Netanyahu calls for probe of anonymous police officer over critical comments

Netanyahu calls for probe of anonymous police officer over critical comments

Senior official accused of making ‘explicit threat’ to silence the premier after responding to his attacks on law enforcement and the judiciary

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, surrounded by Likud lawmakers, gives a televised statement before the start of his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court on May 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, surrounded by Likud lawmakers, gives a televised statement before the start of his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court on May 24, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday demanded an investigation into an anonymous senior police official who criticized his attacks on law enforcement and the judiciary, and claimed that the officer’s comments to the media were tantamount to threats.

The official, who spoke anonymously to Channel 12 news on Monday, defended the force against Netanyahu’s allegation that cops had conspired with others to fabricate the corruption cases that led to him being put on trial, saying the remarks were unfounded.

The officer further said that if another investigation is opened into Netanyahu regarding a share purchase linked to a major corruption scandal, the prime minister would not “be cut any slack.”

“There has never been a prime minister who tried so much to goad and to so blatantly harm the law enforcement system,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on trial at the District Court in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. (Amit Shabi/POOL)

In response, Netanyahu’s attorney Yossi Cohen wrote to the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department Wednesday demanding an investigation into the matter.

Failure to take action would “send a message to the public that it is open season on the prime minister,” Cohen wrote, adding that the officer’s statement was “an explicit threat designed…to silence the prime minister’s criticism of police corruption.”

“We demand that you immediately initiate a serious investigation to uncover who is behind [the statement] and prosecute him,” Cohen wrote.

Immediately prior to the start of his trial on Sunday, Netanyahu ripped into police and prosecutors, insinuating a broad conspiracy to bring him down and declaring that all his right-wing supporters were on trial along with him.

“Elements in the police and State Attorney’s Office banded together with left-wing journalists… to fabricate baseless cases against me,” he charged. “The goal is to oust a strong right-wing prime minister and to banish the right-wing camp from leadership of the country for many years.”

Attorney Yossi Cohen at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on May 11, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I’m not a poodle… and therefore they need to remove me by any means,” he said.

Netanyahu blasted the police who led the probes into him, saying officers made up claims that he had sent private sleuths to track investigators and that he had prompted a female officer to complain of sexual harassment against the head of the anti-corruption unit.

“These investigations were corrupted and fabricated from the start,” he said.

The premier claimed “the band of anyone-but-Bibi” sought to interfere in two of the three elections over the past year in a bid to hurt Likud at the polls. He pointed to the police recommendation that he be charged ahead of the April 2019 elections and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision to indict him before the latest elections in March.

“They did everything so I wouldn’t stand here today as prime minister,” he said.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit rejected those claims, issuing a statement on Sunday saying that “Israel is a state of laws.”

“We will continue to operate fearlessly, even in the face of the unfounded attempt to attribute to law enforcement ulterior considerations, an attempt that must be rejected in its entirety,” he said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that his Blue and White party will defend the rule of law and ensure that the country retains “a strong and independent judiciary,” in what appeared to be a mild critique of Netanyahu’s broadside against law enforcement and the judiciary.

On Tuesday, the great-granddaughter of Alfred Dreyfus, a French-Jewish officer who was accused of spying and sent into exile following an anti-Semitic show trial in the late 19th century, expressed outrage at the comparison some supporters of Netanyahu, including his son, have drawn between him and her great-grandfather.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, left, with President of Supreme Court Esther Hayut, at Bar Ilan University on March 4, 2020. (Flash90)

Earlier this month, Cohen, Netanyahu’s attorney, invoked the prosecution of Nazi war criminals following the end of World War II in criticizing the proceedings against his client.

“We are facing at least 20 prosecutors, the attorney general and an investigative power as if we’re talking about the crimes of the Nazis,” he complained to Supreme Court President Esther Hayut during a pre-trial hearing.

Netanyahu faces charges in three criminal cases: fraud and breach of trust in Cases 1000 and 2000, and bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000.

Case 1000 involves accusations that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan in exchange for favors.

Case 2000 involves accusations that Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Case 4000, widely seen as the most serious against the premier, involves accusations that Netanyahu advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, in exchange for positive coverage from its Walla news site.

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