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Former top cop says Netanyahu’s inner circle branded him a ‘traitor’ for probes

Former Israel Police commissioner Roni Alsheich on Saturday said he believed he had been branded “a traitor” within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner circle as investigations against the premier gained speed during his tenure. He also declared that the prime minister’s brazen attack on the justice system at the opening of his trial made him fear for the country’s future.

Speaking to Channel 12 news ahead of the publication of his book, Alsheich said Netanyahu stopped inviting him to work meetings as the criminal probes progressed. “At some point they stopped inviting me to cabinet meetings, which is improper,” he said.

“I received indirect messages that among the prime minister’s associates I was being called a traitor.”

Netanyahu had been directly responsible for Alsheich’s appointment to the post in 2015. Alsheich had not come from the police force, but from the Shin Bet security service, where he had served as deputy director. He was appointed after police top brass were plagued by a number of scandals involving allegations of fraud and sexual abuse.

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.

Since Alsheich’s term ended in December 2018 the police have been without a permanent chief due to repeated elections and coalition disagreements preventing a proper appointment. Former Southern District commander Motti Cohen has been serving as acting police chief.

Alsheich excoriated the premier for an extraordinary speech he made just before the opening hearing of his trial in May, in which Netanyahu railed against law enforcement and accused officials of attempting a coup against him.

“I fear for my children and grandchildren when such an event takes place in the State of Israel,” Alshiech said, lambasting the decision to erect “a podium of the Israeli government within court halls.

“It’s legitimate for the prime minister to make his opinion known on every stage, at the Prime Minister’s Office, in the street. at a rally. [But] when he comes to the court [and makes such accusations], I find it intolerable from a democratic standpoint.”

Alshiech said: “I think a state figure who stands accused, if he believes he is innocent, should say: ‘I will prove my innocence. I trust the law enforcement system to give a fair trial.’ Those are the rules of the game. Play by the rules.”

In an interview published Friday, Alsheich said he was confident Netanyahu would be convicted, unless he manages to pass legislation granting himself immunity while in office.

The court is set to begin to hear testimony in Netanyahu’s case 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.”

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 prime minister made little secret of his dislike for the police chief as his investigations progressed, accusing him of leaking information from the investigations to the press and of conducting a “witch hunt.”

Source: TOI Staff