Police Say New Law Being Pushed by Netanyahu's Government Hinders Investigations Into Netanyahu

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, November 21, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, November 21, 2017.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Senior police officials expressed their reservations on Tuesday about the "recommendations law," a new bill which would bar police from saying whether charges should be filed against public officials.

According to the officers, the new legislation, now being pushed by members of the ruling Likud party, would lengthen the legal process and hamper investigations, including those against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

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“The inability to give an assessment of the investigation turns the police officers into ‘information managers’ - not investigators,” a senior police officer said. Although the attorney general will still have the authority to ask the police to submit its conclusions to the prosecution, the process will take longer, he added.

The newest version of the bill passed its first Knesset reading on Monday evening, with 46 lawmakers voting in favor of the law versus the 36 who voted against it. The bill gives the attorney general the option of taking the police's recommendation over an indictment into consideration, while ensuring that recommendation would not be made public.

"Half a year later, the prosecutor will find time to deal with the case and ask the investigator for a recommendation, and then the investigator – who has already moved on to a new case – will have to go back and remember what happened in the previous case,” said the officer.

Should the bill pass two more upcoming readings, it would apply retroactively to include the two investigations currently underway against Netanyahu.

Nevertheless, the officers claimed the bill will not interfere in the various ongoing cases against the premier, which they said the police are trying to wrap-up in the next few weeks, possibly by the end of 2017. The officers made it clear that if passed, the new legislation will not prevent investigators from reaching necessary conclusions on whether enough evidence exists to charge the Netanyahu.

Besides the effect of the “recommendation law” on corrupton cases, the police said the legislation would harm organized crime investigations, too, because like probes against public figures, these investigations are supervised by a prosecutor in their early stages. “The law is a huge gift to organized crime bosses,” warned a senior police officer.

Unlike police officers, who have been following suspects in crime organizations for 20 years, supervising prosecutors risk running into problems while investigating such cases. The minute the “center of gravity” in the case moves from the police to the prosecutor’s office, a real fear exists that the crime bosses will try to harm the prosecutors, the officer cautioned.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, who is heading a police delegation to Washington at the moment, criticized the original version of the law, which tried to bar the police from making recommendations to prosecutors at the end of their investigation. He warned that such a requirement would place the investigative burden on the prosecution, which would not be able to meet the challenge.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who in theory has a veto over the advancement of the bill, opposed the original version of the law, too.

The bill will now return to the Interior and Environment Committee to prepare it for the two final votes. The coalition is fast-tracking the legislation and the bill could become law by the end of the month. 

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