RONI ALSHEICH, the deputy Shin Bet head who has been named to lead the Israel Police.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday met with Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich and head of the force’s Investigations and Intelligence Branch Asst.-Ch. Meni Yitzhaki, following reports this week police have compiled a special file on the country’s politicians.
Alsheich, in a statement released after the meeting, said police are forbidden to initiate investigations on public officials without first receiving instruction to do so by the attorney-general or the state attorney. He also said the document was for internal use to ensure that nothing fell through the cracks during investigations of Knesset members, and that all relevant information was passed on to the attorney-general.
He said police would investigate who leaked the existence of the document.
In the statement, police said Edelstein accepted their explanation and expressed dismay that reports about the document cast doubt on dozens of Knesset members.
On Sunday, Channel 10 revealed the existence of a document nicknamed “The Yitzhaki Report” that was compiled under order of Yitzhaki and reportedly completed in 2014. According to Channel 10, it contains all investigative information collected by police on the 120 members of the previous Knesset, including information on suspected crimes and corruption.
Police said in response to the report that they “deny outright that there is any systematic collection of information in order to determine if Knesset members are suspected of crimes.
Every examination we carry out is first approved by the attorney-general and carried out with the knowledge of the parliamentarian in question, and any material found that raises suspicion of a crime is immediately handed over to the attorney-general and the state attorney.”
On Tuesday, Edelstein sent a letter to Alsheich in which he said “the gathering of information regarding members of Knesset raises questions and doubts.”
Edelstein said that such intelligence gathering on elected officials “raises questions relating to the freedom parliamentarians have to perform their work and the immunity they enjoy.”
According to the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law of 1951, an MKs will not bear criminal or civil responsibility for any act which he performed while fulfilling his duty or in order to fulfill his duty. In addition, a Knesset member has immunities relating to searches, detention, criminal hearings and legal proceedings that are not connected with his work as a member of Knesset, and only the Knesset has the right to lift his immunity in these spheres.
Asked this week about which politicians are included in the Yitzhaki file, the police said only “We do not intend to comment in any way on the intelligence we have or have not gathered.”
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) on Wednesday called for a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the police’s failings, including the Yitzhaki report.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that he had no knowledge of the document’s existence until it was reported by the press, and read from the police statement on the matter.
Asked by the opposition why the police did not investigate the cases on the list, Erdan pointed out that the police said they reported suspicious activity to the state attorney and attorney- general, and that the law states only the attorney-general may open investigations of MKs.
“The dozens of investigations that became indictments are proof that the police does not give anyone immunity or special treatment,” Erdan added.
News that police kept a file on dozens of Knesset members broke on Monday, days after Alsheich said that the National Fraud Unit is a highly sensitive unit that “can build up a government and it can bring one down.”
Alsheich was speaking at a ceremony held in honor of Ch.-Sup. Ephraim Bracha, the former head of the Fraud Unit, who committed suicide last year.
The past few weeks have been tumultuous for the Israel Police, including infighting and bad blood within some of its most sensitive units. Last week Alsheich said there are “political interests” going after the Investigations Branch, in particular against Asst.-Ch.
Roni Ritman, the head of the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit who was reinstated in December following a sexual harassment investigation by the Justice Ministry. On Saturday, Channel 2 released a recording of an interview with the chief investigator in the case, who predicted criminal charges would be opened against Ritman.
Ritman was heard mentioning a number of senior officers as possibly having spoken out against him, including Jerusalem Police head Asst.- Ch. Yoram Halevy. On Tuesday, police released a photo of Halevy and Ritman meeting together at Halevy’s office, in an attempt to give the appearance of business as usual. At the same time, Ritman is feuding with Dep.-Ch. Guy Nir, the head of the Intelligence Unit and a confidant of the female officer who complained against Ritman.
On Wednesday, further turmoil gripped the force as Dep.-Ch. Ilan Mor announced that he would not accept the appointment to be Israel Police attaché in New York. Though police said Mor turned down the offer “for family medical reasons,” his appointment had already drawn wide public criticism due to the fact that he had previously been the subject of a sexual harassment probe by the Justice Ministry and was found guilty by a police disciplinary board of conduct unbecoming an officer.
Recent controversies are just the latest to plague Alsheich during his short time in his post. A former career Shin Bet officer who rose to be deputy head of the security agency, Alsheich was appointed late last year to head the Israel Police. His appointment was made with the belief that a commissioner from outside the force would help repair its public image, which has been damaged by a series of sex scandals and brutality and other wrongdoing cases in recent years.