A controversial media adviser to the Israel Police has stepped down amid allegations leveled against him by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of bias and attempts to sway corruption investigations against the premier.
A police spokesperson said that Lior Horev “asked to remove himself from the list of advisers from the Goldfinger Media firm providing services to the Israel Police.”
“The head of the police media department approved the request and thanked him for his enormous contribution to the police in a range of fields he dealt with,” the statement added, which was also tweeted from Horev’s personal Twitter account.
Horev is a veteran political operative who, with his Goldfinger Media firm, has served as an adviser to a number of high-profile politicians, including Netanyahu ally-turned-rival-turned-coalition-partner Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon during the 2015 elections.
Horev was hired by the police as a media adviser in March 2016, a few months after Roni Alsheich was appointed commissioner, to the tune of NIS 800,000 ($228,000) a year. Despite public outcry at the high salary, including a hearing on the appointment in the Knesset’s Interior Affairs Committee, Horev’s contract was extended by a further three years this March.
Horev was targeted by Netanyahu in a scathing and unprecedented Facebook post last month criticizing the police for what he called “illegal leaks” from two ongoing investigations he is currently a criminal suspect in.
“When Alsheich assumed his post, he made two important decisions: that there would be no more leaks in the investigations and there would be no more police recommendations [for indictment],” Netanyahu said in the post which was published hours after reports that police were planning on stepping up the probes.
“Since Lior Horev was appointed to be the police’s external political adviser at the cost of millions [of shekels] of taxpayer money and without a public tender for the position, the illegal leaks have become a tsunami, and the decision to avoid recommendations [for indictment] disappeared as a result,” Netanyahu wrote.
Horev alleged that the prime minister was looking for a fight. “Netanyahu’s claims are absurd. He is trying to draw to police into a personal battle,” he said at the time.
Netanyahu is facing two separate criminal investigations, known as Case 1000 and Case 2000. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
Case 1000 revolves around alleged illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family by 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 “Noni” 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 is expect to face police investigators for a sixth time Sunday evening. Last week he was grilled by police for over four hours at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, his first questioning in the investigation since March.
Leaked suspicions, transcripts, witness testimonies and even photos provided to police by Netanyahu have frequently appeared in the Hebrew media since the investigations were opened in January.
Netanyahu, who has denied any wrongdoing, has increasingly lashed out at the media of late amid developments in the cases, accusing the press of playing up the investigations against him in order to end his premiership and devoting an inordinate amount of attention to the investigations.
After the prime minister’s initial claims, Horev became the target of several Likud Knesset members who accused him of leading a targeted campaign of leaks in an attempt to bring down the Likud-led government.
At a Knesset committee meeting two weeks ago, Netanyahu ally MK David Amsalem (Likud) called for Horev to be fired due to a series of tweets poking fun at lawmakers, including one referring to Amsalem as “Dudi Du,” an Israeli children’s television character which is a portly and clumsy bear. At that committee meeting Amsalem presented an opinion of the Ministry for Public Security’s comptroller saying that such tweets could constitute a breach of Horev’s contract.
Responding to his resignation Sunday, Amsalem said he was happy that the authorities have understood that they made a mistake” in using Horev as an adviser.
“Lior Horev should never have been hired by the police due to his political affiliations and his public opposition toward politicians and elected officials, which in itself is unprecedented under democratic rule,” Amsalem wrote in a statement.