Israeli President Warns Against ‘Irresponsible Attacks’ on Shin Bet Security Service

'Right now the Shin Bet is on the firing line,' Rivlin said as the interrogation of five Jewish minors suspected of killing a Palestinian woman in the West Bank is underway

President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, January 8, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday appeared to oppose criticism of the Shin Bet security service in its interrogation of five Jewish teens after the attack on a car in the West Bank that killed a 47-year-old Palestinian woman, Aisha Rabi.

“We have to refrain from irresponsible attacks on the people whose job it is to protect and defend Israel’s security from threats at home and abroad,” Rivlin said at a swearing-in ceremony for judges.

“The country’s law and defense arms are a fence and dam for us. Right now the Shin Bet is on the firing line. There is no democracy without criticism,” he said, noting that this is also true regarding “our most essential institutions.”

>>Outcry over treatment of Jewish terror suspects aims to thwart Shin Bet investigation | Analysis 

But the Shin Bet, he said, is bound by law to protect the country’s citizens. “I know the agency’s people, and I know that the well-being of the State of Israel and its citizens is the only thing that concerns them, and that they act accordingly.”

Rivlin had praise for the agency’s director, Nadav Argaman, and his predecessors, and expressed support for the country’s security forces in general.

Earlier this week, the mother of one suspect in the case of the October stoning attack on the car urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene in the way the Shin Bet was interrogating her son.

“They told us he was sick and asked us to give him medicine,” she said. “I don’t know what they did to him and what he’s sick with. Don’t tell me there are no threats there; I don’t believe it. Perhaps they aren’t burning him with cigarettes, but they’re torturing him emotionally.”

Two suspects detained in the case Saturday were denied legal counsel until Tuesday. The Shin Bet’s investigation of the five juvenile suspects, who are all yeshiva students in the settlement of Rehelim, did not receive the backing of settlement leaders, and no cabinet members condemned the stoning attack or called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Later Tuesday, however, following the capture of a Palestinian suspect after a shooting attack last month near the West Bank settlement of Givat Asaf, Netanyahu called the Shin Bet “the best anti-terrorism organization of its kind in the world.”

“We owe it a lot. It does its work with professionalism and dedication. There is no basis for attacks on it,” Netanyahu said.

In the shooting attack near Givat Asaf, two soldiers were killed and two others were seriously wounded.