(photo credit: Courtesy)
Outgoing Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) deputy head Roni Alsheich crossed one of the last hurdles in his way to becoming Israel Police commissioner on Thursday, when the Turkel Committee approved his nomination.
His appointment now awaits approval by the cabinet to go into effect. Following the Turkel Committee’s announcement, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan vowed to present Alsheich’s candidacy to the cabinet for approval at its next meeting on Sunday.
Erdan said he is positive that “Roni has all the talent and experience needed to march the Israel Police forward and to lead within the force a revolution of public service and preparedness on the streets that will increase the personal security of Israel’s citizens.”
The committee meeting on Thursday was attended by a number of officials who testified about Alsheich’s suitability to head the police, including Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, former commissioner Yohanan Danino, and Erdan, among others.
Erdan named Alsheich as his new nominee last Friday morning, following a month of controversy surrounding his previous choice, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch. Erdan finally rescinded Hirsch’s nomination last Wednesday, saying that he did not see the vetting process for him ending anytime soon.
Unknown to the Israeli public before last week, Alsheich has spent almost three decades in the Shin Bet, working in the shadows in a series of command roles including in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Southern District. In 2014 he became the deputy head of the agency, and was expected to be a top candidate to take over for Cohen when his term expires in May 2016.
Before he joined the Shin Bet in 1987, he was a commander in the IDF Paratroop Brigade, including as head of its combat engineering and demolition company, and later as deputy head of the brigade’s 50th Battalion.
The 52-year-old married father of seven and grandfather of seven had previously lived on a West Bank settlement in the Binyamin region, before moving a few years ago to Givat Shmuel in central Israel.
Like his boss, Yoram Cohen, Alsheich wears a skullcap and is religiously observant.
From the moment Alsheich’s nomination was announced he was seen as a much safer bet than Hirsch, whose defense firm has been named in an international corruption probe – involving the FBI – into a series of Israeli defense firms with ties to Central Asia.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week praised the nomination of Alsheich, calling him a talented man with rich experience “who has contributed a great deal to Israel’s security and will contribute a great deal more in the position of police commissioner.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett called him “an experienced, creative and determined commander,” adding that he is sure the new inspector- general will lead the police well. “We must all enlist to make sure he succeeds,” Bennett said.
On Thursday however, MK Aida Tuma-Suleiman (United List), took issue with the nomination of a top Shin Bet commander to head the police, saying that “the appointment of a man from the Shin Bet who lived on a settlement to head the police is a slap in the face to the Arab public and all citizens who aspire to live in a democratic state. “She added that the appointment was approved on the 15th anniversary of the deadly October 2000 riots in which over a dozen Arabs were killed by police in clashes that begin with the start of the second intifada.
She said that the appointment “strengthens the view of the Arab population [of Israel] as a security threat.”
Assuming Alsheich’s nomination is finalized by the cabinet, he will face perhaps the greatest challenge of his career – repairing a nationwide organization with tens of thousands of employees which is suffering from an abysmal public image and a series of scandals.
Just in the past couple of years around half of the organization’s top commanders have resigned or been removed due to sexual misconduct or sexual abuse complaints. The force has been at the center of public scorn for a number of scandals, including the failure to properly handle an emergency hotline call placed by one of the three teenagers kidnapped in the West Bank last summer, and also the failure to prevent the fatal stabbing at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade on July 30.