Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan informed Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich on Thursday that he will not extend his tenure beyond December 3, sparking outcry from opposition members that the move was related to the investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The three-year term of the police commissioner is often extended by 12 months, and speculation was rife that the decision to limit Alsheich’s term was taken because Netanyahu holds the police commissioner responsible for the ongoing investigations against him, as well as for leaks to the media about those probes.
At a press conference Thursday in Bnei Brak, Erdan named Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy, commander of the Tel Aviv district David Bitan, and former Tel Aviv district commander Moshe (Chico) Edri as candidates to replace Alsheich. In the coming weeks, Erdan will submit his recommendations to the appointments committee, and will interview the candidates.
“These are high quality and worthy candidates who have grown up in the ranks of the police, and I am sure that each of them is capable of continuing to move it forward,” Erdan said.
“The commissioner and I spoke for almost two hours about the achievements of the Israel Police, the process of strengthening it in recent years and its future, and we agreed to continue the close cooperation between us until the end of the commissioner’s term in a responsible manner, out of a mutual understanding of the importance of the police’s professional functioning to protect the rule of law and citizens’ security,” Erdan said at the beginning of the press conference.
Alsheich put out a statement thanking Erdan for appointing him police commissioner three years ago, and for the honor of having commanded and led 31,000 officers and 33,000 volunteers.
The commissioner wished his successor luck, saying “The Israel Police is at the forefront of defending the image, security and integrity of the state. These missions are the conscience of the Israel Police. They stood the test and I am convinced that the Israel Police will continue to stand guard over the state’s independence, its social strength and the quality of life of its residents.”
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After detailing the achievements of the police force over the past three years, Erdan said he does not regret having appointed Alsheich, who came from outside of the police force.
“At the same time, the police commissioner and I also had differences of opinion and divergent approaches on various issues, some of them substantial and weighty, and which had a significant impact on the public’s trust in the police. But out of maturity, responsibility and concern for the good of the organization and those who serve it, I did my best to avoid giving public expression to these disputes.
I think that’s the way to act, and I will continue to act in this way,” Erdan said.
Asked about the nature of those disputes, Erdan declined to comment.
Addressing discourse in the media that the term of the police commissioner is usually extended, Erdan said: “The extension of the appointment of a sitting commissioner is not automatic and has never been. The law does not determine the duration of the term of office, there has never been such a practice, and the extension of the term of office of the commissioner is actually the exceptional decision, so much so that the Ministry of Justice has previously asked the government to determine that such an extension will be carried out only if there is a state of emergency or unique a situation that justifies it.”
Turning to claims the decision to replace Alsheich is Netanyahu’s bidding in light of the police investigations against him, Erdan said that he had always supported the police and rejected accusations that it was acting according to political motives.
He said he had not informed the prime minister or any other minister of his decision to replace Alsheich, and accused opposition MKs of “trying to ride on the decision to remind the public of their existence.”
Many opposition MKs have slammed Erdan’s decision.
“This disgraceful farce of the option of extending the term of office must be abolished immediately,” said Opposition leader Tzipi Livni. “A fixed term is required and the law must allow the heads of the army and the police to be independent without holding the extension option over them. My bill for a four-year term of office should become law. Simple and correct. The government will object because what is a commissioner worth if he cannot be controlled.”
Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay said the purpose of the decision was to threaten the rule of law, amid the police investigations.
“There is a heavy cloud over Minister Erdan’s decision not to extend the commissioner’s term,” Gabbay said.
“While the Israel Police is doing its job and fighting suspicions of government corruption by the prime minister and others around him, the Likud ministers are waging war against the rule of law and democracy.”
“Netanyahu and all Likud ministers whose political career depends on Netanyahu should not have decided on the future of the police commissioner, whose decision has one goal - to terrorize the rule of law,” concluded Gabbay.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said: “There is one reason, and only one, that the office of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich will not be completed: the prime minister’s investigations.”
“Let there be no doubt that Netanyahu is behind this decision. He did everything in his power to replace a successful, hard-working, and powerful police commissioner who had marched the police forward. Why? Only because Alsheich had given full backing to the prime minister’s investigators to work without fear and impartiality. Does anyone doubt that Alsheich would have gotten a fourth year if he had only helped to dissolve the Netanyahu investigations?” Lapid continued.
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