Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan surprised many on Tuesday with his choice of a police inspector-general from outside the force, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch, to replace retired Yohanan Danino.
Hirsch, 51, is chairman of the Israel Leadership Institute, an educational NGO, and Defensive Shields Holdings, a consulting service.
Hirsch resigned from the IDF amid extensive criticism of his actions following 2006’s Second Lebanon War, during which he commanded the Galilee Division.
Much of the criticism was of his handling of the kidnapping of reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, which sparked the war, leading then- IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz to determine that he would not be promoted again.
The Winograd Committee, which investigated the war, absolved Hirsch of any blame for the kidnapping, and the committee’s chairman, Dr.
Eliyahu Winograd, said that an injustice was done to him.
Hirsch returned to the IDF as deputy commander of the Depth Corps in 2012.
Previously, Hirsch was commander of the Bahad 1 officer training base, Paratroop Battalion 202, and the air force’s Shaldag commando unit, among other positions.
On Tuesday, Hirsch wrote on Facebook that he is very excited about his new job, which the cabinet and the Committee on Appointments of Senior Civil Service Officials, led by Jacob Turkel, still need to approve.
“Israel Police fighters and officers have been for many years my brothers and sisters in arms and my partners on many missions. I am happy that I was given this trust and am waiting for the appointment process to be completed,” he said.
Erdan called Hirsch “an excellent and valued officer who led changes and reforms in every unit he commanded.
“I am convinced that Gal is the most appropriate candidate at this time to lead the changes necessary in the Israel Police and to increase trust in it,” Erdan said. “Together with the Israel Police officers and experienced senior commanders, Gal will promote important reforms to increase the personal security of Israel’s citizens and improve their quality of life.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement praising the appointment.
Netanyahu said Hirsch is a “worthy and admired fighter and officer” who has filled a number of command positions, and with “courage and creativity” has led those under his command into battle and on military operations on many occasions.
Netanyahu said that Hirsch, as the inspector-general of the Israel Police, will lead the police forward in facing its many challenges, while working to improve the personal security of Israelis and strengthening the rule of law.
Erdan and Netanyahu had clashed over the selection of a commissioner, with the latter trying to influence the former’s long-delayed decision.
When asked about the prime minister’s involvement, a visibly irritated Erdan told Channel 2 on Tuesday: “This is the candidate I chose. I chose him; the prime minister didn’t know. I take the responsibility for this appointment and I hope the Turkel Committee approves it.”
Erdan explained in interviews with Channels 2 and 10 that he felt that a police inspector-general from outside the system is necessary in order to shake up the force after a series of sexual misconduct and corruption scandals, as well as the police’s failure to stop the stabbing at last month’s LGBT parade in Jerusalem, even though accused murderer, Yishai Schlissel, was recently released from prison after serving a term for committing the same crime a decade earlier.
“I needed to look at the organization and see why there was so much damage to the public’s trust [in the police]. This is a person who comes from the army, a different organizational culture with different norms and standards, some better, some worse,” Erdan explained.
MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), a former assistant-chief who was in charge of the Jerusalem police, criticized Erdan for appointing someone from outside the force, saying he should have chosen one of the current assistant-chiefs.
Levy called them “talented people with many years of experience in the organization,” whereas Hirsch is “a person who does not know the Israel Police at all, which went through difficult upheavals in the last year.
“Despite this, the police is close to my heart... and it faces difficult challenges. I wish luck to the police and the new inspector-general,” he said.
Meanwhile, acting inspector-general and Tel Aviv police head Asst.-Ch.
Bentzi Sau, who was considered to be a front-runner for the top job, told Erdan he intends to resign from the force.
Praising Sau’s talents and contributions to the police, Erdan said he asked Sau to continue serving as deputy inspector-general and hopes he will reconsider.
Sau, 54, served in the Border Police from 1977 to 2006, and was considered next in line to replace Danino.
He held the post of divisional brigade commander of the Northern Command of the Border Police during the October 2000 riots, when 13 Israeli Arabs rioters were killed by security forces at the beginning of the second intifada. In 2003, the Or Commission’s examination of the conduct of Israeli security forces throughout the disturbances found that Sau had violated police guidelines by sending his officers to battle rioters and that he was responsible for the deadly sniper fire that ensued, as the commanding officer.
The commission recommended that he not be promoted for four years.
MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said that “Sau was undoubtedly inappropriate for the job and choosing him would have led to a serious crisis in the Arab public. The minister did the right thing in not deciding to appoint him as inspector-general, and saved us from a severe public protest.”
Other leading candidates within the police were Northern District head Asst.-Ch. Zohar Dvir and Southern District head Asst.-Ch. Yoram Halevy.Herb Keinon and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.