politics

Netanyahu Questions Integrity of Police Probes Against Him

  • Police chief says private detectives have probed officers
  • Netanyahu calls for investigation of police chief’s claims

Benjamin Netanyahu

Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu questioned the integrity of police probing corruption allegations against him after the police commissioner said a “powerful” figure had hired private eyes to spy on officers handling the cases.

Commissioner Roni Alsheich made the accusations in a television interview as Netanyahu is being investigated on suspicions of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases. In one, Netanyahu is suspected of illicitly receiving tens of thousands of dollars worth of cigars and champagne from wealthy friends. In the other, he’s accused of offering to pass legislation that would benefit a newspaper publisher in return for favorable coverage; the bill never passed. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

“Imagine how you would feel if police officers handling an investigation against you claimed that you sent private investigators to probe them and their families,” Netanyahu said in a Facebook post. He questioned whether officers could act objectively under such circumstances, and demanded an independent investigation into Alsheich’s comments. 

Police are expected to say in coming days whether they believe enough evidence exists to charge the prime minister with a crime, according to Israeli media. It would be up to the attorney general to decide whether to put Netanyahu on trial.

Israel in recent years has grown accustomed to seeing senior officials investigated. Its last four prime ministers have all been probed, and police recommended indicting Ariel Sharon while he was in office, although the attorney general dropped the case. Netanyahu’s immediate predecessor, Ehud Olmert, stepped down to fight allegations against him but ultimately was sent to jail for bribery and obstruction of justice.

Netanyahu himself is no stranger to investigations: In 1997, during his first term, police wanted him to stand trial in an influence-peddling case involving the appointment of an attorney general. In 2000, between his terms, police recommended that Netanyahu and his wife be prosecuted on suspicion of bribery and the theft of gifts to the state. Neither set of recommendations ripened into charges, with attorneys general citing insufficient evidence to indict.

— With assistance by David Wainer

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