Israel Police Chief Hits Back at Netanyahu, Says Investigators Won’t Be Deterred

The prime minister, indicted for bribery, has called to 'investigate the investigators'

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Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen, September 2019.
Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen, September 2019. Credit: Ilan Assayag

Acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen told detectives from the Lahav 433 police anti-corruption unit on Sunday that the decision to prosecute Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reflects Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s “great confidence in the detectives and the investigation.”

Addressing Netanyahu’s call to “investigate the investigators,” Cohen said, “We must thoroughly investigate any instance of corruption and get to the truth in every investigation, without letting insults or accusations of any kind interfere or influence in any way our integrity or prevent us from doing our job  professionally and without bias.” He added, “Police activity and the fulfillment of their duties are a condition for the state and society to preserve the rule of law and domestic security.”

The prime minister’s investigations were led by officers of the fraud unit affiliated with Lahav 433 and whose commander is Brig. Gen. Coresh Bar Nur. Lahav’s commander is Maj. Gen. Yigal Bar Shalom.

After the decision last week to file indictments against him for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Netanyahu said the investigations against him were “tainted and tendentious,” reflected “selective enforcement,” and that Mendelblit had crumbled under the pressure applied on him by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and other senior prosecutors. All this, he said, “was aimed at bringing down a right-wing prime minister – me.” Also being charged with bribery are Bezeq’s former controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch and his wife Iris (Case 4000) and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes (Case 2000).

Netanyahu said the investigation included “framing and the creation of new violations.”

“During this process they weren’t after the truth, they were after me,” Netanyahu said in a speech at his residence on Thursday. “The investigators didn’t press the witnesses to tell the truth, they trampled on them, extorting them with threats for them to lie. They acted like criminals.”

Cohen has been acting police commissioner since last December, after the former commissioner, Roni Alsheich, completed his term without a replacement being named. After two elections there is still no government, making it impossible to appoint a new commissioner.

A letter issued Sunday by the forum of retired police commissioners and major generals said that the Israel Police “is politically color blind” and that “undermining the strength of the police is a blow to the national resilience and law enforcement’s power of deterrence.” The forum members called to “remove the violent discourse against the police and law enforcement from the agenda.”