Hirsch blames 'campaign of defamation' for losing police commissioner bid

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan rescinds Hirsch's nomination following a month long saga of controversy surrounding his candidacy to head Israeli police.

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September 24, 2015 17:50
3 minute read.
Gal Hirsch

Former IDF Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsch is seen leaving the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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IDF Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch on Wednesday blamed what he described as a month-long campaign of defamation and “unelected power brokers” for losing his candidacy to head the Israel Police.

Breaking his silence with a morning press conference outside his Rosh Ha’ayin home, Hirsch thanked his family and friends for their support during “this severe campaign of defamation and besmirching [of my name] that we have endured.”

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Hirsch said that over the past month he has learned difficult lessons about “the governance of Israel, the state of our democracy, about law and the rule of law, about values, and the lack thereof, about power brokers and powerful forces with their interests who are not elected by the public and who govern our lives.”

Hirsch did not specify anyone in particular.

The announcement on Wednesday night by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan that he had rescinded the nomination ended a month-long saga of controversy surrounding the decision to tap Hirsch to be the next commissioner of the Israel Police.

According to Channel 2, Erdan has already settled on a new candidate to lead the police, and will present his selection in the coming days.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed the new selection, who according to the report, is also from outside the police.

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The nomination of Hirsch was met with criticism by current and former police officials incensed at the selection of a candidate who had never worked in law enforcement.

Questions surrounded his service as a division commander during the Second Lebanon War, as well as the security firm he has run since he retired following the war.

The firm, Defensive Shield Holdings, has been named in an international investigation run by a number of countries into alleged corruption by a former Georgian politician who had links to the company.

Hirsch himself is not suspected of any wrongdoing.

The failure to get approval for Hirsch’s appointment means that the Israel Police remains without an inspector- general nearly three months after former commissioner Yohanan Danino retired on July 1. Whoever is tapped to head the force will have at the top of their priorities repairing the public image of an agency that has been embroiled in one scandal after another in recent years, including the resignation or termination of several top officers suspected of sexual misconduct.

Following the rescinding of Hirsch’s nomination, opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) on Thursday called on Netanyahu to appoint a female police chief, which the prime minister suggested before the last election.

“This is the time for a worthy appointment that will bring renewal to the police and set a historic precedent in breaking the glass ceiling for Israeli women,” he said.

Herzog also criticized Netanyahu for the continuing lack of an inspector-general, saying: “Netanyahu drags on appointment after appointment and the Israeli public is losing its faith in its leadership.

This is a farce. It’s an embarrassment, and unfortunately, many more like this are to be expected.”

Herzog pointed out that the appointment of the previous IDF chief of staff and Bank of Israel president were also bungled, and said the upcoming selection of an attorney-general will probably be the same.

MK Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union) proposed a bill meant to streamline the process of appointing people to senior public positions. The bill would replace the current committees to authorize appointees with one panel, led by a retired judge and including the justice minister, state comptroller, three MKs and a public representative.

The committee would be transparent and publish all relevant public information it receives, as well as its decisions, and would allow the public to submit objections to candidates.

“Netanyahu wants to run away from his responsibilities and complain about the need to change the process instead of leading,” Rosenthal said.

“If there’s a need for a change, then make it. This bill will make the process more efficient, will prevent additional embarrassing farces and give the public access to the process of appointing its senior servants.”

MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) said that Erdan and Netanyahu behaved amateurishly in choosing a police chief and “drove the police into the abyss.”

“The public is shocked by the police’s behavior in recent years... and in the meantime, there’s no inspector-general and the public security minister is helpless. Erdan needs to draw conclusions about his ability to continue being responsible for the police,” Gilon tweeted.

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