Police: Rape of Mentally Challenged Woman by Palestinians Was Not Politically Motivated

Spokeswoman refutes suspicion of motivation behind rape of mentally challenged young woman by Palestinians, as previously inferred by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Illustration: A man in handcuffs.
Eyal Varshavsky

An Israel Police spokeswoman said on Sunday morning that the suspicion of the rape of a mentally challenged young woman was apparently not politically motivated. In an interview with Army Radio, Merav Lapidot said that the investigation is still ongoing and that “there is a disparity in versions between the suspects.” She added that “there is still no sufficient evidentiary basis for prosecution.”

On Wednesday it was reported that two Palestinians who live in the Nablus area were arrested by the police on suspicion of raping a 20-year-old mentally challenged woman. A day after the incident the young woman complained at the Yiftah police station in Tel Aviv, reporting that during the rape the two also cursed her, hurled racist epithets and urinated on her.

“From the start the investigating team realized that the story is more complex that it seems, apparently this was not a politically motivated attack,” said Lapidot. “There was a reason why the suspects were brought three times for extensions of their detention ... It’s a matter of sexual exploitation or assault.”

Lapidot also discussed Saturday’s killing of Yan Gabrielov, who was suspected of the double murder in Rishon Letzion. She said that the police had not published a picture of the escaped murderer because as opposed to Nashat Melhem – a suspect in a deadly shooting attack in a Tel Aviv bar – or to any terrorist, Gabrielov was not dangerous to the public, but only to one woman and her partner.

She explained that the police were afraid that if his picture was published he was liable to harm ordinary citizens. “Had we published [his picture], and he’s a person who doesn’t hesitate to draw a pistol and fire an innocent person would have stared at him and Yan Gabrielov might have realized that and fired at him He wasn’t a threat to anyone else.”

Gabrielov was shot dead Saturday at the end of a police chase, after he was caught in Lod. He was shot by the commander of the Central District Police, Maj. Gen. Moti Cohen.

Sources involved in the investigation said that the evidence seized from the suspects and the plaintiff cast doubt on at least part of her story. For example, although she said during the investigation that she didn’t know the attackers, the police have a picture of her with the suspects, which was taken long before the assault. On the other hand, the testimony of the two suspects was also riddled with contradictions. Two days later Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote a post on his Facebook page in which he attacked the media and the left for not expressing “wall-to-wall condemnation” of the incident.

After he was roundly criticized on Facebook by MKs and others, the prime minister changed his tune a day later. “The incident as reported caused me profound pain and shock. At the same time, it was not proper for me to discuss the issue before the investigation was completed, and I regret it,” he posted.