Israel’s New Police Chief Rapped for Handling of Tel Aviv Shooting

Senior officers say former deputy Shin Bet head Roni Alsheich has brought the security service’s culture of secrecy into the force.

Mourners comfort one another at the scene of a shooting attack in downtown Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016.
Ofer Vaknin

Senior figures in the Israel Police are critical of Commissioner Roni Alsheich’s handling of last Friday's shooting in Tel Aviv that killed two people and wounded another seven. The search for the presumed gunman, Nashat Melhem, 29, continued on Monday.

Sources in the police, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed that at no time since the shooting has Alsheich consulted with senior officers or held a meaningful discussion about the needs of the police teams on the ground and the best way to keep the public informed about developments in the investigation.

Senior police officers said that in contrast to previous incidents, there has been no dialogue between the police and the Shin Bet security service, a body given to secrecy. They assert that Alsheich, who was the deputy head of the Shin Bet until shortly before being sworn in as national police commissioner, on December 3, 2015, has not changed the working relationship between the two agencies. This failure, they claim, is preventing discussion of crucial issues for the police.

The sources cited what they called examples of successful cooperation between the police and the Shin Bet in the aftermath of the murder by a Palestinian terrorist of five members of a family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar in 2011 and the investigation of the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers in the West Bank in 2014. The sources said the agencies worked well together, each according to its own style. But with Alsheich, they complain, he simply accepts the Shin Bet’s assessments without holding any discussion.

As an example, they pointed to the release of images of the shooter in the Dizengoff Street attack, saying that the police listened to the Shin Bet and made them public only on Saturday night, instead of releasing them immediately.

Moreover, the sources said, Tel Aviv District police commander Bentzi Sau had wanted to hold a media conference after the attack, to brief the public on the manhunt, but Alsheich went with the Shin Bet, which had no interest in keeping the public informed.

“The need to give information to the public is not public relations,” said a police officer. “The need to give information to the public in such times is critical, operational and necessary to the day-to-day life of residents.”