We Won't Open an Investigation Into Every ultra-Orthodox Teacher Who Slaps a Student, Israeli Police Chief Says

Roni Alsheich says there is evidence against Sara Netanyahu in some of the investigations against her, but public interest doesn’t make it compulsory to indict her

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich.
Rami Shllush

“The police won’t act against an ultra-Orthodox teacher who slaps a student, or take steps against unlicensed businesses in Umm al-Fahm – that’s being petty,” Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said recently in an interview to an ultra-Orthodox magazine.

“We won’t enforce [the law against] a slap because it’s customary at school. It’s like it’s wrong to enforce business licensing on Umm al Fahm’s main street, because it’s petty compared to other things,” Alsheich told Mishpacha (Family) magazine.

“People get killed there from dune buggies, and you’re asking me about business licenses,” he said.

Referring to teachers’ customary use of corporal punishment in Haredi schools, Alsheich said: “There’s the dry law that says from the moment the police know of a felony, it’s enough to open an investigation without a complaint. Sometimes ultra-Orthodox people film sexual harassment and put it online so that the police can deal with it without their having to testify, and that’s legitimate and we take care [of it].” But the police won’t act according to the letter of the law when it comes to a slap, he said.

However, the police won’t ignore the offenses completely. “I won’t write a report for [someone] not wearing a seat belt in Umm al-Fahm because it’ll get me nowhere, but I will rebuke him. It’s a matter of sensitivity. The police are authorized to enforce the law but they’re not obliged to, so we’re tolerant. If we see a major problem troubling society, we’ll take care of it. It’s obvious that a Haredi mother who sends her boy to school doesn’t expect him to be abused. She won’t have his fingers broken, or have him humiliated. ... I’m not referring to secular people’s idea of abuse. In such a case we won’t wait for someone to complain,” he said.

Alsheich said the police are involved in only a “minimal” part of the investigation into corruption allegations against Interior Minister Arye Dery, adding that the Israel Tax Authority is looking into most of them.

He said that while there is evidence supporting the suspicions against the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, in some of the investigations against her, public interest doesn’t make it compulsory to indict her.

“There’s evidence in this case, but should we indict? The attorney general can say that he doesn’t want to do it, that’s a humane decision and it’s legitimate,” he said. “However, the chances of the evidence being refuted are close to zero. Can public interest remove some of the things? Certainly, and the police shouldn’t be frustrated if that happens.”

Alsheich conceded that the investigation into allegations that the prime minister and his family received lavish gifts is taking longer than expected. “We thought it would end quickly. At first we didn’t see the interest of those who gave the gifts. As more suspicions regarding their interest came to light, the investigation’s complexity and duration grew.”

The police commissioner also said that he had “no intention or interest of entering the political world. It’s far from me. It doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t see myself there.”