The head of Israel's elite anti-fraud police unit, who was a suspect in a sexual harassment case that was ultimately closed, requested to be transferred to a different position on Tuesday, saying he did so in order to protect the reputation of the police.
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Maj. Gen. Roni Ritman has headed the police’s prestigious Lahav 433 - popularly known as Israel's FBI - for the past three and a half years, during which the unit has led several high-profile cases, including the corruption investigations involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In his letter to Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, he said he wanted to remain in the force but wished be transferred to a different post.
In November, the High Court of Justice overturned Alsheich’s decision to leave Ritman in his current position and ordered him to consider measures against the official. It did so in response to a petition by a female officer who served under Ritman in Lahav 433 and accused him of sexually harassing her. The ruling said Alsheich hadn’t given sufficient weight to Ritman’s sexist, chauvinist comments, “which have no place” in a superior-subordinate relationship.
But Alsheich has dragged his feet on carrying out the court’s ruling, leading the complainant to accuse him of contempt of court. The justices ordered him to respond to that charge by Thursday.
Ritman’s decision to leave the post voluntarily will enable the state to argue that the petition is now moot. But police sources said on Tuesday that Alscheich may still consider additional steps against Ritman.
The complainant’s attorney, Hai Bar-El, said that the decision is mere spin and violates the court’s ruling, because it includes no additional steps against Ritman. Moreover, he said, Ritman’s four-year term in the post was due to end soon anyway.
Ritman’s associates said he is “an officer and a gentleman” who decided to resign his post to spare Alsheich the need to continue dealing with the issue.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that in light of the court’s ruling, Ritman did the right thing by requesting to quit Lahav 433. He added that “additional decisions” on his case would be made soon.