Likud-led Knesset panel summons police chief for hearing on PM probes

MK says Roni Alsheich will face parliamentary body to ‘examine the behavior of the police in the investigations of the prime minister’

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh (L) and Likud MK Yoav Kisch at the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee, February 5, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh (L) and Likud MK Yoav Kisch at the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee, February 5, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

As the political temperatures rose Tuesday ahead of an expected police recommendation to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for fraud, a member of the governing Likud party summoned Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich to appear at an emergency Knesset hearing on Wednesday.

MK Yoav Kisch announced that the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee, which he heads, has called for the emergency session to “examine the behavior of the police in the investigations of the prime minister.”

The move comes amid criticism of law enforcement officials from Likud MKs following an interview with Alsheich last week in which he claimed that “powerful figures” had hired private investigators to collect information about the police investigators in the corruption cases, apparently to personally discredit them should they recommend indictments.

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich attends a committee meeting at the Knesset on July 11, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu associates were reportedly involved in efforts to gather information on investigators looking into two corruption probes of the prime minister, dubbed “Case 1000” and “Case 2000.” The former involves allegations that the Netanyahu family received expensive gifts from billionaire benefactors that allegedly may have amounted to bribes. The latter is an investigation into an alleged quid pro quo agreement between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes in which the prime minister allegedly promised to weaken rival daily Israel Hayom in exchange for more positive coverage in Yedioth.

Netanyahu has said that the “ridiculous” allegations of interference prove that police are biased against him and cannot be trusted to carry out a fair investigation. The prime minister’s call for the Alsheikh claims to be “investigated immediately, independently and objectively,” was apparently the impetus for Kisch’s summons of the police chief.

Opposition chief whip MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) said the planned hearing was aimed at “threatening the police commissioner and those surrounding him,” calling Kisch “a strawman directed by the prime minister.”

He called on Alsheich, who is not legally obligated to attend as the committee has no subpoena power, to turn down Kisch’s summons.

In response, Kisch said he was simple “fulfilling my parliamentary duty to oversee the work of the police,” and accusing the opposition of shirking that responsibility.

According to Hadashot news, police were set to hand over their indictment recommendations in the Netanyahu cases to prosecutors by Tuesday evening or Wednesday at the latest.

Kisch’s move is the latest in a series of efforts by Likud lawmakers and supporters to pressure police and even prevent them from publishing indictment recommendations against the prime minister.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset on February 12, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by right-wing attorney Yossi Fuchs seeking to block police from recommending charges.

In December, the Knesset passed a law that prevents police, upon wrapping up their investigations and handing over the files to prosecutors, from commenting on whether there is an evidentiary basis for indictment. The legislation applies only to probes of public officials and other high-profile cases, but not retroactively, meaning that it does not cover the Netanyahu investigations.

Latest reports suggest that police are set to present their recommendations to the attorney general, who decides whether to charge a prime minister, within the next two days.

Speaking to The Times of Israel on Tuesday, a police spokesperson would not confirm or deny the reports.

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