Netanyahu’s Pick for Israel Police Chief Has Proved a Failure

Roni Alsheich has made so many mistakes that it’s clear the prime minister prefers loyalty over job skills.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich shaking hands with Netanyahu, December 3, 2015.
Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich shaking hands with Netanyahu, December 3, 2015. Haim Zach, GOP

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, insisted on appointing Roni Alsheich police commissioner, someone brought in hastily from the Shin Bet security service to improve the police’s image from a low point.

After six months in office, it seems that Alsheich has been successful in plunging the police to new lows. There have been embarrassing operations; for example, the failed pursuit of the man who shot up a Tel Aviv bar, and the conclusion that the suspected murderer of Anastasia Rusanov and her partner wasn’t dangerous even as he roamed free and armed. But under Alsheich, the police have also been embroiled in affairs that raise deep concerns about a lack of professionalism and a bending to political considerations, as in nondemocratic countries where the police protect the rulers, not the people.

Alsheich’s scandalous decisions and statements since taking over − from leniency toward senior officers suspected of sexual offenses to his statement about a difference between Jewish and Arab bereavement − have been joined by two more highly charged affairs. One is his decision to conceal from the public police investigators’ recommendation to indict Sara Netanyahu. The other is the police’s conduct in the alleged rape of a mentally challenged woman by Palestinians.

The protection of the prime minister’s wife is infuriatingly discriminatory in that it breaches one of the most basic principles of democracy – equality before the law. But the rape affair has set new heights of embarrassment for the police. At first it wasn’t publicized, and then it was, with hints that she was raped expressly because she was Jewish. The prime minister took advantage of this in a Facebook post to lash out at the media and the left.

After the post, the police quickly replaced the investigative team and took a number of hasty and contradictory steps: the police spokesman’s office told Army Radio’s Razi Barkai that the motive for the alleged crime was not believed to be as Netanyahu and others suspected. And in a hearing to extend the detention of one of the suspects for the fourth time, the police representative asked that this motive be stricken from the request that the man remain in custody.

The police representative then received an urgent phone call from his superiors telling him to reinstate the original motive at the police’s request. The police have yet to decide on the credibility of the versions, whether the victim’s or the suspects’.

In a democratic country the prime minister isn’t supposed to post incendiary messages on Facebook based on unfounded and partial information. But the police would be expected to protect the public interest of getting at the truth instead of dancing around panicked to the prime minister’s flute.

Alsheich the savior has turned out to be deepening the crisis in the police. This is another failed appointment of the Netanyahu school, which prefers political or ideological loyalty over job skills.