In the space of 24 hours, and less than a week before police are expected to recommend whether to indict him for corruption, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published three Facebook posts dismissing the credibility of the police regarding his investigations.
The premier’s remarks followed an interview of Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen.
Roni Alsheich to Keshet’s investigative journalism show Uvda, in which he hinted that Netanyahu sent private investigators to collect information against the team investigating him.
Responding to the claims, Netanyahu said in a Facebook post, which was published right after midnight – and came after another post regarding the investigations – that a heavy shadow was cast over police investigations and recommendations on whether to indict him or not.
“It is shocking to see that he [Alsheich] is repeating the outlandish and false claim that [I] supposedly used private investigators against police officers,” Netanyahu said.
“Every decent person will ask himself: How can people who say such outlandish things regarding the prime minister then question him objectively and be impartial when it is time to reach a decision about him?” he asked.
In the Uvda interview, Alsheich said “it is a fact” that private investigators began collecting information on police officers (and their families) involved in the Netanyahu cases.
“We’re not talking about a conspiratorial mind here,” said Alsheich. “These are facts. In not basing my statements here on rumors.”
He added that since he went public with this information the private investigators stopped their inquiries.
Alsheich was quick to add that he did not say the private investigators were working for politicians, only “powerful figures.”
In a closed meeting on Thursday, Alsheich said that he’s not sorry about what he said, and that he stands behind his words, Channel 2 News reported.
In a Facebook post that was published on Thursday afternoon, the prime minister used a softer tone and said that he did not mean to personally attack Alsheich, and called on law enforcement authorities to investigate whether private investigators were dispatched.
“Imagine how you would feel if police investigators who are conducting an investigation against you were claiming that you hired private investigators against them and their families,” Netanyahu said. “Can these investigators, who think that the suspect is following them... do their job objectively? “And what about their recommendations?” he asked.
“The only way to find out the truth is through an objective, independent and speedy investigation,” he said, asking for a probe to determine whether Alsheich’s claims are true.
“The truth should be investigated immediately. Looking for the truth and maintaining the integrity of the investigation would not weaken the Israel Police – on the contrary, it will only make it, and the rule of law, stronger,” the prime minister said.
Various media outlets reported on Thursday that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit knew about the private investigators, but decided not to open an investigation into this matter.
The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv reported on Thursday night that law enforcement authorities dismissed Alsheich’s claims, and said that if they were “serious,” the commissioner could have an investigation opened, and not waited for the attorney-general to order him to do so.
“Since when is the approval of the attorney-general needed when the subject is not a public representative?” a law enforcement official was quoted as saying. “As we all know, private investigators are not MKs... The commissioner could have easily launched an investigation or even a police check if he had basis [to do so]... The way it was done wasn’t serious enough.”
“He was talking about feelings, and with all due respect, you do not launch an investigation based on feelings,” they were quoted.
Channel 2 News reported on Wednesday that in Case 1000 (the “expensive gifts affair”), the investigative team is expected to recommend to indict the prime minister for accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust.
In Case 2000 (the “Yediot Aharonot affair”), the team is not planning to present any recommendations, but rather to leave it up to the state prosecution to decide, according to the report.
POLITICIANS ON the Left were quick to believe Netanyahu was at fault, while in the Likud, they were more skeptical.
Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay slammed the prime minister for his remarks against the commissioner, saying he is acting “like a thug.”
“[When he acts like this], Netanyahu is humiliating us, the citizens of Israel,” Gabbay said.
The attack against the commissioner is illegitimate. Instead of demanding to finish the investigations [into himself] as quickly as possible, Netanyahu chooses to go out against the commissioner, and in doing so, he attempted to harm citizens’ confidence in law enforcement.
“I expect the prime minister to apologize to the public,” Gabbay said.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On called on Netanyahu to suspend himself from office until Mandelblit makes a decision on whether to indict him or not.
“This way, the prime minister can dedicate his time to proving his innocence, instead of taking advantage of his position to intimidate law enforcement and the media,” Gal-On said. “I am convinced that a suspension will also help the attorney-general to decide more quickly whether to indict.”
Meanwhile, in the Likud, questions arose as to whether Alsheich was telling the truth, and whether his giving an interview about an ongoing investigation was appropriate in the first place. They also reiterated the call made by the prime minister that an investigation be opened into the commissioner’s allegations, to see if there is anything to them.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, of the Likud, called on Mandelblit to immediately open an investigation into the matter.
“I was surprised to hear the police commissioner’s remarks, hinting that Netanyahu hired private investigators against police officers who are investigating him,” she said in a video posted to her Facebook page. “If it’s true, it’s very serious and we must take all steps necessary. If it’s not true, it casts a shadow on the way the investigation was run and over the police commissioner, who is trying to mislead the entire public.”
Coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) said that the police are attempting a coup, and want to bring down Netanyahu.
According to Amsalem, Alsheich was “full of himself, delighted” when speaking to Dayan, but if Amsalem were police commissioner and had to tell Israelis their prime minister may have committed a crime, he “would wear sackcloth and ashes to give the news to the nation.”
Amsalem said the idea that Netanyahu hired private investigators shows that the top police officers see the prime minister as their personal enemy.