Ex-Israel Police official: Guardian of the Walls was just the beginning

Retired police official Uri Bar-Lev warned that the police "will not be able to meet their goals; the next incident will be much more serious."

Lt.-Col. Dori Saar during Operation Guardian of the Walls.  (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Lt.-Col. Dori Saar during Operation Guardian of the Walls.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Former senior Israel Police commander Uri Bar-Lev warned on Monday about the security challenges that the Israel Police will face in the future, saying that "Operation Guardian of the Walls was just the beginning."

Guardian of the Walls was the operation carried out by the IDF against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in Spring 2021 during which violent riots broke out in some of Israel's mixed Jewish-Arab cities. Bar-Lev said that the violence Israel saw then was just a "promo."

"The Israel Police, faced with the challenges it faces - is a police system that will not be able to meet its goals," Bar-Lev warned during an interview with 103 FM radio. "Neither the higher-ups nor the citizens are prepared for the necessary level of security. We saw it in Guardian of the Walls. The next incident will be much more serious."

"Neither the higher-ups nor the citizens are prepared for the necessary level of security."

Former senior Israel Police official Uri Bar-Lev

Israel's police chief under fire

The statement came amid tensions surrounding current Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai.

The incumbent police chief has faced criticism for the police force's lack of readiness in the face of crises, such as Operation Guardian of the Walls and the resulting riots that broke out in mixed Jewish-Arab cities throughout Israel such as Lod and Acre.

 Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir and Chief of Police Kobi Shabtai at Itamar Ben-Gvir's daughter's Bat Mitzvah ceremony in Kiryat Arba, December 8, 2022. (credit: ARIE LEIB ABRAMS/FLASH 90) Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir and Chief of Police Kobi Shabtai at Itamar Ben-Gvir's daughter's Bat Mitzvah ceremony in Kiryat Arba, December 8, 2022. (credit: ARIE LEIB ABRAMS/FLASH 90)

Shabtai has also been criticized for his handling of the police during the Mount Meron tragedy, one of the worst disasters in Israeli history which saw 45 people crushed to death on Lag Ba'omer. These criticisms have worsened following the publication of the police recordings from the incident, which saw police officers' pleas for help and reinforcements going unheeded until it was too late.

These criticisms have also been compounded by accusations that Shabtai is trying to win the favor of incoming national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is considered an extremist on the right wing and who wishes to gain extra powers in his future control over Israel Police. 

Further tensions also have risen in relation to Ben-Gvir's opposition to recent appointments within the police.

"Powers cannot be taken from the police commissioner," Bar-Lev said in regard to Ben-Gvir's desire to transfer powers to the national security ministry. "Each public security minister (the former name of the national security minister position) comes and outlines a policy. Each minister controls the budget of the police, and that's how it's been for at least the past 30 years."

He emphasized, "There is a bold line marked with a red highlighter that the minister does not get involved in investigations."

Bar-Lev also denied that he might be appointed to the position of police commissioner. "I heard that rumor," he said. "It's not going to happen. We have a commissioner who is continuing his duties."