Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has confirmed his anticipated departure at the end of January next year, following reports that National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has no plans to extend his term, which, under normal circumstances, would be extended a year.
Shabtai stated, “It is no secret that I do not intend to continue for a fourth year under these conditions.” He also highlighted the challenging environment he has navigated during his tenure, serving under three different governments and ministers over the last two and a half years.
Despite this, Shabtai emphasized that he has endeavored to maintain professionalism and uphold the dignity of the state within his role.
He said, “I will not let the complicated situation we are in influence my or my police officers’ ethical and professional conduct.” The unfolding situation promises a period of significant change and uncertainty for Israeli law enforcement.
Strained relationships and challenges ahead
The deteriorating relationship between Shabtai and Ben-Gvir is reportedly due to numerous disagreements, including a significant contention over Ben-Gvir’s initiative to involve the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) in combating crime in the Arab sector. Shabtai is opposed to the initiative, seeing it as a tacit admission of the police’s failure to effectively handle crime within the Arab community.
Furthermore, Ben-Gvir has come under scrutiny for his appointment practices, with critics arguing that he favors personal affinity over professional competence. This was evidenced in a Border Police appointment which led to a petition to bar him from appointing senior police officers, rejected by the High Court of Justice in April.
Criticism of Ben-Gvir’s management-style has also come from National Unity Party chairman Benny Gantz who asserted that “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.” Gantz called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take responsibility and fire Ben-Gvir ahead of the end of Shabtai’s term.
Ben-Gvir expressed his gratitude later on Sunday for Shabtai’s service.
He stated, “I would like to express heartfelt gratitude to Shabtai for decades of service to the State of Israel. It’s no secret that there were significant differences between us, substantial divisions. However, the Chief has been a dedicated warrior for many years, a skilled and strong fighter for the sake of the country. I acknowledge and appreciate his years of service.”
Alon Hachmon/Maariv and Eliav Breuer contributed to this report.