Senior Shin Bet officer to argue he was unbiased despite secret love affair
The senior Shin Bet security service officer suspected of conflict of interest over an affair with a married subordinate will argue that the affair was not going on while he was part of a disciplinary forum discussing her husband. The officer's lawyers will make a statement to that effect at a meeting before a disciplinary panel of the Civil Service Commission tomorrow. He will also claim that although he was in a conflict of interest, none of his decisions were biased.
A., who until recently was third in command in the Shin Bet, is facing allegations of acting with a conflict of interest. He was involved in the promotion of a female Shin Bet employee with whom he was having an affair. At no time did he reveal the affair or say that his personal life precluded him from discussing the promotion. He also took part in a disciplinary forum that decided to suspend her then husband, also a Shin Bet employee, again without stating that his personal life could be interpreted as a conflict of interest in the case.
The husband in the case is now an ex-husband and submitted a complaint to the Civil Service Commission on the matter some weeks ago, which was submitted to the Shin Bet comptroller. Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin decided that due to the gravity of the allegations and A's senior position - he holds a rank parallel to an army major general - the matter would be returned to the Civil Service Commission. The commission recommended that Diskin put A. on forced leave, while a formal suspension process is initiated. Suspension of a civil servant in Israel is conditioned on a hearing before the commission.
Tomorrow A.'s lawyers, Eitan Peleg and Michel Ohayon, are expected to meet with attorney Assaf Rosenberg, who is in charge of the commission's disciplinary matters, to discuss the case. A. is also employing the services of media adviser Ronen Tzur.
Observers say the Civil Service Commission will not insist on a disciplinary process against A., but if the process does go forward, it could end with a proceeding in the commission's tribunal.
"The public think that the situation was that A. was having an affair, and he deliberately took actions to benefit her and damage someone else," Peleg told Haaretz yesterday. "This is not the situation. The only claim against him that he was in a conflict of interest, but no one says that his decisions were biased as a result."
As for the lover's promotion, Peleg said that A played no part in the proceeding, and that the matter was only brought to him for final confirmation after having been approved by all the officials involved in an ordinary process.
Peleg also said that although A. indeed sat in the forum considering a disciplinary transgression by his lover's husband, he did not express the most radical opinion spoken about the man and his position "was not the most severe" in the forum.
The attorney stressed his client broke off the affair before he participated in the forum and that his client "has nothing against the man."
"He didn't have any intention to harm anyone. His intention was to discuss the substance of the matter, not the person involved, as he had done in his 30 years of service, and this is what he did this time as well," the lawyer said.
Peleg said his client welcomed Diskin's decision to review both the former lover's promotion and the disciplinary process against her husband, in light of what is now known.
The lawyer said that his client takes responsibility for his action. "He admits that as a top-ranking officer, he was in a conflict of interest, he understands he was in the wrong and he does not intend to eschew responsibility when the matter comes up before the Civil Service Commission."
When asked why A. didn't refrain from taking decisions on the employee with whom he was having an affair and her husband, Peleg said that his client did not see this as important. "As far as he was concerned, there was no bias ... a person can be in a situation of a conflict of interest but still take the right decisions," the attorney said. "He shouldn't have been taking these decisions, but nobody has any claims about the actual decisions themselves. One can make an error of judgment. It happens. You need to admit to it and take responsibility. It's very rare in Israel. He took responsibility and set an example to others."
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