Israel Police already looking to life after chief Kobi Shabtai

The police commissioner's tenure has been marred by controversy and disaster, and he is only halfway through.

 Chief of police Kobi Shabtai  tesitfies before the Meron Disaster Inquiry Committee, in Jerusalem, on April 11, 2022.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Chief of police Kobi Shabtai tesitfies before the Meron Disaster Inquiry Committee, in Jerusalem, on April 11, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Insp.-Gen. Kobi Shabtai's tenure as Israel Police Commissioner will end in January 2024. Sources within the police claim his tenure will not be extended, with any future government most likely opting to nominate a different candidate in two years' time.

This is because Shabtai's reign as police commissioner has been marred by controversy, disaster and scandals, the sources noted.

Kobi Shabtai and the Mount Meron Disaster

Only last week, Shabtai along with a host of senior Israeli officials including opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu received official letters warning of negligence and legal wrongdoing by the Mount Meron Disaster state commission of inquiry.

Despite the issued warning, Shabtai vowed he will not resign from his role.

 FUNERAL FOR brothers Yosef David Elhadar and Moshe Mordechai Elhadar (opposite, far right), killed in the Meron tragedy; flames of remembrance for 45 victims; both May 2, 2021.  (credit: FLASH90) FUNERAL FOR brothers Yosef David Elhadar and Moshe Mordechai Elhadar (opposite, far right), killed in the Meron tragedy; flames of remembrance for 45 victims; both May 2, 2021. (credit: FLASH90)

In a statement, the police chief said he had no intention of resigning and that it was crucial that the police have continuity of leadership and command in the midst of a variety of ongoing challenges to the country.

Many within the organization reportedly expected Shabtai to take responsibility and resign, following the lead of Northern District Police Superintendent Shimon Lavi, who quit the police force in July and had previously taken responsibility for the death of 45 Israelis on Mount Meron.

However, sources close to the police chief said that while "he would do anything to clear his name," he will not abandon the organization that means so much to him."

Resignations, violence, war: The crises that hurt Shabtai's reign

Shabtai was appointed to his position in late 2020. "The organization was not as prepared as we had hoped or as it should be," a senior official told Maariv.

"Shabtai came in with motivation and a plan to settle the system," the official noted. "It was not enough."

Many senior Israel Police officials quit at the time of Shabtai's promotion, including Alon Assor, Moshe Barkat and Doron Yadid, the latter one of the top candidates along with Shabtai, the official recalled.

Then-public security minister Amir Ohana made the last-minute call to nominate Shabtai, who was head of the Border Police at the time.

While the resignation of the senior officials certainly shook the system, other factors such as Operation Guardian of the Walls last year, the ongoing violence in the Arab sector and fighting in mixed cities all added fuel to the fire.

Violent riots broke out in Ramla last night amid the ongoing violence between Palestinians and Israelis in east Jerusalem. (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)Violent riots broke out in Ramla last night amid the ongoing violence between Palestinians and Israelis in east Jerusalem. (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

Who will replace the Israel Police chief?

There are two leading candidates to replace Shabtai in 2024.

One is Asst.-Ch. Ami Ashad, the respected commander of the Police's Tel Aviv District. The other, Asst.-Ch. Avi Biton, is the commander of the Central District.