Cops and slobberers
Hebrew media review

Cops and slobberers

Netanyahu may or may not be on the police sonar in the submarine case, but one columnist says the media is drooling to see him indicted

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh at an inauguration ceremony marking the opening of a new police station in the northern Arab town of Jisr az-Zarqa. November 21, 2017. (Basel Awidat/ Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh at an inauguration ceremony marking the opening of a new police station in the northern Arab town of Jisr az-Zarqa. November 21, 2017. (Basel Awidat/ Flash90)

In the US, the FBI may soon be under attack thanks to a GOP memo detailing possible biases in the Russia investigation, while the police are still feted by Donald Trump and his administration as defenders of the MAGA way of life.

In Israel, though, it’s the police who are facing the wrath of the government amid a possibly widening series of investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as evidenced by Wednesday morning’s front pages.

While Yedioth Ahronoth doubles down on its reporting that Netanyahu will be called to testify in a case involving bribery suspicions over the purchase of German submarines, despite justice officials denying an earlier report on it, Haaretz focuses on the slap on the wrist given to the top cop in the anti-fraud unit investigating the prime minister and Israel Hayom defends Netanyahu by continuing the attack the cops and the press.

In the sub case, Yedioth reports that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is “expected to allow the police to summon Netanyahu to testify … already in the coming days,” as well as Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.

“A senior law enforcement official clarified yesterday that Netanyahu being summoned is the final note in the submarine probe. The testimony could turn into questioning under caution [as a possible suspect] if it seems the prime minister may incriminate himself,” the paper reports.

The paper notes much lower down the Justice Ministry denial that Netanyahu will be summoned in the case. Indeed, until now officials have made sure to note every chance they can that he is not a suspect in the case.

That type of deference of making sure people know someone is not a suspect isn’t normally afforded to most citizens, but it’s clear that police want to avoid any unnecessary friction with the government.

That may be why police chief Roni Alsheich finally made good on reprimanding fraud unit head Roni Rittman, accused of sexual misconduct.

While Haaretz, which plays up the story on its front page, doesn’t mention Rittman’s earlier claim that he is being hounded because of the probe into Netanyahu, it does make clear Alsheich’s reluctance to actually go through with punishing the other Roni.

“Yesterday, Alsheich met with Rittman and said he was forced to add a demerit to his personal record, and was doing it ‘with empathy and sadness,’” the paper reports, noting the anger of the victim over the fact that he didn’t get a worse punishment.

But Haaretz notes that while Alsheich and Rittman plan to simply move him over to head the traffic cop unit, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan has other ideas.

Head of the Lahav 433 police anti-corruption unit Roni Rittman, arrives at the Police Investigation Department, Jerusalem, December, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Haaretz has learned that Erdan does not intend to let him head a unit or district station, even if that’s what Alsheikh decides,” the paper reports. “According to assessments, Erdan plans to see Rittman out of the organization.”

The shellacking Alsheich spared for Rittman is served up in the pages of Netanyahu-friendly Israel Hayom, where the paper takes up the cause of the officer accusing Rittman of sexual misconduct, identified only by the letter tzadi.

“This is how the police treats a sexual harassment victim it doesn’t care about: Officer Tzadi, who complained about Rittman, is standing trial in the coming days in a police tribunal, with a bench of judges who, according to those close to her, may decide her fate in advance,” the paper reports.

If the government’s peevishness around the police is still mostly below the surface, its disregard for the media, or at least the non-friendly media, is still plenty overt, and Israel Hayom continues to pound away at the press over the publication of a tape of Sara Netanyahu screaming at a media adviser and over its coverage of the investigations into and surrounding Netanyahu, throwing the law enforcement community in there as well as victims of the media conspiracy.

“Keyboard jockeys clacking away in the service of the radical left put their hopes in the corruption investigation. Spittle and drool oozed out of their smooth lips in the hopes that the prime minister would be indicted in the submarine case,” cotton-mouthed columnist Haim Shine writes. “The presumption of innocence has been forgotten, human dignity is sunk and massive pressure is put on the police and police chief, who have fallen victim to the fake news media.

“Only a terrible person could think that Netanyahu would endanger the country’s security for the sake of money or to help his associates. Netanyahu haters, former defense officials [Ehud Barak] and politicians who graduated from the Bahamane army magazine [Yair Lapid] claim with wickedness and evil that the sub affair is treasonous to our homeland. When the sub case doesn’t bring the goods, they will go back to grinding on the cigars and champagne. But what to do, since every novice knows that even if it isn’t correct to take gifts, there’s a long way from there to a criminal indictment.”

‘How can you tell Sara no?’

Shine also accuses the media of “slandering and inciting against” the Netanyahu family for publishing the tapes of Sara and an earlier recording of Yair Netanyahu outside a strip club, but in Haaretz’s op-ed page Chemi Shalev writes that a recording is definitely a legitimate news item “even if it is yellow and even if it does elicit discomfort in anyone who hears it.”

“This is doubly true when the said recording is not an isolated incident taken out of context but constitutes clear confirmation of repeated allegations made over the years about the improper attitude of the prime minister’s family towards their home, their domestic help and, in the case, of Yair, their state-funded security guards,” he writes. “The scandal is compounded by the fact that in addition to catering to Israel’s self-anointed First Lady’s Marie Antoinette-like whims, Netanyahu and his helpers also have to make inordinate efforts to hide them from the public. They do this at the expense of the time, money and working hours that are supposed to be dedicated to furthering the interests of the state, not the prime minister’s spouse.”

In Yedioth, Sara Netanyahu’s whims are reported as the defense used by house manager Ezra Saidoff, who is being investigated over suspicions of fraud in spending over personal chefs and an electrician at the Prime Minister’s residence.

“I approached restaurants and ordered personal chefs on the orders of Sara Netanyahu. How can you tell Sara no?” Saidoff is quoted telling investigators.

The Netanyahus’ love of finer things may one day bring them to Rwanda, which according to Israel Hayom is the Switzerland of Africa, with everything an Eritrean being deported from Israel might ever want.

Women walk with fruit on their head in the Rwandan capital of Kigali on February 18, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

At least that’s what one learns from the paper’s lead story, a bald-faced puff piece that could have been written by the Rwanda tourism board, meant to push back against claims that being deported there could be dangerous.

“Kigali, the capital, is at the center of economic growth. The lively city center is covered with modern office buildings and hotels which are already standing or being built. Cafes, restaurants, shopping centers, movie theaters, stores, everything points to much momentum,” reporter Eldad Beck writes from there. “Security measures are seen and felt everywhere, but everyone I spoke to, local and foreign, swore that they feel absolutely safe.”

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