Poll: Israelis mistrust police as claims of improper conduct pile up in Netanyahu investigation

Poll shows a third of the public already doesn’t trust the justice system.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

As more details come out about the tactics used by Israeli police in their investigations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others connected to him, their cumulative effect may not only undermine the cases against him, but also the Israeli public’s faith in the bodies that make up the country’s justice system.

A Globes poll published on November 11 shows that a third of the public already doesn’t trust the State Attorney’s Office, the courts or the police. The public’s view of the police is especially worrisome according to the poll, which shows that 43 percent have a low or very low level of trust in these institutions, and only 17 percent trust them highly.

A whopping 45 percent are of the opinion that there is selective enforcement of the law in Israel, in terms of which individuals the police choose to investigate and which suspects are prosecuted.

Trust levels appear to be trending downward, with 44 percent of those surveyed saying that their confidence in the justice system has dropped over the past year.

The poll was taken after Justice Minister Amir Ohana accused the police of improperly pressuring Netanyahu aide Nir Hefetz to turn state’s witness against the prime minister in what is known as Case 4000. The police allegedly threatened to reveal an extra-marital affair and questioned the woman implicated in the allegations, who had nothing to do with the corruption investigation, forcing a confrontation between the two, following which Hefetz broke.

In addition, two close aides of the prime minister, Likud campaign manager and Netanyahu family spokesman Ofer Golan and party spokesman Jonathan Urich, had their phones searched last month by police who questioned based on suspicions that they harassed a different state witness, Shlomo Filber.

Golan and Urich filed formal complaints against the investigation, saying that the police acted illegally, as they weren’t informed that they could refuse questioning. They also claimed that the authorities overstepped their bounds even further as they looked for information to help them in other cases against Netanyahu without getting a search warrant.

In the end, a judge retroactively approved a “well-defined” search of the phones, even though he accepted the defendants’ claims as true, writing in his decision that there had been “infringement on the rights of the suspects” and “flaws” in the police investigation. The two aides are going to appeal to the Supreme Court regarding their case.

Questions regarding police conduct in Netanyahu investigations date back at least to 2015, with a transcript from that year revealed on Sunday in Maariv. In that transcript, a domestic worker in the Netanyahu home, who had complained to the police that the then-house manager Meny Naftali had sexually harassed her, claimed that a police officer threatened her if she didn’t testify that Netanyahu had sent her to complain.

“When he saw that I’m not saying what he wanted to hear, he really pressured me. He wanted me to say that the prime minister sent me … to complain against Meny,” Svetlana Gorodetsky said at one point in the transcript.

When asked what else the policeman had said, she answered, “He told me I’d sleep in Neve Tirtza [women’s prison] if I don’t say it. … When he saw that he wasn’t getting from me what he wanted, he really piled the pressure on. He yelled at me. He said I don’t have anything to fear, that I should say Netanyahu sent me, that the prime minister paid me. Nobody paid me anything.”

At the time, Naftali was involved in a court case against the prime minister’s wife.

A statement in the prime minister’s name said, “It’s now clear – it’s systematic. All means are kosher in order to topple Prime Minister Netanyahu, even using blackmail and threats to shut up a woman who complains about sexual harassment, just like the criminal trick they played on Nir Hefetz. …Today it’s the prime minister – tomorrow it can be any citizen.”