An investigation revealed that senior police officials and the State Prosecutor’s office covered up a conflict of interest held by a senior Netanyahu investigator.
September 8, 2020 Former Israeli State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan speaks at the Calcalist conference in Tel Aviv on December 31, 2019. (Flash90/Miriam Alster)
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
A bombshell report broadcast on Israel’s Channel 12 News Monday evening revealed that the State Prosecutor’s office and senior police investigators covered up a conflict of interest held by senior investigator Police Superintendent Avi Rothenberg.
According to the report, officials feared that pending criminal cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would lose credibility if Rothenberg’s conflict of interest became public, so the decision was made to engage in a cover-up.
Rothenberg, the lead investigator in a 2016 misuse of state funds investigation against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara and a senior police investigator, was in a romantic relationship with Judy Nir Mozes, which he hid from his superiors.
Mozes, an outspoken critic of Sara Netanyahu, is the sister of Yediot Ahronot owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes, who was charged alongside Benjamin Netanyahu in Case 2000. Additionally, she is a major shareholder in Yediot Ahronot.
Internal police documents obtained by Channel 12 News revealed that Rothenberg was confronted by his superiors in 2016 about his relationship with Nir Mozes. He denied there was a conflict of interest, claiming Nir Mozes was not his romantic partner and that he lived with his wife.
At the time, Rothenberg had access to sensitive evidence during the Case 2000 investigation, in which Nir Mozes’ brother faced bribery charges.
When Israeli police investigative unit Lahav 443’s anti-corruption unit head Roni Rittman learned of the relationship between Rothenberg and Nir Mozes, he did not report it to the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID).
Instead, reported Channel 12 News, Rittman decided to handle the revelation “discretely” and suggested that Rothenberg quietly be moved elsewhere in the department.
According to a PIID report obtained by Channel 12 News, investigators found that Rothenberg “was aware of the personal interest of Nir Mozes in the outcome of the investigation and the way it was handled, including the close relationship between her and her brother.”
“The suspect positioned himself in clear conflict of interest,” they concluded.
But the State Prosecutor at the time, Shai Nitzan, allegedly refused to look into the matter further, as he was worried that information about Rothenberg’s conflict of interest going public would torpedo the cases against Netanyahu.
No further action was taken and Rittman and Rothenberg quietly left the police force in 2018.
Nitzan also reportedly derailed an investigation into then-police Chief Roni Alsheich, who falsely claimed that the PIID was hiding evidence which would confirm an unarmed Bedouin man shot and killed by the police was a terrorist.
PIID Chief Uri Carmel demanded that Nitzan investigate Alsheich over the remarks. In an email obtained by Channel 12 News, Nitzan agreed that Alsheich’s behavior was “scandalous” but told Carmel that “there are national interests that also must be taken into consideration.”
Nitzan’s response indicated that any potential investigation into misconduct by the police or the State Prosecutor’s office could seriously hurt the cases against Netanyahu.
In a response to Channel 12 News, Rothenberg said, “There was no connection between my acquaintance with Judy Nir Mozes and the way the investigation was handled — [it was handled] without any agenda.”
Rothenberg said he never saw or accessed any of the evidence in Case 2000.
The Channel 12 News report was welcomed by Netanyahu, who has long claimed that the criminal charges against him are part of a conspiracy by the media and State Prosecutor’s office to remove him from power.
“Shocking! Amit Segal [Channel 12’s reporter] has dropped an atomic bomb, proved by internal communications between the police and the prosecutors,” Netanyahu wrote on social media.
“This is how they framed Prime Minister Netanyahu, with criminal actions and by subverting the investigations. Share the truth!”