Netanyahu launches fresh attack on cops investigating him

Netanyahu launches fresh attack on cops investigating him

Prime minister says head of the anti-corruption unit should have recused himself from the probe

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday launched a fresh attack on police officers investigating him, saying a top cop should have withdrawn from the corruption probes.

Writing on Facebook, Netanyahu said the outgoing head of the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit, Maj. Gen. Roni Rittman, should have recused himself from the investigation into his alleged corruption after leaked emails suggested law enforcement suspected the prime minister was surreptitiously working to thwart the criminal investigations.

“When the police believe such outlandish and false claims that the prime minister is working against them personally and sent investigators against them, how can they investigate him and file recommendations in an objective way?” Netanyahu wrote. “And we were amazed to discover that is exactly what happened.”

Netanyahu pointed to a leaked letter sent by Rittman’s lawyer to the Attorney General suggesting that a female police officer who had accused him of sexual assault was doing so to try and bring down Rittman.

“At that moment, Rittman should have recused himself from the prime minister’s investigations,” he wrote.

Hadashot news noted that the leaked letter was sent several months before the Netanyahu investigations had even started.

With police reportedly preparing to publish in their conclusions from the graft investigations a recommendation that Netanyahu be indicted, the prime minister stressed that Lahav investigators, including Rittman, could not be objective if they were biased against him.

Rittman had faced allegations of sexual harassment in 2015, dating back to 2011. No indictment was ever filed against Rittman due to “evidentiary issues.” However, months ago the High Court of Justice slammed his role as head of the unit.

Netanyahu had lashed out at police twice earlier this week over the handling of the two ongoing criminal investigations into his alleged corruption.

This was sparked by an interview given by Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich in which he said that officers investigating Netanyahu had been followed and put under pressure.

On Thursday Hebrew-language media quoted a police source as saying that a “Europe-based figure with close ties to Netanyahu” was behind the attempts to collect information on the officers. They offered no further clues to the identity of the person.

Hadashot news expanded on this Friday, describing him as being based in London and said most of the attempts to collect information were done from London in cyberspace. The report said Netanyahu had some past ties to the person, but there was no evidence to suggest Netanyahu was in anyway connected to, or knew at all, of these attempts.

In a rare interview on the cases to Hadashot news’s investigative program “Uvda,” Alsheich claimed that “powerful figures” had hired private investigators to collect information about the police investigators in the Netanyahu cases, apparently to personally discredit them should they recommend indictments.

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)

On Tuesday, a report by Hadashot TV said police are set to recommend pressing bribery charges against Netanyahu next week. Hebrew-language media reported the following day that senior police officials are in unanimous agreement on the matter, and that a “final” discussion on the investigation had been held. Once the recommendations are filed, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit must decide whether an indictment is warranted.

Netanyahu is being investigated in two corruption cases.

In so-called Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

The prime minister denies any wrongdoing.

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