Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch is a worthy man, he is honest and ethical, a fine Israeli, the kind that any one of us would be glad to share a semi-detached house with, or to have as a son-in-law. The question is, however, if he is capable of being chief of Israel Police.
The criticism Hirsch was exposed to earlier this week was exceptionally scathing. A brigadier-general who is moved up to the rank of inspector- general is tantamount to a deputy- chief being bumped up by two ranks to become the chief of police, they were saying. They regurgitated the Winograd Commission’s report from the Second Lebanon War, when Hirsch was removed from his position of command and forced, ultimately, to resign from the IDF. His high-flown language, his tenuous connection with reality in the field, his failure in that war were all mentioned. And there were hints of inappropriate arms deals. Issues that need looking into, although the past achievements of the Turkel Commission (see the Yoav Galant affair) do not bode well for those who oppose the appointment.
Compared with the Turkels, Micha Lindenstrauss is a rubber stamp.
Some of the criticism against Hirsch is justified. In the army they say that Hirsch is not decisive, more a theoretician, perhaps even a chatterbox with a lot of personal charm and an exceptional talent for rhetoric; his language is high-flown and it’s hard to follow the complexity of his sentences and locate the gist of what he’s saying.
People are pointing out that ever since he set out on his process of rehabilitation, he’s been investing enormous efforts to make major-general, but is constantly rejected. Neither Gantz nor Eisenkot would agree to it.
The commercial company he established after leaving the IDF is called “Defensive Shield” in memory of Operation Defensive Shield that Hirsch continues to claim he was responsible for planning and to which he gave its name. Some time ago, Channel 10 ran an investigation on Hirsch’s arms business.
The rumors were considerable. At first glance, Hirsch appears to be the candidate with the highest potential to cause harm to the minister who appoints him.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is a man of experience. His announcement that Hirsch was to be appointed police chief appears too impetuous, too much like a last-minute gamble.
According to sources close to the process of appointing the police commissioner, on Monday evening, Erdan was still firmly fixed on Benzi Sau, the acting commissioner. Netanyahu wouldn’t have it.
The possibility of appointing the Israel Electric Corporation chairman, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yiftah Ron-Tal (Netanyahu’s favorite), was also being checked. But this would most probably not have passed.
According to sources, it was Netanyahu who proposed Gal Hirsch. It’s not quite clear why. One can only guess, and this is my guess: Hirsch is not an interrogator. He’s never dealt with this side of things. Netanyahu will make sure that Hirsch knows who appointed him. That he owes him the appointment. So that the chances are slim of Hirsch lending his support to an invasive, genuine and impartial investigation of the prime minister’s residences. I have the feeling that Netanyahu is walking through a mine field here. Notwithstanding all the criticism, Hirsch is an honest man.
It’s not at all sure that he’ll toe the line drawn out by his “commanding officer.”
I am not sure that Hirsch’s appointment conforms with the definition of “subordinate.” It might be unfounded.
Policing is a profession. A police chief is much more than the chief of staff of the armed forces. He has much more independence than the chief of staff, he is less dependent on his government minister, has to understand the material, the small details, the tricks and twists of the trade that every police superintendent had learned in the course of his career. When you bring in someone like Hirsch, you are gambling with the police force. The trouble is that the police force belongs to us all.
The potential in this appointment is either a citation for excellence, or a sheer drop in rank.
As far as Hirsch is concerned, all he wants is a chance to prove himself and repair the stamp of history. In the General Staff HQ, as the police’s inspector-general, it makes no difference.
So long as he gets a second chance. Only a few weeks ago, at a ceremony replacing the IDF’s deputy commander of homeland security, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot spent two whole minutes in flowery praise for Gal Hirsch.
“We don’t need the opinions of learned judges to know how much the residents of the North owe for the quiet they have been enjoying over the last few years,” Eisenkot told Hirsch, in what was interpreted as reparation to the humiliated officer, who was so deeply scarred by the events of that war and the subsequent commission of inquiry. Eisenkot spoke of Hirsch’s exceptional capabilities in the spheres of “thought, planning and execution.” The Second Lebanon War, which emerged from the Winograd Report as something of a negligent farce, has made an about turn and become in recent years one of the most successful wars in the history of Israel, from the point of view of the results and the deterrent achieved in its wake.
Hirsch is trying to organize for himself a similar outcome to the war that buried him. If it was so successful, how come I failed so miserably? There might be something in this, but it doesn’t turn him into a potential police chief. The only comfort Erdan can find in this appointment is the fact that if it all blows up in his face, one of the architects of the downfall that led us to it will be Netanyahu.
In the end it was he who sealed the appointment.Translated by Ora Cummings.