Netanyahu said to hold talks with senior cop beyond police chief’s back

Netanyahu said to hold talks with senior cop beyond police chief’s back

Reports describe feuding between Yoram Halevi and Roni Alscheich amid rumors over the latter’s future as head of the force

File: Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich (2nd-L) and Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi (2nd-R) seen during a briefing at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, on June 18, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
File: Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich (2nd-L) and Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi (2nd-R) seen during a briefing at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, on June 18, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly held secret talks with Jerusalem’s police chief behind Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich’s back, further fueling speculation Alsheich will not stay on the job another year.

According to Hebrew media reports Thursday, Netanyahu held talks with Yoram Halevi through a mediator and also met with him on a number of occasions, unbeknownst to Alsheich and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, whose ministry oversees the police.

Halevi is considered a top candidate to succeed Alsheich, who reports have said may not receive a customary fourth year when his three-year term ends in December.

Alsheich was said to have been angered by Halevi’s contacts with Netanyahu and the mediator, whom Hadashot TV news said was a political figure, and demanded that he end them.

“I won’t allow anyone to give orders that aren’t through the Israel Police,” the Haaretz daily quoted Alsheich as telling associates.

Both Netanyahu and Halevi denied the allegations.

Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi speaks to the press at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police sources quoted by Hadashot said Halevi’s associates believe Alsheich is trying to scuttle his candidacy and secure a fourth year on the job.

“Alsheich is carrying out a targeted assassination in order to portray [Halevi] as Netanyahu’s stooge,” the sources were quoted as saying, with the report noting claims that Netanyahu would support Halevi for the top job in exchange for going easy on the premier in a series of corruption investigations against him.

Police denied a rift between the two commanders.

“The Israel Police rejects the claims regarding conflicts or any other statements regarding the nature of the ties among senior police officers… We are again witnessing disinformation supposedly from the police commissioner or his ‘associates,'” police said.

Thursday’s reports came amid tensions between Netanyahu and Alsheich, whom the premier has accused of information to the press and of conducting a “witch hunt” against him.

With rumors swirling about his future, Alsheich was quoted last month as saying he will not compromise on his values to hold onto the job.

Alsheich’s current term is due to end on December 3. By that time, it is expected that police will have finalized their conclusions to the state prosecution on all the cases involving Netanyahu, so if Alsheich leaves, it will have no impact on the outcome of the investigation. In February, police recommended Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in relation to Cases 1000 and 2000.

In March, Netanyahu said that law enforcement officials were being pressured to pursue criminal investigations against him that have no basis, saying they were carrying out a “witch hunt” against him.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a ceremony welcoming Alsheich to the job, at Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on December 3, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, amounting to some NIS 1 million ($282,000) worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer, in return for certain benefits.

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 take steps to weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu has also been questioned in Case 4000, which involves suspicions he advanced regulations benefiting Bezeq telecom’s owner, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for flattering coverage from Bezeq’s Walla news site.

Case 3000 involves suspected corruption in the multi-billion-shekel purchase of submarines and other naval vessels from a German shipbuilder. The investigation has focused on suspicions that state officials were bribed to influence a decision to purchase four patrol boats and three Dolphin-class submarines costing a total of 2 billion euros from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition to the deal from the Defense Ministry.

Police have clarified repeatedly that Netanyahu is not a suspect in Case 3000, but several people close to the prime minister are.

Netanyahu and his family have denied any wrongdoing in all of the cases.

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