Police Chief Roni Alsheich at the Israel Bar Association Conference at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: NAAMA COHEN FRIEDMAN/ BAR ASSOCIATION SPOKESWOMAN)
Police Commissioner Insp.- Gen. Roni Alsheich is taking criticism for a reported decision to place the elite investigative unit Lahav 433 directly under his control. The move would give Alsheich the discretion to open and close investigations into elected officials and may curb the influence of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to do so.
The reported move comes at a sensitive time, when there are multiple ongoing criminal investigations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“This is an intentional weakening of the head of investigations and intelligence position. I do not see this as an innocent move,” said Yesh Atid MK Yoav Segalovitz, who was the intelligence and investigation chief from 2009-2013. “This is really disturbing, I ask the public: Do you really want the police commissioner deciding when to open an investigation? “The police commissioner is appointed to command the police, not to command investigations within the police,” Segalovitz said.
“Right now when the prime minister is under investigation for suspected corruption, the police commissioner changes the head of Lahav 433. Maybe it is kosher but it is fishy,” said Yesh Atid MK Micky Levy, a former commander of the police’s Jerusalem district. “It is as if you take the police commissioner and make him head of a special operations unit. This doesn’t happen.”
Channel 2 reported on Monday that Alsheich has already decided to restructure the investigative unit, while a spokeswoman for Lahav 433 told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the decision is still under consideration.
A police source refuted the criticism. “The allegations that a movement of Lahav 433 would weaken the investigations department is simply not true,” said the source, who asked not to be named, adding, “This would be just a small part of a large rearranging of the police.”
If Alsheich does follow through with the restructuring, it would mean that all major police investigations are subordinate to the police commissioner, who was appointed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. This gives the police commissioner discretion to open and close investigations into elected officials and may curb the influence of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to do so.
The Attorney General’s Office declined to respond to multiple inquires from the Post about the reported decision.
The move comes as Netanyahu’s criminal investigations continue. Daily leaks of the Netanyahu investigations, presumably from the police, flooded Channels 2 and 10 last month, leading some Likud MKs to accuse the police investigators of “leftist” bias.
“The two heads of the Investigations Division in recent years, [Moshe] Mizrahi and [Yoav] Segalovitz joined parties – one to Labor and the other to Yesh Atid. There is reasonable suspicion that their judgment is influenced by leftist opinions,” Likud MK David Amsalem said in January. Amsalem has also proposed a bill to shield a sitting prime minister from police investigation, saying there is “motivation to remove the Right from power.”
Aryeh Amit, a former head of the police’s Operations Division and a Labor politician, also criticized Alsheich’s reported move. “The role of the police commissioner is to manage this huge and complicated organization and command the people in it. It is not his role to conduct investigations,” Amit told Army Radio on Tuesday. “If you are a commander who does not trust your senior officers, there is one of two options: either they go home, or you go home.”
On Monday, the Israel Police announced the appointment of Dep.-Ch. Gadi Siso to head the Intelligence and Investigations Division. Siso, a 33-year veteran of the force, is replacing Asst.-Ch. Manny Yitzhaki, who has been a key figure in the investigations of Netanyahu.
His appointment is due to begin at the end of 2017, subject to approval by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and completion of required security checks.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.