Netanyahu, police chief spar over alleged investigation leaks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly blasted the police chief for leaking info on upcoming interrogations in corruption probes.

Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (3rd L) and police commissioner Roni Alsheich (3rd R) speak to members of the media at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (3rd L) and police commissioner Roni Alsheich (3rd R) speak to members of the media at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan lent support to Police Inspector-General Roni Alsheikh Sunday following a public attack by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In an interview with Israel Radio, Erdan said he spoke to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and asked him to consider a wide probe of police leaks.
Erdan said he did not doubt the integrity and professionalism of Alsheikh. But he said Alsheilkh’s decision to hire political strategist Lior Chorev as a media adviser for the police harmed the public’s trust in the institution. He noted that Chorev regularly criticizes Netanyahu and other Likud figures on social media. Chorev has worked for rival political parties Kadima and Kulanu in past elections.
“When Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh took office, he made two important decisions – there would be no more leaks from the investigations and no more police recommendations,” the Prime Minister’s Office said after Channel 2 reported that the Israel Police planned to renew its investigation into Netanyahu.
“Since political adviser Lior Horev was appointed as an external adviser to the police at a cost of millions to the taxpayer and without a tender, the illegal leaks have become a tsunami, and the decision to avoid recommendations disappeared as if it never was,” the PMO said.
“The public has long understood that there is a clear media campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu. This time, just as it has always happened in the past, all the allegations against the prime minister will be proven false,” it added.
Chorev responded to Netanyahu's attack on him and Alsheikh by calling them "delusional claims" and saying it was wrong to try to turn a professional investigation into something personal.
Sources close to Netanyahu were quoted last week accusing Alsheikh of aiming for a political career after he completes his term as head of the police. They hinted that the religious, Zionist Alsheikh was headed for Bayit Yehudi. However, Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett told Israel Radio Sunday morning that he rejected any attempt to ascribe political aspirations to Alsheikh.
The law in Israel requires a three-year cooling-off period for an IDF general or police inspector-general before entering politics.
As Netanyahu faces police questioning, rivals look "post-Bibi" (credit: REUTERS)
The high-profile exchange between the prime minister and the police sparked a slew of reactions by Israeli politicians. 
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog stated, "What started with attacks on artists, journalists and judges has now come to police. [The prime minister is] inciting and dividing for his own personal interest at the expense of the unity of the nation and harming the symbol of law and government."
Former prime minister Ehud Barak wrote on Twitter: "Netanyahu is panicking and attacking his investigators who are probing him with courage and integrity." He called upon Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to defend police from the attack.
Former police officer Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy called Netanyahu's attack on the police a "cynical move taken in order to instill fear and deter law enforcement." He also added that "it is an embarrassment that the prime minister of Israel has reached such a point of recklessness and humiliating attacks on law-abiding people who are merely performing their duties."
Coalition chairman David Bitan defended Netanyahu: "He has every right to defend himself from the police. The leaks have become a serious problem."
In rare criticism from a coalition MK, Merav Ben-Ari of Kulanu said in a statement directed at Netanyahu: "The problem is not with the inspector-general and leaks. The problem is with you."
Deputy Knesset Speaker Nava Boker (Likud) fired back immediately, calling the legislator a subversive and asking her to consider whether her natural inclinations should place her in the opposition.
According to media reports, the police are expected to question Netanyahu on the “Gifts Affair” and the “Israel Hayom Affair.”
In the former, known as Case 1000, Netanyahu is alleged to have illegally received expensive gifts from a number of businessmen. In the latter, known as Case 2000, Netanyahu allegedly tried to sway the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot to give him favorable coverage in exchange for his support for a bill that would weaken a rival paper, Israel Hayom.
Netanyahu has rejected all allegations against him.
Meanwhile, some 300 people again protested near Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s home on Saturday evening calling for Netanyahu to be indicted in the various corruption investigations.