Israeli Police Chief Tells Lawmakers: Cops Pressured by Media, Not by Politicians

Document containing intelligence on politicians was only routine, it's purpose was 'exactly the opposite of the way it was presented in the media,' Commissioner Roni Alsheich tells Knesset panel.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich during a session of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee.
Emil Salman

Israel Police’s commissioner and investigations chief told a Knesset committee yesterday that an internal document containing intelligence information on politicians, which was leaked to the media, had been drawn up as part of “internal control procedures.”

“There’s no pressure on us from politicians, only from the media,” about the document, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich told the Interior Committee.

He hinted that the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police officers was looking into who had leaked it.

“This is a serious criminal violation and whoever leaked it wanted us to be sitting and discussing the issue here in the Knesset. I’m not prepared to support the leaking of classified material by a public servant, no matter what the purpose of the leak,” he said.

Investigations division chief Maj. Gen. Meni Yitzhaki echoed Alsheich’s remarks, adding that there was no one trying to spook the police and prevent it from investigating public figures.

What has been dubbed the “Yitzhaki document” contains information, including criminal suspicions, about MKs and ministers who served in the previous Knesset. It was revealed last month by Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker.

Alsheich said the purpose of the document was “exactly the opposite of the way it was presented in the media,” and that it had been drawn up in the event that “the police got substantial information that didn’t get immediately to the attorney general, because it’s a big organization.”

Deputy Attorney General Raz Nazri told the committee that the explanations that he and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit had gotten from the top police brass had satisfied them. “The night it was publicized, right after the broadcast, I spoke with the attorney general about [the document] and it bothered us a lot that we didn’t know of its existence,” Nizri said. He said the two of them met with Alsheich and Yitzhaki to get an explanation.

“We spent hours asking them tough questions about things that bothered us and since then we’ve met with them another two or three times,” he said. “Today I can say with certainty, and the attorney general has also made clear statements on the issue, that this document was indeed for Maj. Gen. Yitzhaki’s use as a control and there was no other intention for it as the MKs suspected.”

Alsheich added, “The job of the head of the investigations division is to make sure that if there is such information, that it is passed on immediately to the state prosecutor and the attorney general.” He was convinced, he said, “beyond any reasonable doubt that the document was meant for control purposes.”

Alsheich told the MKs that the police follow the instructions of the attorney general regarding what kind of information must be reported to him. “This document was drawn up to fulfill the attorney-general’s guidelines. If the document hadn’t been leaked, no one would be interested in the [police’s] internal control procedures.”

Yitzhaki added, “I asked to create this document. It was my idea and served me as a control.” When the MKs on the committee demanded to know why he didn’t share his findings with the attorney general, he continued to argue that the document was for his own purposes.

With regard to how the police deals with intelligence information it receives, Alsheich said, “If we understand that it’s garbage, our job is to stop this garbage and not make any use of it, otherwise every day everyone would be under investigation.”

He added, “Our job is to use our judgment. When substantial information arrives – not vague, something with meat, which we think needs checking, we can’t initiate the examination, we go with the information to the prosecution and the attorney general. These are the checks and balances that have been established.”

Alsheich and Yitzhaki had been invited to Interior Committee hearings twice in the past two weeks, but did not appear. The first time the commissioner informed the panel on the eve of the hearing that he wouldn’t be attending, and the second time, a week ago, he just didn’t show up. Alsheich told the committee that yesterday’s hearing “also wasn’t coordinated with us, but we changed our schedule and came.”

After the document was revealed, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein insisted that Alsheich explain it. After the two met, it was announced that the document had been given to Mendelblit to examine. Yesterday Edelstein contacted Mendelblit and asked him to finish his examination urgently, “to limit the damage being caused by the ongoing publicity about the list, which is being left hanging in the public and media arena with no clarifications or official comment by the competent authorities.”