Investigate the Police

The appointment came under harsh criticism from within the police force, where many officers were skeptical of Hirsch, an outsider.

Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh
In 2015, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan decided to appoint Gal Hirsch, a decorated former IDF general, as the Israel Police’s new commissioner.
The appointment came under harsh criticism from within the police force, where many officers were skeptical of Hirsch, an outsider. Then rumors started that he was a suspect of alleged illegal business dealings with Georgian government ministers.
Within weeks, his candidacy was withdrawn and an official police investigation was launched against him, which has yet to be closed, despite the three years that have passed. The purported investigation has focused on the dealings of a security consulting company he established after he resigned from the IDF following the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
But now it seems that the entire investigation was a farce to begin with. Hirsch not only is innocent, but he was set up, framed, and investigated purely so senior police officers could block his appointment.
This is not merely troublesome. It undermines the very foundation of Israel’s democracy and requires the government to establish an independent commission to immediately investigate. The police, the institution in Israel that usually does the investigating, needs to be investigated.
In one recording aired on Channel 2 News, Cmdr.
Meni Yitzhaki, head of the Police Investigations Department, is heard arguing with Guy Nir, the police’s former intelligence chief, about the need to gather information on Hirsch. Nir explains to his boss that the police had already looked into the matter and did not find any evidence of wrongdoing.
Yitzhaki pushes back and says that what the investigators found was relevant to that time period, but now everything has changed.
“Guy, do a review by you and they will do a review by them,” Yitzhaki is heard on the recording saying.
“This is very sensitive. Don’t involve a lot of people.
Try to look into all of this.”
Three years later, it seems that the police are finally going to close the case for the same reason that Nir said in 2015: a lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.
There will be no charges, not against Hirsch or anyone else.
This didn’t prevent the police from leaking a series of damaging stories against Hirsch over the last three years. One story claimed the FBI was investigating him. Another claimed that the police had recruited a state’s witness against him. All were false. Nothing, it now seems, was true.
What does seem to be true is that senior police officers decided to target an innocent man and frame him so they could prevent his appointment as the country’s top cop.
We agree with Erdan, who announced this week that he will form a commission of inquiry to investigate what really happened. That commission should be established as soon as possible.
We also call on Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to order the official closing of the case and to allow Hirsch to rebuild his reputation. The state will then need to apologize to Hirsch.
While Hirsch’s story might seem isolated, it should concern us all. If the police were able to create an investigation that has lasted three years against a man who was supposed to be appointed as the new commissioner, imagine what could be done to each and every Israeli citizen.
This is also not the first time that the police have dragged their feet when investigating public officials.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s investigations have been going on for two years and the end is not yet in sight. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was previously investigated for more than a decade before watered-down charges were finally brought against him.
Police need to be able to investigate public officials, but they shouldn’t be allowed to keep those investigations open indefinitely. Why hasn’t the investigation against Hirsch been closed already? What are the police waiting for, and why, if there are no charges, did it need to take three years? These are all important questions. A commission of inquiry is needed to help answer them.