'When Dealing With Criminals, There's Pushback,' Israel's Police Chief Says of Netanyahu Probe

Netanyahu supporters grill commissioner in Knesset ■ 'You're putting the police on trial,' opposition says during heated debate

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, left, and MK Yoav Kish, right, in the Knesset Interior Committee on Tuesday.
אוליבייה פיטוסי

Israeli lawmakers traded barbs Tuesday as coalition MKs grilled Israel's police chief during a special Knesset committee session dedicated to the criminal investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich attended the session of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, to which he had been summoned several days ago in wake of an interview he gave to Israeli television.  

Committee chair MK Yoav Kish (Likud) called the meeting to question the police’s actions. Opposition MKs attacked Kish for summoning Alsheich, while MK Miki Zohar (Likud) proposed to establish a state commission of inquiry to examine the force's actions “in investigating famous people and elected representatives,” accusing the police of a “worrying cooperation with the media.”

"What you're doing is putting the police on trial," opposition lawmaker Revital Sweid said, ripping into the organizers. Kish, a lawmaker from Netanyahu's Likud, fired back: "I reject these claims, I'm not trying to attack the police chief."

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, left, and MK Yoav Kish, right, in the Knesset Interior Committee on Tuesday.
אוליבייה פיטוסי

Alsheich rejected the accusations of coalition MKs concerning leaks from the police interrogation rooms, asserting that it is actually the suspects  who are passing on information among themselves by means the leaks to the media. The suspects are trying to play the media and often these leaks are inaccurate, the police chief added.

“Someone wanted to present the police leak because he wanted to defend himself before the public,” he said.

Alsheich added that the media wields no influence over Israel Police investigators or investigations. Concerning claims that powerful figures hired private investigators to follow and collect information on the police investigators and on prosecutors dealing with the Netanyahu graft cases, the commissioner said such charges were nothing new: He noted that he had addressed them a year ago – and that any such acts had stopped immediately.

In the committee session, Alscheich refused to comment on whether the police had investigated the claims, adding that the police do not provide updates on sensitive, confidential investigations.

“It is nothing new that when we deal with criminals there are counter-forces. This is how this world works,” said Alsheich.

Chairman Zohar removed four opposition MKs from the session early on for interfering with other speakers. They were allowed to return later, but meanwhile Zohar had removed two other opposition MKS.

MK Revital Swid (Zionist Union) attacked Kish, accusing the committee of conducting a kangaroo court against Alsheich.

Said Swid: “You are trying to intimidate the police, the law enforcement system, as part of the long, continuing campaign of delegitimization that you are conducting against the Israel Police, solely because they are leading investigations of the prime minister. You have made inappropriate use of your power here and that is wrong.”

The committee session wasoriginally scheduled to take place last week, the day after the police submitted their summary of the evidence against Netanyahu in two of the corruption cases against him: Case 1000, involving alleged receipt of cigars, champagne and lavish gifts, and Case 2000, the Yedioth Ahronoth quid-pro-quo affair.