Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) congratulates new police commissioner Roni Alsheich after he received his ranks during a ceremony in Jerusalem December 3, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly maneuvered behind the scenes to oust Police Chief Roni Alsheikh, as the police were in the midst of a criminal probe against him for bribery and corruption.
On Monday, Channel 2 reported that a deal was struck between Netanyahu and MK David Bitan whereby the former coalition chairman would replace Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.
Bitan is viewed as more sympathetic to Netanyahu, and it was presumed that once Bitan became the public security minister he would replace Alsheikh with a police chief who would be more “comfortable” for Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s office told Channel 2 that the report was “absurd.”
Both his office and Bitan denied it.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu had no intention to give the Public Security Ministry to Bitan. It added that Netanyahu did not intervene in matters concerning the police chief.
“There were no conversations between me and Netanyahu about the Public Security Ministry,” Bitan said. “That ministry is run by a Likud minister. This is yet another police attempt to leak incorrect gossip that has nothing to do with the investigation that is being conducted.”
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But Channel 2 said that recordings exist of conversations Bitan had with a close friend and of conversations that were held by his associates, in which the issue was discussed.
In those conversations, it was implied that as Public Security Minister, Bitan would ensure that investigations against Netanyahu would be blocked.
In order to disguise the true nature of the Alsheikh ouster, Bitan would replace Erdan as part of a larger cabinet shuffle also involving Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Economy Minister Eli Cohen.
On Friday, the Lahav 433 National Crime Unit and the Israel Securities Authority interrogated Netanyahu in his Jerusalem residence with regard to Case 4000, otherwise known as the Bezeq Affair.
It is expected to be the last interrogation prior to a decision on whether to indict the prime minister for ordering former Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber to issue favorable rulings for Bezeq, including the approval of its merger with satellite TV unit Yes.
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