Powerful people have been gathering information about police investigators involved in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cases, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said in an interview broadcast Wednesday.
Netanyahu responded in a late-night Facebook post, calling the claims "ludicrous" and saying the police chief's comments "cast a shadow" over the investigation which may lead to calls to indict the prime minister as early as next week.
Alsheich also said Netanyahu had promised that if he remains prime minister, he will someday appoint Alsheich to head the Shin Bet security service.
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“I said there is pressure on people involved in the investigation, that people who are sniffing around are circulating among the investigators ... to gather information about these officers,” Alsheich said the interview, which aired on Israel's investigative news show “Uvda.”
“This means they’re beginning to ask questions about police investigators and circulating among their neighbors, and we know these are people for whom this is their profession,” he said.
He termed the people behind these private investigators “powerful,” adding, that “ultimately, we know who these people are. Apparently, someone needs to pay them, and therefore, this disturbs us greatly.”
Asked by interviewer Ilana Dayan whether Maj. Gen. Roni Ritman – the head of the police’s Lahav 433 unit, which includes the fraud squad, and recent asked to step down amid sexual harassment allegations – was one of the officers about whom information was being sought, he responded: “Actually, it’s more about others.” But when asked if the targets were investigators involved in Netanyahu’s cases, he responded in the affirmative.
Netanyahu responded to the report that he his "horrified that the police chief is repeating ludicrous and false innuendoes as if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent private investigators against police officers investigating him," a statement posted to his Facebook page said late Wednesday. "It is horrible that he repeated before journalists Rittman's false and ludicrous idea, as if the prime minister was somehow involved in orchestrating sexual harassment complaints against Rittman," the statement said, going on to question whether an officer facing such allegations should be allowed to play a role in the investigations.
"Every decent Israeli will ask themselves whether people who say such ludicrous things can continue to investigate the prime minister objectively and give recommendations [for indictments] in an honest manner. A big shadow has fallen over the police investigations against the prime minister," the statement said, demanding the police chief's claims be investigated.
Asked why the police aren’t investigating this information gathering operation, Alsheich responded during the interview, “It doesn’t always serve our main investigation, at the moment. Therefore, there are sometimes situations in which it’s not convenient for us to open an investigation about something, so as not to disrupt or pollute another investigation.”
Asked whether Netanyahu’s promise to appoint him Shin Bet chief didn’t give him an incentive “to make sure the prime minister remains the prime minister,” Alsheich said that at the time the promise was given, “I, in my naivete, thought it was acceptable,” given that he had always wanted to head the Shin Bet, but Netanyahu had begged him to take the police commissioner’s job instead due to a lack of other suitable candidates. But once he accepted the commissioner’s job, Alsheich continued, “I understood that at that moment, I had to shake off all promises,” whether or not the person making them intended to keep them.
On Thursday, Alsheich and senior officers from the police’s investigations department will meet to sum up the ongoing probes against Netanyahu. The participants will include the outgoing head of the investigations department, Maj. Gen. Meni Yitzhaki, who was directly responsible for these probes; the department’s incoming head, Maj. Gen. Gadi Siso; and the head of the fraud squad, Coresh Barnoor.
Next week, police are expected to send their recommendations in these cases to the prosecution and make a public announcement about whether they found enough evidence to indict Netanyahu. The announcement is expected by next Tuesday.