Attorney General Rejects Claim That Police Probe of Netanyahus Was Tainted

The investigation was run by a police unit whose former head charged that the Netanyahus might be behind a sexual harassment allegation against him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara attend ceremonies at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, November 11, 2018.
Francois Mori,AP

The Attorney General’s Office on Sunday rejected charges that the investigations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife had been tainted by prejudice on the part of the police officer who oversaw it.

The investigation was run by the police’s Lahav 433 unit, whose former head, Maj. Gen. Roni Ritman, was later investigated for sexual harassment. Ritman subsequently charged that the Netanyahus might be behind the harassment allegation.

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In a letter to the Netanyahus’ attorney, Yossi Cohen, Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber rejected the charge that Ritman’s statement shows the investigation of the Netanyahus was tainted, arguing that the decisions in the case were made not by Ritman, but by more senior officials in the police and prosecution.

Ritman’s allegation was first reported by Haaretz in July. Immediately afterward, Cohen wrote to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and demanded that proceedings against the Netanyahus be halted because of it. He argued that Ritman’s allegation undermined the police’s ability to conduct an objective investigation.

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A photo of Maj. Gen. Roni Ritman, head of Lahav 433, the elite anti-fraud unit of the Israel Police, who requested a transfer in the wake of sexual allegations against him.
Moti Milrod

Zilber wrote that she had asked the police for their response, and they acknowledged that Ritman had made the accusation. However, they added, it was only one of many allegations Ritman made about the reasons for the investigation against him, and not the main one.

Moreover, she added, all the decisions in the probes against the Netanyahus required the consent of many senior officials, including Mendelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.

Zilber admitted that Ritman was involved in the Netanyahu cases in his role as head of Lahav 433, given that the national fraud squad, which conducted the case, is subordinate to that unit. Nevertheless, she minimized his role, saying, “He wasn’t the main person dealing with the investigations.”

“The isolated statements made by Maj. Gen. Ritman aren’t enough in themselves to show that his judgment was biased,” Zilber wrote. She also denied that they demonstrated a conflict of interest on Ritman’s part.