosenstein emerged with minor injuries from a bomb left on the sidewalk near the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. Nine bystanders were injured in that attack.

In addition to two murders, Rosenstein was also convicted for trafficking one million Ecstasy pills in the United States. In a plea bargain he also admitted to having ordered the assassination of his rivals in Israel, brothers Nissim and Yaakov Alperon, but subsequently canceled the hit.