Amos Harel
July 15, 2010 - 12:00am

Suspicions against a member of the extreme right wing, Chaim Pearlman, link him to cases of Jewish terrorism that have yet to be solved: the murder of two Arabs, stabbed to death in Jerusalem more than a decade ago. In the police files and at the Jewish Division of the Shin Bet, there are a number of such conundrums left, and first and foremost among them is a series of shooting attacks in which Palestinians were murdered on West Bank roads during the early part of the past decade.

When compared to the terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinians, whose numbers are incomparably higher, the percentage of Jewish terrorist cases that have been solved is far from being impressive. The rate at which cases are solved is also different. More often than not years pass before any arrest is made. In November last year it happened with the case of Jack Teitel, a member of the right wing who was accused of killing two Arabs during the mid-1990s.

To a great extent it boils down to resources. The main role of the Shin Bet security service is to foil terrorism aimed against Israelis - and the organization was kept extremely busy with that task during the second intifada.

But there is a significant gap in the ability to investigate. A Palestinian suspect remains anonymous until there is an announcement of his arrest, an indictment, a lifting of the gag order. (The Shin Bet also attempted to place a gag order on Pearlman's arrest, in an attempt to improve its odds, but the judge refused to cooperate ).

A Jewish suspect is brought to the Shin Bet for questioning while he enjoys significant backing from the right: there is an organized group of activists, defense attorneys, and media handlers, all making an effort to extricate him from the hands of the law unscathed.

With this sort of support the chances he will not break during questioning are much higher than those of a Palestinian.

This is where extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir and his gang enter the picture. The Kach veterans were upgraded during the past year, and were appointed as the parliamentary assistants of MK Michael Ben Ari, the proud pupil of Rabbi Meir Kahana who snuck into the Knesset under the aegis of the National Union.

Ben-Gvir has a 20-year old record of media exploitation. Someone like him will not miss a chance to take a swipe at the Jewish Division of the Shin Bet. One could see him yesterday in the hallways of the courthouse, "shocked" at the conduct of the Shin Bet which he accused of "crossing all red lines."

The defense Pearlman has adopted is that the Shin Bet tried to lure him, with money, with threats, and turn him into their agent, and then make him admit crimes he did not commit. The Shin Bet say that the intelligence relationship with him took place in 2002, before they had any suspicions against him. There is a gray area between criminal and agent, in which many of the right wing suspects move.

Teitel, for example, had been called in for talks - possibly as a likely recruit, or possibly as a warning - before he was arrested and charged. Over the years the extremists have become more sophisticated. Pearlman says he recorded some of his conversations with the Shin Bet.

The most surprising element in this case is what Pearlman claims to be an attempt by the Shin Bet to have him murder Islamic Movement northern branch head Sheikh Ra'ad Salah. It is hard to believe such a story, but Ben-Gvir and his friends know that the press remember an historic precedent: their former Kach colleague, Avishai Raviv, who after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin turned out to have been a Shin Bet agent code-named "Champagne."

The laconic response from the Shin Bet last night leaves the door open to the manipulations of Ben-Gvir and Pearlman. So long as the Shin Bet makes do with a short denial in the name of "those involved in the investigation," it will be difficult to clear the impression that there is a slight scent of Champagne in the air.


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