Will Israel's New Police Chief Make Sara Netanyahu Come Clean?

When Roni Alsheich becomes the next police commissioner, how he deals with Israel’s royal couple will help determine his time in office.

Sara Netanyahu and her husband, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 2015.
Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Sara Netanyahu loves cleanliness. She doesn’t just love it, she’s sensitive to it. Very sensitive. “My thing about removing the stickers has to do with organization and aesthetics,” she told detectives from the Israel Police national fraud unit in 1999, by way of explaining why she had scratched labels from gifts that were identified as government property.

“I’d remove the labels with my fingers, the way I do with stickers on glasses or bottles of wine,” she explained. “It bothered me, it didn’t look right. If it was different from the texture and if it stood out, I removed it. Whatever didn’t come off by peeling, I’d remove with my fingernails.

“I clean everything that will touch me,” she continued. “I’m uncomfortable talking about my traits, that I love to remove stickers. I can’t stand stickers of any kind, on any kind of thing, and I can’t stand all sorts of things that are dirty or that are out of place. I love to rub anything that looks dirty or unaesthetic. I know that to many people it’s unusual. I had demands that, in my opinion, were reasonable, and maybe to others were unreasonable.”

The wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave this self-character reference to detectives who suspected her of several offenses, including theft and fraud.

“There was absolutely no intention to steal,” the suspect said, “first of all because I don’t tolerate theft. It was never my practice and I never do it.”

After acquitting herself, she turned to convicting the investigators.

“You have such chutzpah ... your prying really annoys me,” she complained. “It’s a witch hunt, all for one purpose – to pick on the personal life of Sara Netanyahu. Do you even understand what it is to be prime minister? You talk only about payment. Does someone think he received payment for all the time he put in for the state?”

The police recommended prosecuting her, her husband and Ezra Saidoff, deputy director general of operations in the Prime Minister’s Office. But then-Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, in his great mercy, closed the investigation of Mr. and Mrs. Netanyahu, settling for denouncing the affair as “ugly.”

Sixteen years on, the police are once again looking into allegations of criminal offenses in the office and homes of the prime minister. The brazen, prying investigation has already reached Sara’s closest inner circle. Among the key witnesses who may tell investigators, and not only their own friends, what they saw and heard – if the Israel Police can finally manage to find the top brass to insist that no one is immune from the duty to report criminal behavior – are members of the Shin Bet security service.

The appointment of the next police commissioner is part of this terrible threat to the serenity of the Netanyahus. Roni Alsheich, who will step into the top job as soon as his broken leg heals, is considered by one and all to be bright, seasoned and good at drawing conclusions.

In his time in the top ranks of the Shin Bet, he surely learned that personal loyalty is the number one prerequisite in the Netanyahu regime, and that a political appointment is not always keen for an investigation to mature into a prosecution. See, for example, the triple murder in Duma last summer. (Maybe they’re waiting for the French intelligence services to crack the case, in exchange for Israeli assistance against Islamic State.)

The Shin Bet is no better than the police. Both organizations have been accused in commissions of inquiry and in state comptroller’s reports of habitual lying, covering up and covering for each other.

Alsheich knows from whence he came, and more or less where he is going, too. Preferential treatment of Netanyahu and his wife is a mass grave for the reputations of law enforcement personnel.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and district attorneys offices committed professional suicide defending people who were not worth the sacrifice they made. Alsheich’s first test will be to thwart the attempt to associate him with the group that has extended immunity from prosecution to the royal couple. If he doesn’t nip that in the bud immediately, his uniform shirt will carry a secret sticker that cannot be scratched off.