National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir continues to try to cause a state of mayhem and chaos in the country.
On Thursday, the same day that protesters against the government’s judicial overhaul plans demonstrated in Tel Aviv and at Ben-Gurion Airport, forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take a helicopter to the airport to board his flight to Italy, Ben-Gvir announced in a joint statement with the police that Tel Aviv District Police chief Ami Eshed will be removed from his position and demoted.
The decision was taken by Ben-Gvir, according to the recommendation of police chief Kobi Shabtai and came as part of a round of new appointments in the law enforcement agency, according to the statement.
Shabtai later claimed that the timing was entirely Ben-Gvir’s decision and said that Eshed would remain in his post for now after Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara intervened and said that the demotion was not exactly legal and that it needed to be examined.
Shabtai and Ben-Gvir had reportedly designated Eshed as someone who was getting in the way of their efforts to take a more forceful and aggressive approach to the tens of thousands of people who protest weekly at the entrance to the city.
Ben-Gvir, for example, ordered the police two weeks ago to use stun grenades against the protesters when they blocked the Ayalon Highway, an order that Eshed reportedly opposed.
"[Kobi Shabtai] has cooperated with a convicted criminal to turn the police into a private militia in order to satisfy the whims of the appointed minister and was involved in the removal of a commander with a spine."Police Chief Forum
Ben-Gvir had said that he was unhappy with what he claimed was a soft response to last Thursday’s protests and that he “intended to do something about it,” indicating that the move was very likely a reaction to Eshed’s conduct.
Leaders of the opposition naturally condemned what they viewed as the politicization of the police, and on Friday, the Police Chief Forum condemned Shabtai’s involvement in the removal of Eshed and called on him to resign.
“We, a group of former commissioners and superintendents, were hit with amazement at the decision of the minister to remove Tel Aviv District Commander Ami Eshed considering his success at managing nine weeks of many large-scale protests with wisdom and consideration while allowing the right to protest,” they wrote in a joint statement.
“Our surprise went and became stronger when we discovered that this move was being sponsored by a ridiculous cover of a round of appointments.”
Shabtai, they said, had “cooperated with a convicted criminal to turn the police into a private militia in order to satisfy the whims of the appointed minister and was involved in the removal of a commander with a spine.”
Shabtai has already proven to be weak in the two months since Ben-Gvir took up his role as the minister in charge of the police. In the weeks leading up to the establishment of the government, Shabtai began a campaign to retain his job and has held onto it despite reports that Ben-Gvir had initially planned to replace him, as well as a damning state commission report that put some of the blame for the 2021 Meron disaster on his shoulders.
It is time for Shabtai to realize that he is being played by Ben-Gvir and that his legacy as Israel’s top cop is going to be that of an officer who caved to political pressure and allowed for the politicization of the nation’s crime-fighting force.
According to media reports, the top police brass has lost faith in Shabtai and no longer believes that he is capable of commanding the Israeli police. Eshed told Shabtai on Thursday night that he is “weak and is destroying the police,” according to Channel 13.
Shabtai is not the man Israel needs
We have argued in the past that Shabtai needs to draw personal conclusions and step down from his role. The fact that under his watch 45 people were killed on Lag Ba’omer at Meron and he has not drawn those conclusions should be enough for Israelis to understand that he is not the police commissioner that this country needs.
The State of Israel is in a dire situation. The country’s democratic character is under assault and now the police are no longer an organization that is clean of political considerations and interference.
This needs to change. Shabtai must remember that beyond his job, there is a nation that needs to be protected.
The editorial was written before police chief Kobi Shabtai made his statement on Saturday night.