When It Involves Netanyahu's Wife, Israel's Top Cop Becomes Her Protector

Newly installed Commissioner Roni Alsheich's decision to hide the police's recommendation to indict Sara Netanyahu is evidence that he's one of the worst police chiefs Israel has ever had.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich shaking hands with Netanyahu, December 3, 2015.
Haim Zach, GOP

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich's decision to hide the police investigation team's recommendation that the prime minister's wife, Sara Netanyahu, should face criminal charges over the handling of expenses at the Netanyahu family's residence is additional evidence that the commissioner is one of the worst and least principled in the history of the police force.

His protection of the powerful in this case follows a series of scandalous decisions and statements on his part since he took office in December. They range from his excessive leniency toward senior police officers suspected of sexual offenses to his comment that there is a difference between the grieving of Jewish and Arab families.

There have been other ill-suited police chiefs in the past. Yehezkel Sahar was convicted of perjury; Rafi Peled was dismissed in a scandal precipitated after he was photographed in a hotel jacuzzi; Moshe Karadi resigned in the face of harsh criticism over his performance and when his credibility was questioned in the report of an official commission; and Yohanan Danino left a trail of destruction behind him.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara in Davos, Switzerland, in 2014.
Kobi Gidon, GPO

On the other hand, in his few short months in office, Alsheich appears to have already provided competition for some of the less illustrious aspects of his predecessors' stints in the job, recalling a comment that Knesset member Ahmed Tibi once made: "We were afraid of the Shin Bet [security service] until we met former senior police officials who had become Knesset members."

Just last week, the police announced that they intend to put the actor Moshe Ivgi on trial on allegations of sexual offenses. Alsheich didn't jump to Ivgi's defense and didn't recommend hiding the recommendation to press charges against the actor from the public. But when it comes to a really important case, with the prime minister's wife at its center, the country's No. 1 cop becomes her protector.

Contrary to normal procedure, the police statement announcing the conclusion of the investigation against Sara Netanyahu was not coordinated with Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan. One can also assume that the two would also not understand how a police chief could obscure the fact that there was an evidentiary basis to put her on trial with one hand while secretly passing along a recommendation to do so with the other; as if it were come kind of confidential piece of intelligence on a ticking bomb from a source who needed immediate protection. "Just like the Third World," as a senior jurist familiar with the case said.

The recommendation to put Mrs. Netanyahu on trial is the first stage in a process that could lead to an indictment against her. It's a rather minor case involving allegations that she had personal expenses paid for by the state. In the current atmosphere, however, in which it appears that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife have some kind of grand plan designed to keep them in power by asserting control of the media, the gatekeepers of the system and law enforcement, the recommended action against Sara Netanyahu is a sign that there are still a few remaining islands of democracy in Israel in which no citizen is above the law, even if they live in the Prime Minister's Residence.

For years, Sara Netanyahu sought to prevent the public from knowing the bitter truth regarding her alleged treatment of members of the staff of the Prime Minister's Office: the alleged humiliation, overblown complaining, blatant displays of authority and waste of public funds.

She carried out the concealment with the help of dedicated lawyers and public relations people along with journalists serving the powers that be and senior civil servants who owed their unjustified promotions to her husband. This year it appears to be a year in which Sara Netanyahu's façade is showing its cracks: from her setback over the legal victory of Meni Naftali, the former chief caretaker at the Prime Minister's Residence, to the embarrassment of the Bibi-Tours case involving funding of her family's past travel expenses, and now the recommendation that she face criminal charges.

This year may also shape up to be a critical year for those with a diametrically opposed image to that of Police Commissioner Alsheich, who are trying to foil the Netanyahus' efforts to take a page from Turkish President Erdogan.