Former Israel Police commissioner Roni Alsheich reportedly believes that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will announce his intention to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases before the April 9 elections.
Alsheich’s comments, reported by Hadashot TV news Tuesday, drew a swift and angry response from Netanyahu’s Likud party, which accused the former police chief of conducting “rigged” criminal investigations.
“Mandelblit crossed the Rubicon and won’t break,” Alsheich was quoted as saying in the report on Tuesday, as the attorney general mulled a request by the prime minister’s attorneys to delay his announcement on a possible indictment until after the national polls.
“I have no doubt the indictment against the prime minister will include charges of bribery,” Alsheich reportedly added.
Netanyahu is seeking for Mandelblit to delay announcing whether he intends to indict the prime minister on any of the charges, arguing that it will influence the vote and there will be no time for a requisite hearing before Israelis head to the polls April 9.
The Justice Ministry on Monday said Mandelblit will make a decision “in the coming days,” on Netanyahu’s request to delay the announcement of a possible indictment against him, following a three-hour meeting between state attorneys and the premier’s legal team.
Mandelblit is expected to reject the request and announce a decision sometime in February. Netanyahu has argued over the past two weeks that such a move would be akin to “stealing the elections.”
Reacting to the report, Likud accused Alsheich of pursuing an indictment “at any cost.”
“If it looks rigged, and sounds rigged, it’s because it is rigged,” the party said. “Roni Alsheich polluted the investigations against Prime Minister Netanyahu and turned it into a process whose outcome was known in advance.”
“During the investigations, and now as well, Alscheich continues to press with all of his might for an indictment, at any cost — even where there is nothing. Only the citizens of Israel will decide who will be the prime minister and lead the country, and the citizens of Israel will vote against the witch hunt,” the Likud party said.
Police recommended last year that Netanyahu be indicted for bribe-taking in all three cases. Alsehich’s term as police commissioner ended several months later after three years; he was not offered a customary fourth year in the job.
Netanyahu, under investigation in three cases, had made little secret of his dislike for Alsheich over the past two years, accusing him of leaking information to the press and of conducting a “witch hunt.”
According to Channel 13, which published similar leaks of Alsheich’s comments on Mandelblit, the former police chief, who is an observant Jew, also accused the prime minister of attempting to defame him in his Orthodox community.
“What they did to me, they’re doing now to the attorney general,” he was quoted as saying. “Slowly, in gatherings of religious Zionism, they are trying to stir up delegitimization. People were sent to me on behalf of Balfour [the street where Netanyahu’s official residence is] with a clear message — that I’m a traitor.”
Alsheich, who Netanyahu appointed police chief, said the public “didn’t buy it, it felt that my heart and my conscience are set on investigating the truth and [laying down] the law. They tried to burn me in the [religious Zionist] community, in synagogues, they tried to bring me down. But I developed the [thick] skin of an Alsheich, which is thicker than the hide of an elephant.”
Media reports last week said that Mandelblit had concluded his examination of the evidence in the most severe of the three cases against the prime minister, dubbed by police Case 4000, and is leaning toward pursuing an indictment on bribery charges.
Mandelblit has indicated that he would not delay an announcement of charges, saying that the fact that Israel is holding early elections “is none of my business… It’s not something that affects me.”
“I need to do my work as quickly as possible, although of course without compromising thoroughness and professionalism,” he said in a recent interview with Channel 12 news.
Netanyahu has vowed not to step down if Mandelblit announces that he intends to indict him, pending a hearing, in any of the cases against him, asserting that the law does not require him to do so.
In Case 4000, reportedly the most serious of three cases against Netanyahu, he is suspected of having advanced regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister from 2015 to 2017 that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.
Case 2000 involves a similar suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving benefits and gifts worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for assistance on various issues. Some reports have suggested that Mandelblit is leaning toward a charge of breach of trust in this case.
Netanyahu has stopped short of directly accusing the attorney general of political bias, but has attacked Mandelbit regarding an “unprecedented” brief interview the AG gave at the weekend to Hadashot TV news, and has complained that he has been prevented from confronting his accusers. Other lawmakers in his Likud party have lashed out directly at Mandelblit. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in the three corruption cases and has blamed the investigations against him on a”witch hunt” by the left, the media and the police, in turn relentlessly pressuring Mandelblit to prosecute him.