"I had absolutely no obligations to the employee and certainly felt no need to please her or do anything for her." These are the words of A., former head of the Shin Bet security service operations branch, during questioning at the Civil Service Commission offices in May about an affair that inflamed the Shin Bet. The complete transcript of A.'s testimony to a special investigator in the commission's disciplinary division has been made available to Haaretz and is being made public here for the first time.
According to A., "The connection between us was that of two adults who did not work together, and were not connected at work in any way, subordinate or otherwise. When we conducted the relationship, I was divorced and free to live my life. I did not hint that I would exploit my position in order to assist her, and I can only surmise that there was a natural and mutual attraction between two adults, and it did not exist in order to achieve anything connected to the job."
A.'s rank is equivalent to that of a major general in the army and, until the affair became public, he was a candidate to succeed the current head of the Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin. He is suspected of a conflict of interest regarding a relationship with a woman who worked for the security service during the time that he was head of an internal discipline committee that deliberated on a matter involving the woman's estranged husband, from whom she was getting a divorce. In addition, A. is suspected of authorizing the woman's promotion while he was intimately involved with her.
A gave his version of the events in May, and according to the terms of a plea bargain with the Civil Service Commission, was severely censured and disqualified from working for the Mossad or the Shin Bet for three years. A. told investigators that his sexual involvement with the woman began in January 2009 and ended in April of that year, because he was appointed head of the discipline committee considering a case involving her estranged husband at that time.
"I told her that it was improper to continue our relationship in a situation where I was chairman of this [disciplinary] forum and we ended it; since that telephone call we have not met but we have spoken by telephone once or twice," A. said. When asked whether as committee head he was tougher than usual toward the woman's husband, he said, "No, the opposite is the case. Since I was aware of his personal difficulties - the divorce proceedings - I tried, as the other members of the committee did, it was my impression, to take an empathetic stance toward the husband."
The investigator pressed A. further, asking whether he had told anyone of his personal and sexual relationship with the worker who was separated from her Shin Bet employee husband. "During the time the committee convened, there was no personal or sexual connection between us, and I did not deem it proper to inform anyone, because from my point of view it was irrelevant," A. answered. "I made the decision to break off my relations with the woman so that there would be no conflict of interest...or influence my considerations in any way. I am saying that this did not influence the way I conducted the committee's deliberations or the formation of the committee's final recommendation.
"Looking back, it seems that I may have acted mistakenly and I should not have accepted the role of chairman of the [disciplinary] committee concerning the husband. At the same time, since I have been involved for years in management and decision making, also about personal matters, I had faith that I could separate my personal life from the job I filled, including situations in which I made judgments and had to make decisions about employees who were my friends."
A. said he called the woman a day after a conversation with the Shin Bet head in his office and told her that a complaint had been made to the Civil Service Commission and that they intended to investigate the matter. "I told her that I intended to tell the whole truth and that there was no need to defend me or feel guilty because of me, and I did this because I did not want her, out of a sense of obligation, to say or conceal things about what had happened."
A. was also questioned about his involvement with the woman's promotion. He said that he received, in his role as head of the operations branch, recommendations from the personnel office to promote her. Two additional candidates were suggested, he said, but she was recommended. "The process was proper and seemed, to the best of my judgment, correct," he said.
The investigator flung an accusation at A. that more was expected of someone in his senior position, and A. responded, "Looking back I may have been mistaken in my judgment, but I will emphasize again: I was not involved in the job tender process until it came to me for final approval, and so there was no real reason for me to disqualify myself."
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