Did Israeli police employ illegitimate tactics in pursuit of Netanyahu?

Questions have been raised about the behavior of the Israeli police in its pursuit of the prime minister. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

A Friday report on Israel’s Channel 12, which revealed undue pressure was exerted on a key figure in one of the corruption cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has raised serious questions about the conduct of Israel’s police. The Israel Bar Association chief has asked the attorney general to open an investigation into the possible abuse.

Channel 12 reports that the Israeli police department’s Lahav 433, also known as “Israel’s FBI,” tried to “break” Elovitch in order to get him to turn state witness. They pressured his son and daughter to help.

Elovitch, owner of telecommunications giant Bezeq, is involved in Case 4000, considered the most serious of the corruption cases against Netanyahu. The prime minister is accused of driving through a merger for Elovitch in return for favorable coverage on the Walla! web portal.

According to the report, the police used Shaul Elovitch’s son, Or Elovitch, to try and convince him to drop his lawyer, Jack Chen, who they believed was standing between them and convincing Elovitch to flip against the prime minister.

On Sunday, the daily newspaper Ma’ariv quoted attorney Rami Tamam, a former investigator for Lahav 433, who said on Israel radio that while “the practice is legal and certainly was approved, it’s not legitimate.”

“Police officers should not pass an opinion on the lawyer and say whether he is good or bad. There is a lot of legitimate trickery in the way of exploring the truth, but not everything is legitimate,” Tamam said.

Israeli Justice Minister Amir Ohana of the Likud party also weighed in, writing in a Facebook post, “What you saw was the use of Elovitch’s son, who was being detained for the first time in his life, to pressure his father to replace a lawyer who seemingly wasn’t to the liking of law enforcement authorities, while eavesdropping on a conversation between the detained father and his son and recording it in the designated lawyer consultation room.”

Channel 12 quoted from the bugged conversation between the imprisoned Shaul Elovitch and his son.

Or Elovitch to his father: “They instill in me the basis to assume that there’s something that can save me. I understand that Jack (Chen, Saul Elovitch’s attorney) has a problem.”

Shaul Elovitch: “I can consult with a hundred lawyers and that will not change. They tried to make me turn state witness. They’re killing me. I need to lie to be a state witness because I have nothing to testify about. Now they’re trying to get me to confess, to confess, to confess.”

The unusual pressure revealed in the case of Shaul Elovitch follows similar conduct in the case of two other witnesses who did turn against Netanyahu, Ari Harow and Nir Hefetz. Both were confidants of the prime minister.

Ynet published excerpts of conversations between Harow and Hefetz and Lahav 433 investigators on Friday in which the news site shows the detectives used “mental stress, deception and family members to extract cooperation.”

In one particularly difficult section, Hefetz breaks down and cries after learning that his wife was led to believe by one of the investigators that he would be freed.

“I don’t want them to play with my family’s feelings,” he says. And then, a few moments later, Hefetz breaks down. “I’m dead … I’m ashamed. I don’t usually cry,” he said, after asking that they not give his family false hope.