Ohana needs to stop being a Netanyahu puppet

Israel's new public security minister Amir Ohana's most urgent challenge is to appoint a new police commissioner.

Amir Ohana at a special cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Amir Ohana at a special cabinet meeting in the Golan Heights
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
This week marked the end of the longest political crisis in the country’s history.
After 510 days, three election campaigns and billions of shekels wasted, we finally have a government.
One of the more notable phenomena in this round of appointments among Likud members is how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu skipped over his rivals within the party’s upper echelons and instead appointed his loyalists to key positions.
One of them is Amir Ohana, who served as interim justice minister over the past year and has now been appointed public security minister and a member of the prestigious security cabinet.
Ohana, stepping into the shoes of incoming UN and US ambassador Gilad Erdan, is getting a flawed police department.
His most urgent challenge is to succeed where Erdan failed: appointing a new police commissioner.
The last commissioner, Roni Alsheich, completed his term in December 2018, and for the past 17 months Alsheich’s deputy, Moti Cohen, has served as acting police commissioner.
Because of his temporary position, Cohen avoided making significant reforms or appointments, leaving the police force in an unprecedented state of stagnation, even though the police have faced some of their most difficult challenges, such as the outbreak of the coronavirus and raging domestic violence against women.
Another issue Ohana will have to address is the ever-growing rift between the police and the Israeli-Ethiopian community.
After the killing of 24-year-old Yehuda Biadga in January 2019 in Bat Yam, and the shooting the following June that killed 19-year-old Solomon Tekah in Kiryat Haim, protests erupted throughout the country. During this period, trust between the police and Ethiopian immigrants hit rock bottom.
Ohana should not only work to regain the trust of the Israeli-Ethiopian community, but also Israeli Arabs.
In January 2017, police officer Erez Amedi Levi and Bedouin citizen Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an were killed during demolitions of illegal homes in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran.
After the event, Erdan and the police rushed to declare that Levi was killed by al-Qi’an in a terrorist attack, and that he was connected to radical Islamist movements. A year later, the Police Investigation Department (Mahash) said that it could not determine if it was a terrorist attack or not. Many other signs indicated that it wasn’t. Arab-Israelis saw Erdan as a politician who tends to blame them only because they are Arabs.

The past years were also known for raging violence in Arab communities. In 2019 alone, 91 people were killed in violent attacks in Arab towns. In 2020, 23 have been killed. A thorough, wide-scale program is needed to combat violence in Arab towns and villages.
The police also suffered a decrease in trust among the general public.
This was caused by a wide range of events such as sex scandals among high-ranking officers, or when the police were caught planting a weapon in a home in Jerusalem’s Isawiya neighborhood during the filming of a documentary on the Jerusalem District police.
Also contributing to the erosion of police status were the attacks coming from the prime minister. At the peak of this period, Netanyahu called to “investigate the investigators,” claiming their motives were not pure.
Ohana’s appointment to the Justice Ministry was perceived as a move to help destabilize the prosecutor’s office ahead of Netanyahu’s trial, which begins Sunday. “There is a prosecution within the prosecution,” Ohana said.
The assumption is that his appointment to the Public Security Ministry is a reward for being loyal to Netanyahu and that the expectations are that he will aim for the same objective, although this time within the police force.
If Ohana wants to win the public’s faith, he will need to show that he is not just Netanyahu’s puppet but that he can be impartial as public security minister and work to ensure that the police are able to do their job without political interference. He needs to bridge the divide between the police and Israeli Ethiopians and Israeli Arabs.
We wish him and the rest of the cabinet the best of luck in serving our country. And we expect him as public security minister to protect not only one man – his boss – but all of the country’s citizens.