Top cop rips into ‘criminals’ who ‘damage public trust in police’
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Top cop rips into ‘criminals’ who ‘damage public trust in police’

In thinly veiled criticism of Netanyahu, Roni Alsheich complains of aspersions on officers’ professionalism, social media ‘manipulations’ of facts

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations annual mission in Jerusalem on February 20, 2018. (Avi Hayoun / Conference of Presidents)
Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations annual mission in Jerusalem on February 20, 2018. (Avi Hayoun / Conference of Presidents)

Amid Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s fierce criticism of police over their recommendation the he stand trial for corruption, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich on Tuesday admonished those who “damage public trust” in his organization and vehemently defended his officers from attacks on their integrity.

“The police needs the trust of the police and not only for the purpose of public relations,” he told the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations annual mission in Jerusalem. “When the public trust is damaged, fewer crimes are reported to the police, the public receives poor service and the crime rate, including street crime and violence, increases.”

Alsheich said that “criminals have always had an interest in damaging the public trust by promoting and maintaining a negative image of the police.

“For example,” he said in pointed comments apparently referring to Netanyahu, “during criminal proceedings, they try to create doubt as to the credibility of the police officer’s testimony and his professionalism.”

In response to a question, he also said, “Interrogating the prime minister or another minister is very sensitive; some people are for it, some are against it. We need to be not on the right side or the left side, but on the side of the law.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts to the Israel’s Police recommendation he be indicted for bribery in a pair of criminal investigations on February 13, 2018. (Screen capture: Facebook)

Last Tuesday, police recommended Netanyahu be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two criminal investigations — Case 1000 and Case 2000, as they are known — involving suspicions he accepted gifts and favors from wealthy businessmen in exchange for advancing their interests.

Netanyahu called the police recommendations “unfounded,” maintaining his innocence and saying he would lead Israel for years to come.

During his speech responding to the allegations, Netanyahu cast doubt on the objectivity of police investigators, alluding to Alsheich’s earlier assertion that private sleuths had tried to dig up dirt on officers investigating Netanyahu.

“It is impossible to escape from the impression that the [police recommendations] were influenced by the unfounded feelings of interrogators that I acted against him,” the prime minister said. The investigation simply could not have been “objective,” he claimed.

“Therefore it is no surprise that these are the recommendations,” Netanyahu added, alleging that they had been predetermined from the start of the probe.

Alcheich also appeared to challenge Netanyahu’s use of social media to criticize the police, a regular occurrence during the year-long investigations against him.

“In the age of the internet, the opportunities are endless. The ability to transmit information has become infinite. Every action that can be presented as a mistake by the police officer becomes a potential for a media campaign against the police,” the police commissioner said, adding that social media allows for “countless manipulations to be created.

“The police finds itself dealing with perceptional challenges that no other organization is exposed to,” he said.

Asked by The Times of Israel how he would respond to Netanyahu’s accusation that the cases against him are “full of holes, like Swiss cheese,” Alsheich declined to comment.

When he was handed a present by the Conference of Presidents in honor of his work, Alseich, in an apparent dig at Netanyahu, quipped, “Thank you, but in the police there are rules for receiving gifts so I will have to report it.”

In the first of the cases against him, Case 1000, police say, Netanyahu and his wife are alleged to have received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, totaling NIS 1 million ($282,000). In return, Netanyahu is alleged by police to have intervened on Milchan’s behalf in matters relating to legislation, business dealings, and visa arrangements.

The second, “Case 2000,” according to investigators, involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth 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 has also been linked indirectly to “Case 3000,” a large investigation into suspected corruption surrounding the multi-billion shekel purchase of naval vessels and submarines from a German shipbuilder. While Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect, close associates of his, including his personal aides, have been arrested or questioned.

And in new developments in a further case, named “Case 4000,” Netanyahu is said to be suspected of furthering a deal under which Shaul Elovitch, owner of the Walla news site and the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq communications company, swayed coverage of the prime minister and his family on Walla, in exchange for the Communications Ministry enacting policies potentially worth hundreds of millions of shekels for Elovitch.

According to police sources quoted by a range of Hebrew media sources, investigators already have significant proof of a quid pro quo deal involving Netanyahu, who was also acting communications minister at the time.

After his speech Tuesday to the Conference of Presidents, Alsheich proceeded to the Knesset, where he appeared before the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee. He was summoned by Likud lawmakers to respond to questions on the claim he had made in a TV interview that “powerful figures” had hired private investigators to collect information about the officers probing Netanyahu.

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