Israeli Minister: Justice Ministry 'Acted Scandalously' in Bedouin Homicide Probe

Public security minister hints, without substantiation, that political considerations influenced results of probe into January 2017 killing

The family of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, who was shot and killed by police after his vehicle hit and killed officer Erez Levi last year, stand in front of his memorial in Hura, April 9, 2018.
\ Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan charged Sunday that the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers “acted scandalously” in the case of Umm al-Hiran, declaring that unlike the investigators, he believes that the January 2017 ramming death of policeman Erez Levi in the village was a terror attack.

“I think that the investigations department acted scandalously in a way that determined the outcome in advance,” Erdan said in an interview Sunday with the “People” program on the Keshet network. The minister hinted, without substantiation, that political considerations influenced the results and the way the incident was covered by the media.

“My feelings are that it’s more likely that it was a terror attack,” said Erdan, in contrast to the department’s assessment that it was not an attack and that there is no evidence that Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, whose vehicle hit Levi, planned the attack in advance. Al-Kiyan was shot and killed by police after hitting Levi.

According to Erdan, the department selectively leaked information that gave the public the impression that the ramming was not necessarily deliberate. “I don’t know if there were political considerations there, but there is data that in my opinion, had it been released, would have balanced public opinion.”

Erdan also said it’s possible that disputes between the department and the police influenced the investigation.

“When I took up my position, there had been, just before that, a number of embarrassing cases against police commanders, which generated conflict between senior police officials and senior officials in the investigations department,” he explained. “This bad blood might have influenced the investigation of Umm al-Hiran. I hope not, but my feeling is that it influenced the quality of the investigation.”

According to the department’s findings, Kiyan had been driving at no more than 20 kilometers per hour at the time of the collision. Professionals who examined the circumstances concluded that someone who seeks to commit a ramming attack doesn’t drive so slowly when there is enough distance to speed up. In addition, according to the findings, Kiyan was shot from a greater distance than what was claimed by the policemen and commanders at the scene. Therefore, it was not possible at the time to understand Kiyan’s intentions and the shooting may have been unnecessary.

The investigations department’s findings contradict the police’s determination that the ramming was a terror attack. They also contradict Erdan’s remarks on the day of the incident, which he described as “a difficult event for our forces and the State of Israel in general. A terrorist belonging to the Islamic Movement drove into our forces with the intent of killing as many policemen as possible, even before the eviction” of Bedouin residents, which was taking place that day in the village.

On Sunday, residents of Umm al-Hiran demolished eight structures in the village. It’s the first demolition in the village since the residents signed on an agreement to relocate to the nearby town of Hura. According to a source familiar with the agreement, the homes had to be demolished to prove to the authorities that the residents were committed to upholding the agreement. The source said the structures were not homes but complementary structures chosen by the state. All the structures in the village are meant to be demolished by September, and until then residents can start building in Hura.