Attorney General Wants Investigation Chief to Stay Through Netanyahu Inquiry

Police commissioner prefers to dismiss Meni Yitzhaki, but Avichai Mendelblit is expected to urge him to keep him on until several investigations are complete

Israel Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at the Knesset, July 18, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit would like the head of the police’s investigations and intelligence department to stay on until at least May 2017 to avoid disrupting the ongoing inquiry related to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich wants to dismiss the department head, Meni Yitzhaki, shortly, but Mendelblit is expected to meet with him and urge him to scrap this plan.

About two weeks ago, Haaretz reported that the police chief was looking both inside and outside the force for a candidate to replace Yitzhaki. Even though Yitzhaki is due to retire in less than a year, senior police sources told Haaretz that Alsheich wants him to leave even earlier to facilitate the rehabilitation of the investigations department, which has suffered from conflicts among its senior officers. The sources said Alsheich believes a new department head would be better placed to “clean out the stables.”

Mendeblit claims that Yitzhaki shouldn’t be replaced without his consent because the head of the investigations department — one of the most important jobs in the police force — works more closely with the attorney general than he does with the police commissioner. Mendelblit has great respect for Yitzhaki and would like to have him complete both the Netanyahu inquiry and at least two other sensitive investigations into public figures that have not yet been made public.

Mendelblit’s staff is convinced that in the Netanyahu probe, there will be no choice but to question and collect evidence from the prime minister and his family. For this purpose, the police will need skilled and experienced investigators, and Mendelblit believes Yitzhaki is the right man to oversee the job.

Mendelblit’s predecessor, Yehuda Weinstein, also opposed Yitzhaki’s dismissal. Alsheich wanted to get rid of Yitzhaki immediately after taking over as police commissioner late last year, but Weinstein intervened, arguing that Yitzhaki should be allowed to serve out his term.