Shin Bet Officer Suspected of Ordering Search of Palestinian Woman's Private Parts Gets Promoted

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar decided to ignore the recommendations of his predecessor, who believed there were grounds to dismiss the official following the 2015 incident

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Palestinian women at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in the West Bank, last year.
Palestinian women at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in the West Bank, last year.Credit: Emil Salman
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

A Shin Bet security service operative who was under investigation for alleged rape and for demanding the genital examination of a female Palestinian detainee was promoted instead of reprimanded, defying the advice of two senior officials, including the previous chief of the organization.

Haaretz has learned that the operative, known as “Yossi,” held a top position in the bureau of the current Shin Bet chief, Ronen Bar, when he was the organization's deputy.

Sources say that former Shin Bet director Nadav Argaman thought Yossi should have been denied a promotion and possibly fired. After Bar took over as director, it was determined not to punish the agent. Instead, he was issued a warning letter and was promoted to a key role within the organization.

Yossi, who at the time was a district coordinator for the Shin Bet, arrested the Palestinian woman in 2015. Three years later, he was questioned under caution on allegations of rape. The case was closed in 2021 by the State Prosecutor’s Office due to insufficient evidence.

Other suspects in the case testified that the district coordinator was the one who gave the order to conduct the search of the Palestinian woman's genitalia despite there being no operational need for it, according to a Haaretz investigation from 2018.

Sources say the Shin Bet concluded that there had been several "substantial and moral" lapses in how Yossi handled the case after reviewing the investigative material. The official appointed to the case recommended Argaman to hold off on promoting Yossi for several years and to issue a severe reprimand—a move that was expected to end Yossi's Shin Bet career.

The disciplinary procedure against Yossi was still underway when Argaman stepped down as Shin Bet director. After the new chief Bar, who two sources say supported Yossi's account of the events, took over, officials decided not to carry out earlier recommendations against Yossi.

Former Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman.Credit: Moti Milrod

Several sources say that the discussion between Argaman and Bar concerning Yossi's punishment created enormous tensions between the two. “The incident was again being covered up by the Shin Bet,” said one senior official.

In addition to Yossi, other high-ranking officials in Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces—including a regional brigade commander—were investigated regarding the incident. All Shin Bet operatives continue to hold their positions in the organization.

One Shin Bet operative was caught lying during his investigation, claiming that everyone involved in the matter was joking about it. The brigade commander still holds a senior position in the Israel Defense Forces, but according to a senior legal official, he is barred from promotion due to his role in the incident.

In February, the Palestinian victim appealed the decision to close the case against the six suspects and demanded that they be charged. “There is no disputing that acts were committed that constitute rape and sodomy. The evidence is there and no one is being held accountable,” the appeal, which was filed by the nonprofit organization the Committee Against Torture, said.

Three Shin Bet operatives, three IDF officers and two female soldiers—one of whom is a doctor—were involved in the affair. When the Palestinian woman was detained for alleged terrorism offenses in 2015, the doctor and a female soldier searched her genitalia and anus, on the suspicion that she was hiding a SIM card through which she was allegedly contacting Hamas officials.

The investigation, which was opened three years later due to a ruling made by the Shin Bet’s department for complaint inquiries, revealed that it was not suspected at the time that the detainee hid the SIM card on her person.

During the investigation, a Shin Bet operative, "Oved," said he received an order to conduct the search from Yossi, who had not been at the scene of the arrest. The brigade commander also pointed to Yossi as the one who gave the order explaining that "an intimate search is required due to the intelligence they had."

Yossi called the incident a “misunderstanding” and denied the allegations against him. He confronted the brigade commander, who repeated his assertion that he had received an order. Likewise, there was a dispute between Yossi and Oved. “Did we ever approve of anyone from the army inserting their fingers into her?” Yossi asked his subordinate. Oved answered: “I don’t recall, except in this case.”

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, last year.Credit: Moti Milrod

The Shin Bet said in response: “After a lengthy and thorough investigation which began in 2017, the prosecutors determined that no evidence had been collected to bring those responsible for the incident to trial, either as a criminal case or as a disciplinary procedure. Therefore, the case was returned to the agency in order to consider taking command measures only, while making it clear that the decision on whether and how to act would be entrusted to the service's head as part of his organizational responsibility.

The security service explained that, "in accordance with the recommendation from the prosecutor’s office, an orderly and in-depth procedure was carried out in the service, in the framework of which all the material collected in the investigation and other materials were examined.”

The agency added: “Although there was no prior acquaintance between the two, due to the fact that ‘Yossi’ worked in the deputy head’s bureau at that time, it was decided that the case would be handled by a division chief who had no involvement.

"The hearing was also conducted in front of an uninvolved division chief who had not managed anyone connected to the incident. Later, the conclusions and recommendations were brought to the head of human resources, including matters relating to Yossi, and he approved them.

"As detailed, all the decisions taken at the end of the disciplinary procedure regarding Yossi were made exclusively and entirely by the head of human resources. All the recommendations, including the command measures determined by the head of the human resources division, were fully implemented. Any attempt to portray things differently is unfounded.”

The Shin Bet also said: "All of the above reflects the seriousness with which the agency regards this incident. Accordingly, beyond the personal actions taken with those involved, the incident and the lessons to be derived from it are included in training for operatives in the field. Yossi is an experienced manager who has served for years fighting terror in the West Bank. He has excelled in his post, during the investigation, despite the impact it had on him. He successfully completed the process for appointing senior management, at the end of which he was [promoted] by the committee for appointing senior officials in accordance with the selection of his division head.”

Nadav Argaman declined to comment.

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