Israel Police Close Case Against Former Top Officer Before Even Seeing It

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Maj. Gen. Gila Gaziel in Tel Aviv, 2018.
Maj. Gen. Gila Gaziel in Tel Aviv, 2018.Credit: Meged Gozani
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The police decided to close a case against former human resources head Maj. Gen. Gila Gaziel, suspected of wrongfully facilitating the sale of subsidized housing, before even reviewing the investigative material, a document obtained by Haaretz shows.

The relevant investigative material was not forwarded from the Justice Ministry unit that investigates police misconduct to the police’s disciplinary department, and was never examined.

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The official Justice Ministry unit document from March 2019 says: “Per a conversation with the prosecutor, the case is to be closed without sending letters or forwarding [material] to the disciplinary department since the disciplinary department said it had no intention of taking further steps.”

The police disciplinary department was subordinate to Gaziel, who took early retirement in February 2019. The document shows the department decided from the outset not to take any measures against Gaziel, contrary to what the police stated in response to a previous Haaretz report. “The matters are being examined and a decision has been made not to take any measures against the officer,” the report said.

Police disciplinary unit chief Keren Bar-Menachem, in Tel Aviv, 2019.Credit: Moti Milrod

Last week, Haaretz reported that police internal investigations unit chief Keren Bar-Menachem decided, with the backing of then-State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, not to begin criminal proceedings against Gaziel, contrary to the firm position of unit staff, who believed she should be investigated on suspicion of fraud and breach of trust. Instead, Bar-Menachem decided to transfer the case to the police’s disciplinary department.

In an official response given to Haaretz last week, the unit said, “It was decided, in the view of the state prosecutor and the deputy state prosecutor for criminal affairs that there was no justification to open a criminal investigation and that the matter should be transferred to the disciplinary level for further handling.”

And apparently, before the case was handed to the Justice Ministry unit, police conducted an internal investigation, after which it was decided that former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich himself would write a note of censure for Gaziel. The police’s legal adviser prepared a draft of the note, but the idea was shelved when the continuing investigation was handed off to the unit. Ultimately no action was taken against Gaziel.

The investigation against Gaziel was transferred to the unit in the wake of an internal police review of Yossi Ogozin, head of the Israel Police construction administration. Ogozin oversaw a project in which, in 2015, the government and police planned a development of 108 four- and five-room apartments in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood. The apartments were marketed to police officers at a discount of hundreds of thousands of shekels, and the government subsidized the land on which they were built. The apartments were meant for police officers serving in Jerusalem, primarily those in junior ranks, to encourage them to continue serving in the district, which has experienced a high dropout rate and motivation problems.

An officer was assigned to look into claims of problematic conduct by Ogozin. During the investigation, Ogozin claimed that Gaziel put senior officers further up on the list of those eligible for the apartments, including Alsheich and former Investigative Branch Commander Meni Yitzhaki. In July 2017, Yitzhaki did sign a contract to buy an apartment, but canceled it in early 2018.

The investigation revealed that Alsheich expressed interest in the apartment and attended a meeting about the matter but he denied that he planned to purchase it. A source involved in the case tells Haaretz that one reason the case was closed was the desire to avoid a proceeding that would compel senior police officials, including Alsheich, to testify.

Meni Yitzhaki, during a command handover ceremony, 2016.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

This is the second time police have refrained from taking disciplinary measures against Gaziel, despite the Justice Ministry unit’s recommendation. The previous time, there was suspicion of breach of trust for involvement in rigging tenders related to police events. In this case too, Bar-Menachem decided to close the case and forward it to the police for disciplinary handling, but any action was delayed until Gaziel retired and it could not be pursued.

Retired Judge David Rosen, the Justice Ministry ombudsman, decided this week to transfer review of the matter to Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and to acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen, following a request from attorney Pini Fishler. Rosen wrote that he did not have the authority to deal with the decision to close the case, but he harshly criticized the conduct of the Justice Ministry unit and the police.

“Your complaint indicates allegedly grave conduct by the highest officials in the Israel Police,” he wrote. “However, no trace is found of the results of transferring the case to the disciplinary department, and it appears that a sensitive case like this sank and disappeared among the files of other examinations and investigations.”

After it became clear that the police instructed the unit not to send them the materials regarding Gaziel, Fischler once again turned to Rosen and wrote that the police and the unit had misled him in saying the matter had been turned over to the disciplinary department. “A half-truth is worse than an outright lie,” Rosen wrote. “This is exactly the way to lead the public to completely lose its faith in government and the law.”

Roni Alsheich, in Beit Shemesh, 2017.Credit: Ilan Assayag

The Justice Ministry unit said in response: “We do not intend to comment on an exchange between [the unit] and the Israel Police. As is known, [the unit] is authorized only to recommend disciplinary action (except for an offense involving the use of force) and therefore it is clear that it cannot force the disciplinary department to accept its recommendations. You must refer your questions to the authorized officials in the Israel Police.”

The police responded: “As was conveyed to the reporter, the matter was looked into and it was decided not to take any steps against the officer.”

In response to the report last week, Gaziel said: “There was nothing improper about my conduct in the project, as emerged from the findings of [the unit] as well as the police examination of the matter. Any attempt to hurt my good name when I have done nothing wrong by dealing with a significant, important project for the welfare of the members of the Israel Police reflects a mistaken view of reality.”

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