No more delays: Israel needs a police chief now - opinion

Israel needs a full-time police chief, state prosecutor and director general of the Justice Ministry.

Motti Cohen, 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Motti Cohen, 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
In the absence of a functioning government, the High Court of Justice has issued two important rulings since the beginning of December. The first decision was on December 3 when the court ordered the government to act promptly to appoint a permanent police chief after two years, during which the law enforcement organization has been run by an interim commander.
The ruling came a week after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit advised the court to issue such an order to the government. No legal official has rebutted on behalf of the government.
Moti Cohen, the acting Insp.-Gen. of the Police, replaced Roni Alsheich in December 2018 but was never elevated to permanent status. Public Security Minister Amir Ohana (Likud) has made it clear that he does not intend to grant Cohen permanent status and wants to replace him.
The second ruling was issued on Thursday when the court ordered the government to approve the appointment of a director general of the Justice Ministry, another role that has been filled by an interim official due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to bring Shimon Baron’s candidacy to the cabinet for approval.
In a normal and functioning government, neither of these court decisions would have been necessary. A police chief would have been appointed the moment the previous one’s term was over, as would a state prosecutor – whose seat has been empty for a year. Could anyone imagine two years of Israel not having a chief of staff – of operating with an interim commander with all of the threats that this country faces?
A chief of police is no different. Murders in the Arab sector are on the rise, as is domestic violence – and enforcement of coronavirus regulations is failing. Why is there not a permanent police chief?
The answer is the same for why IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi was appointed for a three-year term as opposed to a full term of four years. Now, as he enters his third year, he will be up for an extension. Almost all chiefs of staff have their terms extended. So, you might wonder, why doesn’t the government appoint them to a full four-year term to begin with?
The reason is because by only giving the chief of staff three years, the government keeps the top IDF officer in line if he wants a fourth year. The same applies to a police chief. By not appointing a police chief, Netanyahu keeps the Police in a state of uncertainty. All top commanders see themselves as potential candidates for the top job, and will think twice before making moves that could impact the prime minister.
Basically, in order to ensure that officials fall in line behind him, Netanyahu makes them all dependent on him. No appointees means everyone thinks they stand a chance. And when everyone thinks they stand a chance, they will naturally be more reluctant to do something that will hurt their chances.
Besides for this corrupt manner of governance, it weakens the country. When there is no state prosecutor, justice is going to be more difficult to serve; when there is no permanent police chief, it is going to be hard to enforce the law. And when the chief of staff needs to get approved for a fourth year in office, is he really going to stand up to a prime minister and try to overturn a decision he thinks is dangerous?
This is what Netanyahu wants – a professional government staff that is dependent and subservient to him. Five years ago, just before announcing that Yossi Cohen would be the new head of the Mossad, Netanyahu reportedly called “N.” – the other candidate who was believed to be the front-runner, and asked if he would be loyal to him, the prime minister. N. said that he would be loyal to the state. A few hours later, Cohen was announced as the new Mossad chief.
Israel needs a full-time police chief, state prosecutor and director general of the Justice Ministry, as well as a chief of staff who doesn’t have to worry about an extension. One person cannot be allowed to hold an entire government hostage due to personal interests. Netanyahu – make these appointments now.