Israel Police Chief Once Tried to Close Sexual Harassment Probe Against Shin Bet Official

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, when still deputy head of the Shin Bet, tried to persuade then-director Yoram Cohen that the evidence was insubstantial and the polygraph tests of complainants inconclusive

Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich.
Emil Salman

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, when still deputy head of the Shin Bet security service, tried to close an investigation against a senior Shin Bet official who touched the genitals of subordinates and propositioned them sexually, Haaretz has learned.

According to information obtained by Haaretz, during the investigation Alsheich tried to persuade then-Shin Bet director Yoram Cohen and officials in the Civil Service Commission that the case was insufficiently substantiated to file a disciplinary action, and cast doubt on the findings of the polygraph tests taken by the complainants. A disciplinary proceeding was launched in the end and the official confessed to committing the acts.

The investigation, whose existence was first publicized in 2015, dealt with the director of the technology department in the Shin Bets operations branch, a post akin to a colonel in the Israel Defense Forces. The official, Z., was considered a genius in his field and was sent to study at Harvard at government expense.

In 2015, two managers who were subordinate to him complained that he would rub against them, touch their genitals and make sexual remarks toward them. The two, senior officials of the Shin Bets operations division, complained to senior management and Cohen sent the complaint for immediate investigation by the Civil Service Commission.

During the investigation the two complainants underwent polygraph tests and were found to be telling the truth. Z. at first also agreed to a polygraph test, but then retracted at the advice of his attorney, Rachel Toren. In his defense Z. argued that things had been taken out of context and that this was, Horsing around between men in a semi-military unit, for the purpose of teasing and settling scores, as his lawyer put it. He also claimed that the two had conspired to undermine him because they hadnt been promoted.

At the end of the investigation, members of the Civil Services disciplinary staff, headed by attorney Asaf Rosenberg, met with Cohen, his deputy, Alsheich, and legal staffers to discuss the results. According to information obtained by Haaretz, during the discussions Alsheich tried to persuade the others that the allegations were not substantiated enough. From my experience as an investigator the case isnt ready, he said.

Alsheich, who claims to be an expert in polygraph tests, also argued that the polygraph administered to the complainants wasnt good enough and couldnt be relied upon. Alsheichs opinion was dismissed, however, and the disciplinary department launched disciplinary action. As part of a plea agreement, Z. admitted to improper conduct. He was removed from his position and fined, and it was agreed that he could not hold a command position in the Shin Bet for three years.

Two months ago the High Court of Justice criticized Alsheich for backing the polices fraud squad commander of Lahav 433,Maj. Gen. Roni Ritman, despite a complaint against him for sexual harassment.After T., a female officer in Lahav 433, the police the anticorruption unit, petitioned the High Court, the court voided Alsheichs decision to leave Ritman in his post and instructed him to rethink the decision. In their ruling, the justices criticized Alsheikh for not giving sufficient weight to Ritmans sexist remarks, and stressed, Chauvinist or sexist remarks in a relationship of authority have no place in a workplace.

Before its ruling, Alsheich told the court in an affidavit that Ritmans version of events was more credible than that of the officer who complained that he had sexually harassed her. With the tools available to me, it could not be denied with certainty that this was a substantive complaint, Alsheich wrote. When I was asked who I should believe in reference to this dispute, I found signs showing that Ritmans version was more reliable.

Alsheich noted that even though both Ritman and T. had undergone polygraph tests that showed both were telling the truth, he thought the questions posed to T. were more general, while those directed at Ritman were closer to accusations.

Last year the police commissioner said that the police would no longer deal with anonymous complaints by policewomen about sexual harassment, saying Anonymous letters have become a culture of settling scores in the police. In an organization in which policemen are required to report, theres no need for anonymous letters. This decision was perceived as an attack on policewomen who sent anonymous complaints about sexual abuse and policemen who anonymously passed on information they had about sexual offenses.

The police said in response, This is recycled information that has been published in the past, and was dealt with by both the Shin Bet and the Civil Service Commission, who stated explicitly that upon receiving the complaint the information was passed on immediately for the commissions disciplinary unit to deal with as required. Any attempt to tie to this issue new information that is meaningless is a foolish attempt to pursue and defame employees of the security establishment that has no basis in reality.