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Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s unexpected decision to pick an outsider, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch, to head the Israel Police has aroused an expected storm of protest, not least by assistant-chiefs who considered themselves next in line to succeed ex-inspector-general Yohanan Danino.
Personal ambition aside, much of the criticism has been more of the same: The next inspector-general should be appointed from police ranks; an outsider lacks sufficient professional background. But this ostensibly objective qualification fails the test of reality, as virtually every senior police officer first served in a similar command capacity in the IDF.
Somehow, over their years of dedicated service, all acquired the necessary police expertise to excel in their posts. But even if that were not true, the role of Israel Police inspector-general is a ministerial post that requires a capable administrator, not a top detective in the job. He or she must ensure that the police professionals do their jobs as best they can; in other words, delegate authority. The minister of agriculture does not have to be a farmer, either.
So who is the next inspector-general of the Israel Police, pending approval by the Civil Service Commission’s screening committee? Hirsch, 51, 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 directed at his handling of the kidnapping by Hezbollah of reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, which helped to spark the war. Controversy over the issue led then-IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz to decide not to promote Hirsch, after which he resigned.
The Winograd Committee, which investigated the war, not only absolved Hirsch of any blame for the kidnapping, but committee chairman Dr. Eliyahu Winograd declared that an injustice had been done to him.
After Hirsch was cleared and reinstated in the IDF he was appointed in 2012 as reserve deputy commander of the new IDF Depth Corps.
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His previous service reflects wide command experience: a former paratrooper, Hirsch has commanded the 202nd Paratroop Battalion; the Shaldag air force commando unit; the Binyamin Regional Brigade; the Bahad 1 officers training base; and the Galilee Division. He has received several Chief of General Staff Awards for the excellence of the units he commanded.
Hirsch was raised in Arad. He has a BA in Middle Eastern studies from Bar-Ilan University and an MBA from Tel Aviv University. He is married and has three daughters. He is currently chairman of the Israel Leadership Institute, an educational institution, and chairman of Defensive Shield Holdings, Ltd., which provides strategic, operational and tactical solutions for the security sector throughout the world.
Despite a pro forma announcement at the time that he preferred to pick a successor from police ranks, Erdan, who took office in May, shopped around among other senior IDF officers and ex-officers. He clearly wanted someone who could not be associated – guilty by association – with the plethora of scandals that have recently plagued the Israel Police, but who would have the necessary command stature.
Erdan also approached three other senior IDF officers: Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Ayish, the military attaché in the United States; Maj.-Gen. (res.) Israel Ziv, who heads a security consulting firm; and Maj.-Gen. (res.) Avi Mizrahi, a former GOC Central Command.
Erdan’s choice of Hirsch, made in consultation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was deliberate and consistent with his goal of providing the Israel Police with the best possible leader to conduct a badly needed makeover. The minister rebuffed the initial flurry of criticism at his decision in a television interview with Channel 1’s Ayala Hasson. He first noted that a great injustice had been done to Hirsch over the Second Lebanon War and praised his record as a military commander who would be a great asset to the Israel Police.
An untainted outsider is the proverbial new broom that Erdan hopes will sweep clean. It is no secret that the Israel Police is overdue for serious adjustment of its organizational culture, one that has become notorious for the many corruption and sexual harassment scandals that have plagued the force in the past year, forcing a number of division heads to resign in the face of mounting evidence of sexual misconduct.
It is our sincere hope that Hirsch’s appointment will remove the ambiguity in the term “help police.”
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