National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir does not intend to extend Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Kobi Shabtai’s tenure for a fourth year, Israeli media outlets reported Thursday. As of press time, Ben-Gvir’s office did not confirm the reports to The Jerusalem Post.
Shabtai, who has been serving in his role since January 2021, is set to stand down in January 2024. Ben-Gvir can extend the tenure for one year, but he is unlikely to do so due to a deep crisis in their relationship, according to the reports.
Ben-Gvir’s office has not denied the reports.
“It does not seem that there is an option to strengthen the relationship between them,” a representative from his office told Maariv police correspondent Alon Hakmon.
Ben-Gvir is reportedly angry at Shabtai for opposing his initiative to have the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) combat crime in the Arab sector.
Ben-Gvir and Shabtai are at odds over a lot of issues
Shabtai was “doing everything” to sabotage the Shin Bet initiative because he views it as “a final stamp that [he] failed and that [they] failed as police in dealing with crime in Arab society,” a “senior official” in Ben-Gvir’s office told Maariv last week.
Ben-Gvir and Shabtai are also at odds over an approaching appointment cycle, Hakmon reported. Shabtai wants to promote Border Police Commander Amir Cohen to head the Tel Aviv Police District.
Shabtai was in the Border Police, and Ben-Gvir said he chose Cohen out of personal affinity and not professionalism.
In April, a petition for an interim order to bar Ben-Gvir from appointing senior police officers was rejected by the High Court of Justice.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel filed the petition after Tel Aviv District Commander Ami Eshed’s dismissal on March 9, which the NGO alleged was due to a disagreement over the response of Eshed to judicial reform protests earlier that month.
Justice Yitzhak Amit said the petition was too general an application in response to the officer’s transfer, which had been frozen by Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara on March 10.
In response to the reports about Shabtai, National Unity chairman Benny Gantz said: “Ben Gvir’s leak about his intention to end the commissioner’s tenure, a man who, unlike him, has been contributing for several years to the security of the country... shames the State of Israel.”
“Ben-Gvir is not qualified to manage the internal security of the State of Israel and harms the ability of the police to deal with a huge challenge,” he said. “If [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has any sense of responsibility, he should fire him long before the end of the commissioner’s term,” Gantz said.
Michael Starr contributed to this report.