TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the country’s law enforcement system on Tuesday, continuing a crusade to discredit those who have pressed corruption cases against him ahead of the resumption of his trial early next year.
Netanyahu’s latest tirade came in response to a report by Channel 12 TV alleging that police covered up a conflict of interest involving one of its senior investigators who was looking into alleged crimes committed by Netanyahu and his wife Sara.
Speaking at an event meant to be focused on Israel’s struggling battle against the coronavirus, Netanyahu was asked about the report and devoted a chunk of his time accusing the police of conspiring to oust him.
“The entire chain of command is involved: senior investigators, the chief of police, the state attorney, and everything is sanctioned and authorized by the attorney general,” Netanyahu said. “This was not an investigation. This is a corrupt political conspiracy to topple a prime minister.”
To highlight his point about police wrongdoing, Netanyahu addressed another media report claiming the former state prosecutor did not pursue an investigation into a case of alleged police misconduct. The case surrounded the fatal shooting of a Bedouin Arab man in 2017 out of fears it would tarnish the image of law enforcement amid its investigations into Netanyahu. Police shot the man, claiming he had intentionally rammed his car into police who were carrying out a demolition in his village. His family disputes the police claims.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu apologized for the killing and for the man being wrongly labeled a terrorist, which he said is what he was told by police at the time.
Since he was indicted on charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes, Netanyahu has repeatedly sought to disparage the police and prosecutors, accusing them of being biased against him and seeking to force him out of office. Legal officials and experts say Netanyahu’s attacks on an independent and reputable system have done lasting damage to Israel’s democracy.
The charges revolve around a series of scandals that accuse Netanyahu of trading favors with wealthy associates in exchange for gifts and palatable media coverage of himself and his family.
Netanyahu’s trial is set to resume in January, with evidentiary hearings to take place three times a week and sure to keep Netanyahu’s alleged crimes firmly in the public conversation at a time when he faces widespread discontent over his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
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