Analysis |

Netanyahu's Cynical Crusade Against Law Enforcement Will Cost Israel Dearly

Under his watch, corruption inside Israel's police and judiciary grew. Now that he’s in the eye of the storm, he’s prepared to destroy it all, in a lethal show of hypocrisy

Gidi Weitz
From right, Benjamin Netanyahu, former Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich at the inauguration of Kafr Kanna, February 10, 2018.
From right, Benjamin Netanyahu, former Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich at the inauguration of Kafr Kanna, February 10, 2018.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Gidi Weitz

Israel’s system of law enforcement has faced a rising challenge in recent years, with officials facing investigations one after the other.

Senior police officers have been charged with sex crimes against their subordinates. They have consorted with famous rabbis, ministers and mafia bosses. One was offered a bribe that he did not report. Another served as a mole for a tycoon who was the target of a police intelligence operation.

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One officer, considered a rising star, worked with a famous lawyer to trade sensitive information from undercover investigations for cash-filled envelopes. A district attorney was investigated for accepting expensive presents in exchange for obstructing an investigation against a wealthy contractor. Police intelligence officers sold inside information to organized crime rings. One district commander turned his district into a harem staffed with young policewomen.

The police’s culture of lies has hit an all-time high. In the vast majority of cases that involves police officers hitting civilians, their colleagues will lie to protect perpetrators, according to sources in the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct.

All this happened during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s years in office. Yet we never heard him or any of his fans in the Knesset and the media pointing out these ills, demanding their correction or calling for a commission of inquiry. Quite the contrary.

Netanyahu extended former Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino’s tenure, vehemently defended former Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein against all attacks and warmly praised former State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan when Nitzan took office. During most of his years in power, far from challenging law enforcement agencies, Netanyahu protected them tenderly, even though there was plenty that needed fixing.

Then the police started investigating him for receiving illicit gifts from businessmen; and the Netanyahu cult turned to destroy the Justice Ministry and the police’s investigations department began.

None of the cult’s members asked for a probe into prosecutor Liat Ben Ari’s real estate when she was prosecuting former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Holyland corruption case. None of them cared about Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s role in the Harpaz affair – a 2011 case regarding attempts to improperly sway the process for selecting Israel’s military chief – until he started investigating the royal family.

None of them confronted Nitzan about his scandalous decision to stop the investigation into the 2017 police killing of Bedouin teacher Yakub Abu al-Kiyan. None of them said a word about former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich when he hid the police’s recommendations in a case involving financial improprieties at the prime minister’s residences, when he labeled Abu al-Kiyan a terrorist, or when he sought to destroy the department that investigates police misconduct for having uncovered enormous abscesses in the upper ranks of the police. Nobody asked any questions about the department’s methods of investigation, which have proven to be overly aggressive and invasive.

This is a display of hypocrisy unparalleled in Israel’s history. It’s so damaging and destructive that one wonders whether the perpetrators understand the price Israel will pay for their attempts to break everything just to rescue one man from justice.

When Netanyahu, his son, his public security minister and his pet journalists treat the system of law enforcement like a mafia, complete with a don and foot soldiers, do they ever think about prosecutor Nissim Merom and his colleagues? If they ever left Twitter and their air-conditioned offices and went to the Tel Aviv courthouse, they would see Merom there, surrounded by bodyguards. In recent years, he has been running the case against Yitzhak Abergil’s infamous crime ring on their behalf.

Some of his colleagues, who have also prosecuted cases against organized crime in recent years, are also under guard. So are their families.

Prosecutor Nissim Merom (R) accompanied by security guards at the Lod District Court, August 29, 2017.
Prosecutor Nissim Merom (R) accompanied by security guards at the Lod District Court, August 29, 2017.Credit: Moti Milrod

One of them recently told a colleague that other children are afraid to play with his children. Another said fatalistically that he knows who will assassinate him; he saw the looks from behind the glass divider in the courtroom. For years, they’ve been sticking their hands in a fire that Public Security Minister Amir Ohana or journalists sitting at Netanyahu’s court would almost inconceivably have the courage to touch.

When Netanyahu and his toadies destroy the public’s faith in the police and prosecution, they’re also destroying the work of people like Merom. This will abolish the rules of the game, as well as the distinction between criminals, whether they take bribes or take lives, and the people who are supposed to catch and punish them in our name.

In this regard, the Netanyahu cult is causing even more lethal damage to society than the organized crime rings that threaten and attack prosecutors and investigators to escape justice.

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