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)
Democracies require a delicate balance between the branches of government. One of their more prominent features is the separation of powers. There is the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch. Then there are various institutions, tasked, for example, with law enforcement or border security.
The Israel Police receives its budget and instructions from the government but at the same time, it has a unique independence that gives it the ability to investigate members of the different branches. The IDF, in comparison, is completely subordinate to the government. The generals take their orders directly from the cabinet. They do not have the authority to decide policy on their own.
This is important to keep in mind as the police near the end of their investigations – Case 1000 and Case 2000 – against Benjamin Netanyahu. Due to the sensitivity of this period and the upcoming police report that is widely expected to recommend indicting the prime minister, it seemed completely inappropriate for Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich to give an interview last week to Ilana Dayan for her primetime investigative show Uvda.
During the lengthy interview, Alsheich’s first since taking up the top cop post in December 2015, the police chief hinted that Netanyahu or people close to him had hired private investigators to gather information on the police officers who are overseeing the probes against Netanyahu.
A “powerful figure,” Alsheich claimed, hired “private investigators who had been collecting information against police officers involved in ongoing investigations into the prime minister.
“We’re not talking about a conspiratorial mind here,” he said. “These are facts.”
In addition, Alsheich claimed that Netanyahu promised to appoint him as director of the Shin Bet
(Israel Security Agency) after he completes his term as head of the police. Alsheich previously served as deputy head of the Shin Bet.
“There were countless promises and offers,” he said. “The idea came up in a conversation with the prime minister, and at certain stages it seemed that maybe it made sense to some people.”
We are not sure what Alsheich was thinking in allowing for this interview to be aired now. If it was to hit back at these “powerful figures” and give his subordinates support, why now? Why not wait a week for the police to wrap up their investigation? Why give the interview now and provide the prime minister and his supporters with more ammunition they can use to claim that the police are on a witch-hunt against him? Now, that doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
In addition, the arrogance that Alsheich displayed in the interview – seemingly enjoying saying that he knows every detail of the investigations against Netanyahu – does a disservice to the police that he heads. His officers need to be viewed as investigators without any motivation except upholding the rule of law. Alsheich undermined that.
He is not alone. Long ago, Netanyahu decided that everything is fair game in his battle for political survival.
He could attack the police and get away with it, as he did recently at a Likud event during which he claimed that 60% of the police’s recommendations to indict are “thrown in the garbage.”
Combine this with the bills the Likud party tried passing to undermine the police’s ability to conduct independent investigations, and there is a possibility of a dangerous result. Nevertheless, Netanyahu was elected by the people
. He is a politician with a national and political agenda, on which the people will judge him at the ballot box if he runs for another term.
In his interview, Alsheich behaved like a politician, not the civil servant that he was appointed to be two years ago by the government.
Both men should remember that despite their current quarrel, there is a country and the rule of law that need to be safeguarded, long after they leave their respective posts.