Tensions were palpable during Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh's briefing to the cabinet on Sunday amid his ongoing public dispute with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the prime minister accused the police of leaking details concerning ongoing corruption investigations against him to the media.
Those present at the meeting said Netanyahu ignored Alsheikh almost entirely, hardly looked at him, and directed the few questions he had regarding the briefing to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan instead.
The prime minister even left during Alsheikh's 40-minute briefing, returning near its end. When Alsheikh's briefing continued beyond the allotted 40 minutes, Netanyahu insisted to Erdan that the briefing should be concluded so as to not deviate too much from the schedule.
The growing rift between the police chief and the prime minister began several weeks ago, when a journalist with close ties to the prime minister wrote a false story meant to present Alsheikh as one who is acting based on foreign, political motives, claiming Alsheikh was planning to run for office in the next election.
Days later, Alsheikh got a phone call from an associate, who also has ties to the prime minister's people, warning him he was in the Prime Minister Office's "crosshairs," and that Netanyahu's people view him as an "ungrateful traitor."
Netanyahu then launched an unprecedented attack on Alsheikh, after it was reported the police planned to question him again in connection with ongoing corruption investigations against him. The prime minister vented frustration over the way in which the investigations against him were being handled and accused the police of being responsible for "a tsunami of leaks" to the media.
Following Netanyahu's attack, the police chief spoke to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, telling him about the warning he had received and expressing his anger at Netanyahu's conduct and that of his close circle.
"This kind of behavior is more befitting of criminals and the mob," a close associate of Alsheikh said. "These threats and the personal attack against the commissioner are a danger to democracy."
In his first public comments on the prime minister's accusations, Alsheikh categorically denied any police involvement in the leaks.
“I have no doubt that the leaks are not coming from the police. We do everything in order to preserve the purity of the investigations and remain with clean hands,” he said.
“We will do our work without favoritism and I will lend support to anyone doing their work in the field.”