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Top cop: Sara Netanyahu graft case should have stayed under wraps

Alsheich says he fears criminal investigation into PM’s wife will be eclipsed by public debate, denies rift with A-G over wording of police announcement

Chief of Police Roni Alsheich at the welcoming ceremony held in his honor, at the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem, on December 03, 2015. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)
Chief of Police Roni Alsheich at the welcoming ceremony held in his honor, at the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem, on December 03, 2015. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

Israel’s Police Chief said Tuesday that a police recommendation for the State Prosecutor to bring graft charges against Sara Netanyahu should not have been publicized, and denied there was any rift with the attorney general over the matter.

Roni Alsheich said in a statement he opposed publicizing the Sunday police recommendation regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife out of fears a potential criminal investigation into the abuse allegations would be eclipsed by public debate.

The statement came after he met with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, amid reports the two had clashed over which details of the police investigation should be included in a press statement.

Alsheich said in the statement there was no bad blood between the two.

A statement released by police Sunday said that an investigation into the prime minister’s residences had been completed and its conclusions were handed over to the state prosecutor.

In a highly unusual move, however, the message did not include the name of the person under investigation or whether the police would recommend an indictment.

Media outlets soon learned that investigators had recommended that Sara Netanyahu be charged with fraud over three incidents of taking public money for personal use.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, tour Ramat Hanadiv, a nature park in northern Israel, April 25, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, tour Ramat Hanadiv, a nature park in northern Israel, April 25, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

According to the Haaretz daily, sources close to Mandelblit said the attorney general opposed the wording of the police announcement, and demanded it conform to the standard statement released at the end of police investigations and include Netanyahu’s name and the indictment recommendation.

Critics of the Netanyahus charged the police statement effectively sought to soften the political blow of the recommendation.

In the wake of the statement, the Netanyahu family released a statement pointing out that the police statement had not included any recommendation of criminal charges and denying any wrongdoing.

Speaking to Channel 10 News Tuesday, Netanyahu lawyer Jacob Weinrot accused the media of waging a campaign against Sara Netanyahu.

“This is already at the level of shaping hate against Mrs. Netanyahu,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Jerusalem Labor Court found Sara Netanyahu guilty of abusing her former employee, and ordered her to pay the plaintiff NIS 120,000 in damages.

Judge Dita Pruginin awarded the amount to Guy Eliyahu, a former maintenance worker who alleged he was subjected to humiliating treatment by Sara Netanyahu.

His claims included being asked to bring her food she requested, then being told he was making her gain weight.

Sara Netanyahu was also said to have called him back to the residence after midnight so he could heat a bowl of soup, as well as another night because he had not properly said goodnight.

One of her lawyers, Yossi Cohen, denied all of the accusations and said the Netanyahus planned to appeal the ruling.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on July 05, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Jerusalem on July 05, 2015. (Emil Salman/POOL)

“The real abusive treatment is that of Judge Proginin, who, as expected, again blatantly ignored the testimony of Mrs. Netanyahu,” Cohen said following the Tuesday hearing.

“The court case has been handled in a one-sided manner and Mrs. Netanyahu was not allowed to bring witnesses that would have discredited the false and deceitful claims of Guy Eliyahu. We intend to appeal this biased and unjust decision,” he added.

Separately this week, the Israel Police completed a probe into allegations Netanyahu and his wife used public funds for their private villa.

Police publicly gave no indication of the results of their investigation, though they reportedly recommended charges against Sara Netanyahu.

Last week, the Israeli state comptroller issued a critical report on Netanyahu’s foreign trips, some with his wife and children, in 2003-05 when he was finance minister.

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