If you zoomed in really close, you could see the serious promotion the Israel Police made just in time for International Women’s Day.
Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan last Thursday confirmed Cmdr. Einat Gil Tzubari as the head of the police security branch, with a promotion to the rank of deputy chief.
She will now head a branch of the police responsible for assessing security threats facing policemen and civilians, providing security for high-risk public figures and public agencies, and training Israeli security providers.
It’s an impressive promotion and one for the police to be proud of, until of course, you zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
Gil Tzubari is the only female among more than three dozen senior officers promoted to top positions in two rounds of appointments by Alsheich since he was sworn in last December.
This is despite the fact that around 30% of the more than 28,000 officers in the Israel Police are women, and they serve in every branch of the agency with distinction.
This is by no means the first round of police appointments that snubbed female candidates. In July 2013, out of 32 senior police appointments – including new subdistrict and deputy district commanders – only four were for women, and of these, one was in the police disciplinary branch, one in the police planning branch, and one in the legal branch.
Most prominent among these was Dep.-Ch. Yael Edelman – who was made the first-ever police adviser on women’s affairs.
A worthwhile and needed appointment, but more than two years later, what do women have to show for it? One appointment out of 37 new promotions in one of the country’s most important agencies. That’s probably not the fault of Edelman and her team – such decisions are made at the highest level of the organization and beyond, where women don’t call the shots.
One can imagine that Gil Tzubari wasn’t the only one worthy of promotion by Alsheich, whose appointments represent the senior commanders who he expects to head the organization during his time as commissioner.
More importantly though, the lone appointment follows a long, draggedout saga of police sexual abuse scandals that have played out in the public sphere over and over in recent years.
The high-water mark came last January, when then deputy commissioner of the Israel Police Nissim Mor was named as the subject of a sexual misconduct investigation (he would later be fired), the latest in a long list of top commanders caught with his pants down – a list that has grown significantly since then.
The next day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the scandal with a remark that now sounds less prophetic, and more a toss-away line to garner a short headline and disappear into the ether.
“It could be the right thing to do, and possibly the time has come, to appoint down the road a female chief of police,” Netanyahu said, adding, “I want to advance this idea. It would be a refreshing change, a female chief of the Israel Police.”
The next month, following a vow by then Commissioner Yochanan Danino to appoint more women to senior positions, a move in the right direction was announced when the agency tapped Gila Gaziel as the new head of the Manpower Branch of the organization. Gaziel was also promoted to the rank of assistant chief, the second-highest rank in the Israel Police, making her the highest- ranked woman in the police force.
MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union), never one to shy away from calling out sexism in Israeli society, did not mince words when it came to the new appointments, 36 out of 37 of which went to men.
“There is no other way to see this round [of appointments] than as spitting in the face of all of the victims of sexual abuse in the police and outside of organization, and spitting in the face of all women.”
Just last month the police announced another female appointment, when former chief spokesperson for the Finance Ministry Merav Lapidot was chosen as the new chief spokesperson of the Israel Police. Lapidot will face the unenviable task of dealing with irate, deadline-driven Israeli crime reporters on a daily basis, something that should be nowhere near as difficult as the task of helping repair the public image of the Israel Police.
The matter of public image and the police came to mind last week, when on Monday Erdan penned a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in which he decried “the treatment of police representatives in Knesset committees.”
Erdan described the treatment of police as “an unacceptable situation,” a sentiment also expressed in a letter written that same day by Alsheich, and which Erdan included in his message to Edelstein.
Though they didn’t specify a particular incident, the letters were sent after Manpower Branch Head Asst.-Ch. Gila Gaziel attended a Knesset committee meeting dealing with the treatment of Ethiopian Israelis by the police. During the meeting, she was told to shut her mouth by the mother of Yosef Salamsa; an Ethiopian youth who was abused by police and later committed suicide.
Gaziel had moments earlier begun her remarks by saying that she believed that “the police are being defamed” by speakers at the meeting.
While unfair criticism is often leveled at the police, the statement by Gaziel appeared to indicate – if unintentionally – part of what the problem is for the agency. While they do have reason to feel wounded, even unfairly maligned at times, the reason is not bad PR; it’s a shortage of positive steps taken.
The senior leadership of the Israel Police has repeatedly in years past decried the wrongdoing and sexual misconduct of top commanders and has said that such behavior has no place in the Israel Police. In the same breath though, time and again they would add the caveat that these acts of wrongdoing should not besmirch the good name of the entire organization and of the tens of thousands of police officers who serve with distinction.
The problem is that when commanders at the very highest level of the organization are repeatedly named in sexual abuse cases, it does damage to the entire organization as does each highly publicized case of police brutality.
If police want to repair their public image – especially with women – PR and protestations about unfair criticism aren’t going to do the trick.
Neither will promoting one woman to a top command post for every 36 men.
The writer covers crime, African migrants and security issues for The Jerusalem Post. His blog can be found at www.benjaminhartman.com