Netanyahu: Police chief's allegations 'shocking' and 'false'

PM proclaims innocence as police said ‘unanimous’ on proposing bribery charges

Police chief claims private investigators, backed by ‘powerful figures,’ are gathering info on his investigators ahead of indictment recommendations in Netanyahu cases

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)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday hit back at news reports signaling police will soon recommend he be indicted on corruption charges, asserting that while investigators will endorse charges against him, the legal authorities will ultimately conclude that “there is nothing.”

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 now been held.

In response to the reports, Netanyahu published a video message on his Facebook page late Wednesday, acknowledging there would be likely be recommendations for indictment, while noting that police recommendations are often dropped by prosecutors.

“I want to calm you: there will be nothing, because I know the truth,” said Netanyahu. “The law says the person qualified to determine whether there is evidence against the prime minister is the attorney general, and he discusses the matter with the state attorney. The state attorney recently said in the Knesset that about half of police recommendations end with nothing.”

“So rest assured,” he added. “There will be recommendations, there will also be signs saying ‘Bibi is guilty until proven otherwise,’ and there will be improper pressure, too. But I’m sure that at the end of the day the legal authorities will arrive at one conclusion, at the simple truth: there is nothing.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks during a ceremony in Jerusalem, October 26, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

During Wednesday’s high-level police discussion, headed by Commissioner Roni Alsheich, a document was presented stipulating that there is sufficient evidence to charge the prime minister for receiving bribes, fraud, and breach of trust in the so-called Case 1000, Hadashot reported.

In Case 2000, the situation is less clear-cut, the report added, with police undecided between recommending an indictment on fraud and breach of trust charges, and recommending that the attorney general’s office make the decision.

Police have also established a team of investigators whose job is to try and find error and “holes” in the cases against Netanyahu, Channel 10 and Ynet reported.

Police chief Alsheich gave a rare interview on the case on Wednesday, rebuffing Netanyahu’s claim that most police recommendations are eventually trashed as “untrue.”

Alsheich was asked on Hadashot’s investigations program “Uvda” about Netanyahu’s recent attacks on the police, and said: “I think it is sad for all of us. I said right away that we aren’t commenting. Sometimes it’s hard to shut your mouth, but I would’ve done damage.”

“It’s quite clear that there has been a change of attitude,” said Alsheich, who initially was reported to have a good relationship with Netanyahu. “I’m not judging him for it. It’s natural. Being investigated is a very hard and unpleasant situation. I must make the decision in the end.”

Alsheich further claimed that “powerful figures” had hired private investigators to collect information about the police investigators in the Netanyahu cases, apparently to personally discredit them once the recommendations emerged.

He said Netanyahu vowed to appoint him as Shin Bet chief at the end of his police stint if Netanyahu remains prime minister. Alsheich formerly served as deputy director of the domestic security agency.

In response, Netanyahu on Wednesday evening said it was “shocking” that Alsheich would double down on the “false and outrageous suggestion that the prime minister has sent private investigators against the police officers who are investigating him.”

Alsheich’s insinuation is “so grave” that it warrants its own “objective investigation” on the police handling of the cases, added Netanyahu.

Once the recommendations are filed, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit must decide whether an indictment is warranted.

The investigations into Netanyahu have continued for over a year. In the 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.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

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