The right to remain silent

After four years heading the police intelligence and investigations branch (“AHAM”), Maj Gen Yoav Segalovitz was the one being questioned Thursday, and it appeared he’d learned something from the countless suspects he’d interrogated over the years.

Calmly evasive and quietly dismissive of questions, he was not a hostile witness, just a man showing an impressive ability to speak for 45 minutes without saying almost anything of substance.

Yoav Segalovitz speaking - but not saying anything. (Photo: Ben Hartman)

Former Police Intel and Investigations branch chief Yoav Segalovitz speaking – but not saying anything. (Photo: Ben Hartman)

Towards the end of the press conference, one crime reporter from an Israeli paper cut in “did you learn this from all those suspects who exercise their right to remain silent?”

Another reporter asked “can you say something, not in general, something specific that we can actually make a headline out of?”

Segalovitz responded “what about that the head of AHAM is a nice guy?”, and smiled.

He was also asked “what was the worst mistake you made in your [28 year] career?”

To which he joked “besides coming here?”, adding that he couldn’t really think of any single mistake that sticks out or he really regrets. He said the same when asked if there were any mentors he had as a cop,  and when asked where police are having the least amount of success he answered “why don’t you ever ask where we’re having the most success?”

He also offered staid, cautious answers to questions about the cases against ex-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman or Former Prime Minister Ehud OImert and in particular the sex crimes investigation against former media personality Emmanuel Rosen, saying only “that investigation isn’t over, when it’s over, we’ll know more.”

Moments later the press conference was over and the reporters let out a collective groan, one saying “that was a total waste of time” and another “that was like being taken for a fancy dinner and you’re served quinoa.”

It was an ironically boring turn of events for a rare press appearance by one of the most interesting people in Israeli public life. Segalovitz heads possibly the most sensitive department of the Israel police – responsible for investigating public figures like Olmert and Lieberman, as well as the top organized crime cases in the country. He was also tasked with investigating the death of former Mossad man Ben Zygier “Prisoner X” in Ayalon Prison in December 2010 and was one of a small handful of Israelis who knew of the man whose existence was a closely-guarded secret, before it was blown wide open by an Australian TV broadcast earlier this year.

Segalovitz is a man with a wealth of knowledge of a shadow world of mobsters and corruption, and a member of a small circle of people in Israeli life – such as Mossad Head Tamir Pardo or Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen (though not quite on their level) – who can see behind the curtain that surrounds our day-to-day lives in this country.

Perhaps that’s what made it so frustrating for those reporters who spent four hours of their Thursday at the LAHAV 433 headquarters in Lod, first in an off-the-record briefing and then at the press conference, hoping that a famously tight-lipped senior law enforcement official would use his farewell appearance to drop the gloves and publicly settle accounts.

Instead, they got quinoa.

During the closed-door briefing, Segalovitz was asked about the police hobby of securing gag orders on investigations, responding that there are only today 41 gag orders on police cases, and that he’s against gag orders and he’d “prefer we didn’t have them, that you just wouldn’t talk about things.”

Thursday at the LAHAV 433 headquarters ended without Segalovitz revealing where his working life will now take him, but he did give up one tidbit about the coming months. After leaving his post August 1st, one of Israel’s top cops will go with his son for a two-month backpacking trip in….India.

The room erupted in laughter when Segalovitz mentioned the trip to the Mecca of Israeli stoners, with one newspaper reporter saying “that really sucks for those [Israeli] stoners in the guesthouse who see you come in when they’re trying to light up”.

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