The coalition whip on Monday lambasted former Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich, who oversaw the investigations that concluded in indictment recommendations for Benjamin Netanyahu, as “evil,” accusing the ex-top cop of trying to orchestrate a “coup” against the prime minister.
“I have not seen so much evil, cruelty and ingratitude packed into one person as [in the case of] Alsheich,” David Amsalem told Hadashot TV news.
He was responding to the police’s conclusion, published Sunday, that there was enough evidence to bring Netanyahu to trial on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust and fraudulently accepting benefits in the co-called Bezeq probe.
It was the third case in which police have recommended bribery charges against the prime minister. They also recommended that his wife, Sara, stand trial in the case, along with the owner of the Bezeq telecom company, his wife, and others.
The police recommendations were handed down on the final day of Alsheich’s tenure as police chief, prompting accusations from Netanyahu and Likud officials that the timing of their publication was carefully planned.
In a statement Sunday responding to the latest recommendations, Netanyahu’s office said they “don’t surprise anyone, nor does the transparent timing of their publication.”
“The witch-hunt against us continues,” Netanyahu told a crowd of Likud supporters later that day in a blistering speech at the party’s official Hanukkah lighting ceremony in Tel Aviv. The investigation, he claimed, was biased and “skewed from the start… A year ago, before even opening the investigations,” he charged of the police, “they decided what the outcome would be and leaked their conclusions.”
“This is persecution by the Israel Police; this is a real coup,” Amsalem said Monday, joining a long list of Netanyahu loyalists in the Likud party who have slammed Alsheich’s handling of the criminal investigations into the prime minister.
Pressed as to why Netanyahu had the right to complain of bias given that he had appointed the police chief, Amsalem responded, “Not everyone you appoint turns out to be a decent and honest man and that’s what happened to us with Alsheich.”
Earlier this year, police recommended that Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two other corruption cases, designated 1000 and 2000. The following month, Netanyahu said that law enforcement officials were being pressured to pursue criminal investigations against him. He has since railed at Alsheich, accusing him of leaking information to the press and of conducting a “witch hunt” against him and his family.
Regarding the Bezeq case, also known as Case 4000, in which police on Sunday recommended Netanyahu face charges, Amsalem also said the prime minister was “pinching [himself] to believe that this is a democratic state.”
Investigators concluded that the prime minister advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm — despite opposition from the Communication Ministry’s career officials — in exchange for positive coverage of him from Elovitch’s Walla news site. At the time, the prime minister was also serving as acting communications minister.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said that “Netanyahu has to go before he destroys law enforcement bodies to save his own skin. The Israeli nation deserves clean leadership.”
Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid called on the ruling Likud party to remove Netanyahu from his position until new elections could be held.
“This is a sad day, sad for all Israeli citizens… as well as for all those who have known Netanyahu for dozens of years like myself and others, and saw the process of corruption caused by too many years in power,” he said in a Sunday statement.
Netanyahu’s Likud hit back at the opposition leaders Monday in a statement.
“The last people that should be preaching morality are Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni,” the ruling faction said. “The first of them met secretly dozens of times with (Yedioth Ahronoth publisher) Noni Mozes and tried to hide it, and the second promoted the law to close the Israel Hayom daily using a legal opinion submitted by Noni Mozes. How are they not ashamed?”
Likud officials have regularly claimed that Lapid, a former journalist for Yedioth, held numerous meetings with his former publisher, Mozes, before and during his term as finance minister from 2012 to 2014. The claim appears to have emanated from near-daily early-morning engagements on the Yesh Atid leader’s daily schedule that the party blacked out when releasing the diary to the public.
Party officials, however, have told The Times of Israel that the redacted entries were merely workout sessions that were seen as private and therefore irrelevant to the then-minister’s public activity. It is a “ridiculous lie” to claim that Lapid met nearly every morning with Mozes, they said.
While Livni voted in favor of legislation that sought to shut down the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom, evidence that Mozes himself wrote the bill that she went on to promote has not been produced.
Mozes was investigated by police in Case 2000, which examined an alleged clandestine quid-pro-quo deal he discussed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which the Israeli leader was said to have promised Mozes he would hobble Yedioth’s main commercial rival, the freebie Israel Hayom, in exchange for friendlier coverage from Yedioth.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.