Despite Netanyahu's Apology, His Office Still Labels Incident in Bedouin Village a Terror Attack

Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri
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Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Prime Minister's Office, September 2020.
Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Prime Minister's Office, September 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

An incident that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently apologized for mislabeling as a terror attack is still termed a “car-ramming attack” on his office’s website, which refused to change the wording even after Haaretz brought this to the PMO's attention.

The 2017 incident occurred during a demonstration at the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in which policeman Erez Levy was killed when he was hit by Yakub Abu al-Kiyan’s car, who was then shot and killed by the police.

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Police initially deemed the incident a terror attack, and neither the police nor the Justice Ministry ever retracted that claim. But evidence later emerged that Abu al-Kiyan may have been hit by police gunfire before he struck Levy and consequently lost control of the car, rather than carrying out an intentional attack.

Last month, Channel 12 reporter Amit Segal reported on an email exchange about the Umm al-Hiran investigation between former State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and the then-head of the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct. Following this report, Netanyahu gave a speech in which he assailed the police and prosecution and publicly apologized to Abu al-Kiyan’s family for the fact that the government had wrongly labeled him a terrorist.

Yet a month after that apology, the website of the Prime Minister’s Office still terms the incident a car-ramming attack. The office’s spokeswoman, Shir Cohen, hasn’t yet responded to Haaretz’s request for comment.

Police next to the vehicle of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, on the day of the incident in 2017.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The main purpose of Netanyahu’s apology was to accuse Nitzan and former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich – the two men responsible for the criminal cases against him – of having fabricated the case against Abu al-Kiyan, and thereby to cast doubt on the validity of his own cases.

“Yesterday, it turned out that senior officials in the prosecution and the police turned him into a terrorist to protect themselves, and solely to harm me,” Netanyahu said in that speech. “I said at the time that there are very serious problems with the police’s work, and they said, heaven forbid that the media should expose these problems, because that would give backing to Netanyahu’s claims.”

The email exchange took place a few hours after Channel 12 reporter Guy Peleg reported that Alsheich had accused the Justice Ministry department of hiding a Shin Bet security service report that would bolster the police’s claim that Abu al-Kiyan was a terrorist. In fact, as it later turned out, the Shin Bet report contradicted the police’s claim.

In response to Peleg’s report, Carmel emailed Nitzan to demand a harsh response against Alsheich. Nitzan wrote back that Alsheich’s behavior was indeed “intolerable,” but he considered it unwise to escalate tensions between the police and the Justice Ministry at that time, because that “would only benefit those who wish the law enforcement system ill.”

Segal claimed this comment was a reference to Netanyahu. The prosecution denies that.

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