Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Israeli police officers drag a demonstrator protesting the death of Ahuvia Sandak, November 4, 2021.

It appears that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will close the case against the police officers who conducted a chase during which the youth Ahuvya Sandak z’l was killed on December 21, 2020, Kan 11 News reported Sunday night. According to a leak from the AG’s office, no indictment will be filed against any of the officers.

However, in addition to Sandak, there were four other young men in the car and the leak from Mandelblit suggests indictments will be filed against some or all of them. A possible indictment would be endangering human life on the road. The decision on the indictments is expected to be made by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office.

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Honenu legal aid society attorney Ariel Atari, representing the parents of the late Ahuvya, Avraham and Ayelet Sandak, said, “It’s not clear why the attorney general needed to hide in his last days in office behind leaks to the media, instead of going out publicly and announcing his decision. For a whole year, the family has not slept, anticipating the decision and the AG did not find time to decide until his last second in office (Mandelblit is leaving his post on February 1 – DI).”

“We intend to continue the public and legal struggle until those responsible for the death of Ahuvya pay for their actions,” Atari vowed.

The truth about the death of Ahuvya Sandak is mired in contradictory versions and the blame is likely shared by all the participants. On December 21, 2020, around noon, Judea and Samaria district detectives in a civilian car carried out an open chase after a car that had bypassed a police checkpoint and whose occupants were suspected of throwing stones at PA Arabs. According to police, the fleeing vehicle was zigzagging and traveling at excessive speed. During the chase on Route 449 in the Kochav Ha’Shachar area, a collision occurred between the two cars. The fleeing vehicle overturned and one of its passengers, Ahuvya Sandak, was killed.

The occupants of the fleeing vehicle claimed that the detectives’ car rammed their car on purpose and as a result, they were thrown off the road and overturned. In a statement the police gave the court shortly after the incident, it claimed the fleeing vehicle overturned due to the driver’s loss of control. That’s because Israeli police, like police everywhere, occasionally play fast and loose with the truth unless they are challenged. Indeed, following an investigation of the incident, the police officers involved—who had three whole days to fix their story—said that the accident occurred as a result of a collision between the cars, while the detectives were trying to overtake the fleeing vehicle and due to the wild driving of the fleeing vehicle.

According to the testimony of a police officer who was there at the time, two of the occupants of the overturned vehicle got out on their own with great difficulty and were handcuffed. Two other passengers were pulled out by a paramedic from a rescue force that had been called to the scene. When the paramedics asked the youths how many passengers had been in the vehicle, to verify there was no one else to help, the youths kept silent because they thought Ahuvya had managed to escape from the scene. Only more than an hour later and after the rescue forces had left, did police officers who were searching the vehicle for evidence discover the body of Ahuvya Sandak trapped under it.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (L) and Justice Minister Amir Ohana, September 03, 2019. / Tomer Neuberg / Flash 90

Last November, the AG decided to take over the case from the state prosecution – a most unusual move which is only possible in Israel’s system where the AG possesses unlimited powers. Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar is determined to change that with the cooperation of the next AG, the current State Attorney Amit Isman. Sa’ar intends to split the job, creating a separate legal counselor to the government—one half of today’s AG’s authority, and an Attorney General’s position that will supervise the state’s law enforcement apparatus, much like the AG’s position in the US.

Religious Zionism Chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich said in response to the leaks from the AG’s office: “I was there. From the first moment, everything was one big whitewash. Closing the case, like the contamination of the investigation and the delay in interrogating the officers (three days) are a mark of Cain on the forehead of the Israeli law enforcement system.”

Smotrich added that “instead of engaging in political investigative committees against previous governments, the Israeli government should deal with the real injustices that are happening against a population that has no voice. Is there not a single righteous man in Sodom who will demand justice for Ahuvya?”

Two things: to paint the fact that the current government has appointed two state commissions of inquiry to investigate the Meron disaster (45 dead), and the undeniable corruption surrounding the purchase of three German submarines as “political investigative committees against previous governments” is unfair and misleading. It was the job of the “previous government” to investigate both, but in all of PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s second stint in office, 2009 – 2021, he did not launch a single independent, state commission of inquiry – and not because there was nothing to investigate.

And the second thing: the Ahuvya Sandak death took place under the Netanyahu government in which Smotrich himself was Transport Minister. Investigating the case was under the auspices of then-Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana (Likud). The whitewash took place under Likud’s and Religious Zionism’s watch. As our sages put it in describing a generation that judges its judges: If a judge would say to the defendant standing before him: Remove the splinter from between your eyes, meaning rid yourself of some minor infraction, the defendant would say to him: Remove the beam from between your eyes, meaning you have committed far more severe sins (Bava Batra 15:, translation by Sefaria).

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.