Minister Orders Police to Track Down Officers Who Spoke to Media About Netanyahu's Cases

Amir Ohana asks police chief to 'use every means' to find who told Channel 12 News that the prime minister would not be cut any slack in any new investigations

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Amir Ohana at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020.
Amir Ohana at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Israel’s new public security minister, Amir Ohana, asked the acting police commissioner to “use every means” to uncover senior police sources who commented to the media about a possible new criminal investigation against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Amir Ohana, who was justice minister in the caretaker government and is known as a Netanyahu ally, called on Motti Cohen to use any means that he sees fit, including the use of lie detector testing and telephone calling data, to identify who was quoted in a news report by Channel 12 on Monday.

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The report quoted unnamed senior police sources responding to Netanyahu’s scathing criticism at the start of his trial Sunday of law enforcement and the press, in which he claimed the charges were rigged.

Netanyahu’s baseless claims show more about him than about the investigators and prosecutors,” the report quoted the sources as saying. Referring to the police serious crimes unit, Lahav 433, they said investigators “did outstanding work and ignored all the pressure put on them. They will act in the same manner if the attorney general decides to open an additional investigation against Netanyahu on his stock file. He will be treated with respect, like he was in previous investigations – but not with leniency.”

The comments made reference to suggestions of improprieties in connection with Netanyahu’s alleged ownership of shares in the Sea Drift steel company controlled by his cousin, Nathan Milikowsky.

In his letter to the acting police commissioner, Ohana called the comments a “cowardly message,” and concluded that finding the sources will send a “loud and clear message that you [Cohen] are not prepared to accept such conduct on the part of senior officials of the Israel Police with indifference.”

In the coming months, Ohana is expected to appoint a permanent head of the police and Cohen is one of the candidates under consideration.

Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen at a ministerial handover ceremony in Jerusalem, May 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

A statement issued on the prime minister’s behalf called the report an “anonymous threat by police investigators to open another baseless investigation” and an “attempt to silence none other than the prime minister of Israel.” The statement also said that the sources’ comments were made in response to “the fact that extortion by threats and witness tampering have been uncovered in the investigations.” The statement went on to say that “these threats are a clear example of the ills that have to be rectified to protect democracy in Israel.”

“Such an official, by issuing a threat against the prime minister, is doing serious damage to the reputation of the police, to its standing and prestige in the eyes of the public, despite the fact that the vast majority of police officers do not behave in this manner,” Ohana said in his letter.

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