How Case 404 Was Lost, With Many Casualties

The humiliatingly public arrest of two former IDF officers this week is the latest fiasco in the police investigation into the Harpaz Affair.

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
Amir Oren
Amir Oren

Rick Raemisch, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, was appointed to his post after his predecessor was murdered by a former prisoner who had gone insane after years in solitary confinement. Raemisch decided he should feel the harshness of that experience for himself, for 24 hours. So two months ago he had himself locked up in a solitary confinement cell. Now, having been in the place to which citizens condemn their peers, he understands much better the meaning of the decisions taken, sometimes too lightly, by the various links in the judicial system.

Raemisch’s much publicized stunt lacked one element – the humiliation of the perp walk, before a judge and photographers. He was saved the experience this week of Israel Defense Forces officers Col. (res.) Erez Weiner and Brig. Gen. (res.) Avi Benayahu, in one of the bitterest failures of the system presided over by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and Investigations and Intelligence Branch chief Menachem Yitzhaki – and on the next level, the head of the national fraud squad, Brig. Gen. Ephraim Bracha.

All of them, to a greater or lesser extent – some by commission and some by omission – are responsible for the disgraceful fiasco of the affair code-named 404: the latest installment in the Boaz Harpaz affair (a scandal involving subterfuge over the nominee for IDF chief of staff in 2011).

If the police dubbed the first installment 303 – when the IDF and, first and foremost, the previous chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, the Defense Ministry and its former head, Ehud Barak, lost many public points – now the points were lost by the two-headed police investigative network, subservient organizationally to the police commissioner and professionally to the attorney general and the prosecution.

The correct number shouldn’t be 404, nor even 433 – the number of the police’s crime-fighting umbrella unit, Lahav – but rather 370, the flight number of the lost Malaysian aircraft. Someone – and it doesn’t matter who was captain and who was first officer – programed the investigation’s automatic pilot so that it drifted off course and crashed.

The police brass has already conceded that it was a mistake to use the term “danger to public security” as a pretext for the arrest of the two army officers on Wednesday morning. There is talk there about a form where an unnecessary line was marked. The investigators deny it: no form and no mistake. What’s to be done, that is the wording of the clause of the law.

On that score, without reference to the missing Malaysian flight, a veteran pilot has said that every time the Civil Aviation Authority suspends a license – which it does quite frequently – it states that according to clause 38a of the aviation regulations, the aircraft or the person at the controls are dangerous to public safety. But those are dry words. They are not a mark of Cain, where an apology for the insult is not erased from the individual under investigation.

Superintendent Dubi Shertzer, the police representative at the remand hearing – who raised the specter of “danger to the public” to persuade the judge to impose a five-day remand on the two officers (miraculously trimmed to a day, because it turned out that the investigation could proceed more efficiently) – was less like a police superintendent and more like a glorified clerk. It was not his place to ask why, only to achieve the objective.

Those responsible for his actions are his section head, Chief Superintendent Yoram Na’aman, who accomplished nothing in his investigation of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman; Bracha, who has been shaken by the Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto affair, which has already seen the resignation of one leading police officer, Maj. Gen. Menashe Arviv; and Investigations and Intelligence Branch head Yitzhaki, who is suffering both in comparison to his predecessor, Yoav Segalovich, and from overwork. The latter is due to the fact that he has to work both as head of Investigations and Intelligence and the Lahav since Arviv was pushed out.

Also sharing responsibility are Danino, who did not bother to appoint a permanent head for Lahav; Nitzan, who opposed the investigation into case 404 when he was deputy to then State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, but is now keeping silent; and, finally, Weinstein, who would have expressed his opposition to the arrest had he been informed of it in time and not when the individuals under investigation were on their way to the judge.

The way the system works, the investigators must now be investigated for acting without wisdom, albeit without malice. But that, too, will be a useless probe – the 505 affair.

Police officers with documents concerning the Harpaz affair at a Rishon Letzion court.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Boaz Harpaz earlier this month.Credit: Alon Raz

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