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Ex-police chief who oversaw Netanyahu probes: He’ll be convicted…if he’s tried

Former Israel Police commissioner Roni Alsheich, who oversaw the corruption investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has said in an interview that he is confident the premier will be convicted, unless he manages to pass legislation granting himself immunity while in office.

The remarks came almost two years after Alsheich’s tenure ended, and ahead of the publication of his book.

In the interview with the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Alsheich was asked whether he believes Netanyahu will be convicted in light of the evidence gathered.

“The entire question is whether he will be tried,” Alsheich responded. “Everything can happen. Maybe there will be immunity, I don’t know.”

As Israel’s top cop, Alsheich oversaw the police investigations into Netanyahu, which concluded with an indictment against the premier on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His trial began earlier this year, but the court is only set to begin to hear testimony in January 2021.

“If he is tried, I assume he will be convicted,” Alsheich said.

“Had we not thought the odds of conviction were so high, nobody would have taken that chance,” he said.

Alsheich said he hopes Netanyahu will resign long before the verdict is announced, because if that doesn’t happen, “this country will pay impossible prices.”

The full interview is due to be published on Friday, with the paper publishing a preview on Wednesday.

The preview also included Alsheich saying he stood behind his accusations that senior investigators in the Netanyahu cases — and their families and neighbors — were harassed, and denying claims that police used problematic and illegitimate tactics against suspects in an attempt to convince them to become state witnesses against Netanyahu.

Alsheich left his post in December 2018, when then-public security minister Gilad Erdan declined to extend his three-year tenure by the customary additional year.

The force has since then been led by an interim commissioner, Motti Cohen, due to a severe political crisis followed by the coronavirus crisis and disagreements between Netanyahu and his rival-turned-partner Benny Gantz over senior law enforcement appointments.

Alsheich’s term was marked by public feuds with Netanyahu and other senior politicians.

The prime minister, who orchestrated Alsheich’s appointment to the post, made little secret of his dislike for the police chief, accusing him of leaking information from the investigations to the press and of conducting a “witch hunt.”

After ending Alsheich’s term, Erdan sought to replace him with Moshe Edri, but the latter withdrew his candidacy amid a public scandal over his conduct. Cohen has been at the helm ever since.

His temporary term is set to expire on September 30, but Public Security Minister Amir Ohana is expected to submit a cabinet request in the coming weeks asking ministers to extend it.

Cohen reportedly told law enforcement brass on Thursday that he is likely to remain acting police chief for the foreseeable future.

“Due to the political situation… it appears that no permanent commissioner will be appointed to the police in the near future,” he told district commanders, according to the Walla and Maariv news sites. “I will continue to lead [the] police as acting chief until a different decision is made.”

The Knesset on Monday night gave final approval to a bill delaying the deadline for passing a state budget, breaking through a bitter political logjam ostensibly about the budget. In practive, the dispute was also about the issue of senior law-enforcement appointments — such as police chief and state prosecutors — and the balance of power in the dysfunctional unity coalition.

Despite earlier Likud party demands, the final bill approved by the Knesset plenum Monday night did not include a clause forming a panel on senior appointments.

Netanyahu has been accused of seeking to engineer the appointment of top legal officials who would be willing to be more lenient in the criminal graft trial against him. The prime minister denies any such plans.

Responding to a Supreme Court petition seeking to bar him from dealing with judicial appointments due to the corruption charges he is facing, Netanyahu announced Wednesday that he will take no role in appointing senior Justice Ministry officials or the Israel Police commissioner.

Source: TOI