Eckstein Zeev, Shemer Dan, Menkes Yosef

Kastner’s Assassins

Not much was heard about the two assassins and the people behind them, Menkes and Cheruti. Eckstein, Shemer, and Menkes served jail time, until Ben-Gurion pardoned them in a high handed, unconstitutional manner. According to Israeli law, only a president can issue pardons. It is not the purview of a prime minister. It was an intriguing tale of a proprietary behavior that long-term power spawns. Barnea, a prominent Israeli journalist reported that a new member of Kibbutz Sde-Boker latched on to Ben-Gurion on his walks along the Kibbutz paths and pleaded to free Menkes who otherwise would lose his sanity. Ignoring the vehement objections of the then Justice Minister Joseph, through whose office such requests must be by law channeled first and then recommended to President Ben-Zvi. Ben-Gurion after cajoling Kastner’s young daughter and securing her agreement in principle to free the three, disregarded all procedures, high handedly shoving the law aside and arbitrarily stepping over all safeguards and considerations involved in the clemency procedure. A question arose whether Menkes’ violent and vengeful nature may kill again, for example the judge who sent him to jail may be his next target. Ben-Gurion battled with his reluctant Justice Minister who refused to put his signature to the mockery, but who surrendered at the end. President Ben-Zvi soon died in office and was replaced by Zalman Shazar, a willing collaborator ‘who gladly’ legitimized the application. Thus Ben-Gurion plowed ahead and had his way in setting the three free.

Within five months they were all out, not bad for a murder rap and a political one at that. Eckstein, a former Shin-Bet operative, is known to have worked in a Tel Aviv printing plant; there is no reliable information about the others, including Cheruti who was practicing law at one time.


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