Police chief says he wants to stay on for a fourth year
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Police chief says he wants to stay on for a fourth year

Amid rumors over his future on the force, Roni Alsheich says three years not enough time to effect real change

Israeli chief of police Roni Alsheich arrives at the official opening ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli chief of police Roni Alsheich arrives at the official opening ceremony of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Addressing reports that his term may not be extended by a fourth year, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said Wednesday that the basic three-year tenure was not enough time to introduce real changes to the force.

“If they ask me to remain for another year, I will consider it,” Alsheich said at a conference at Tel Aviv University. “I assume the answer will be yes, because I love the organization with my soul.”

Alsheich’s three-year term ends in December, but there have been rumors that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan are not planning on giving him the customary fourth year on the job.

For months, Netanyahu, who is under investigation in three separate cases, has railed at Alsheich, accusing him of leaking information to the press and of conducting a “witch hunt.”

The police chief told the Tel Aviv audience that recently he has been meeting with Netanyahu less frequently than at the beginning of his term. “For cabinet and government discussions, whenever they invite me, I come,” he said. “I am invited less often nowadays.”

Eran, responding on Thursday, rejected Alsheich’s comments

“I don’t think a police chief should conduct this dialogue with the government through public conferences and media outlets,” he told Army Radio. “The right place to do it is through conversation with us.”

Alsheich’s comments came a day after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit hinted that Netanyahu could be barred from selecting the next police chief due to a conflict of interest.

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)

Further fueling speculation that Alsheich will not be allowed to stay on for another year were reports last week that Netanyahu had held secret talks with Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi behind the commissioner’s back.

Reportedly, Netanyahu contacted Halevi — considered a top candidate for commissioner — through a mediator and also met with him on a number of occasions, unbeknownst to Alsheich and Erdan.

Netanyahu and Halevi denied the reports.

With rumors swirling about his future, Alsheich was quoted last month as saying he would not compromise on his values to hold on to 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 the various cases involving Netanyahu, such that Alscheich’s departure would have no impact on the outcome of the investigations.

In February, police recommended Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two cases, designated 1000 and 2000. The following month, Netanyahu said that law enforcement officials were being pressured to pursue criminal investigations 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 worth some NIS 1 million ($282,000) from 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.

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

Eliezer Goldberg, former Israeli Supreme Court judge and current ombudsman for judges, speaks at a press conference at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on February 19, 2013. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Meanwhile Wednesday, Walla news reported that retired High Court justice Eliezer Goldberg, 87, who also formerly served as state comptroller, will head the committee that approves senior state appointments, including for police commissioner.

The panel is also responsible for approving IDF chiefs of staff, the heads of the Shin Bet security service and Mossad, and the governors of the Bank of Israel, among others.

Goldberg’s appointment is expected to be officially appointed by the government on Sunday. The position has been vacant since 2016.

Extending a term of duty does not require the approval of the committee.

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