Israel Police and the State Attorney’s Office expected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign from his role after he was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in 2019, former police chief Roni Alsheich admitted in a Wednesday morning interview with Army Radio.
“No one could have guessed that the prime minister would not resign,” Alsheich told Army Radio. Alsheich explained that he had expected Netanyahu to continue the precedent set by predecessor Ehud Olmert, who resigned from the Prime Minister’s Office after reports of criminal investigations against him arose.
Before Olmert’s resignation in 2008, former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin resigned in 1977 following reports that he and his wife held two bank accounts in Washington.
Alsheich also appeared to criticize the conduct of Netanyahu’s Likud party during the course of the prime minister’s criminal trial, saying that he had expected the faction to “say that, for the good of the country, he must step aside and someone else must lead.”
Israel’s coalition attacks former police chief for ‘blatant coup d’etat’
Coalition MKs and ministers lashed out against Alsheich’s comments on Wednesday morning, with right-wing lawmakers claiming that the former police commissioner’s comments prove that Netanyahu’s criminal trials are a “blatant attempt at a coup d’etat.”
“It was never about the truth, justice or fighting corruption,” Religious Zionist Party MK Ohad Tal wrote on Alsheich. “All they had in mind was to topple the Right and Netanyahu, a de-facto coup d’etat.”
Tal’s faction leader, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, declared a “sad day for the State of Israel” after “many people came together to defeat democracy and complete a coup.
Health and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel (Shas) noted that Alsheich’s comments are “worrying for all those who wish to live in a democratic country.
“Such awful words against the beating heart of the democratic rule of law deserve to be inserted into the school curriculum and serve as a warning to all of us, both supporters of the government and its opponents,” Arbel added. “The policy of toppling governments by incrimination is the most dangerous threat to a democratic rule.”
The Likud released a statement later on Wednesday morning, calling on police to launch an investigation into former chief Alsheich to “expose the real motives behind the prime minister’s indictments.”
“The subject of Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister was never and will never be considered as part of the decision-making discussions regarding his criminal cases,” former attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit said in a complete denial of Alsheich’s earlier comments.
“In my and everyone involved in the prosecution’s opinion, Netanyahu’s role as prime minister is not relevant at all to the decision-making process, this is my position today,” the former A-G said, adding that the decision to indict Netnayau was made after Alsheich left the police force.