Senior Police Officials Foiled Appointment of Potential New Chief, Israeli Top Cop Says

Former head of police intelligence says he attended meeting where officers said they would fight the pick of Yoram Halevy

Jerusalem district police commander Maj. Gen. Yoram Halevy on his way to the the Western Wall.
Olivier Fitoussi

The former head of the Israel Police’s intelligence unit, Brig. Gen. Guy Nir, said on Monday that senior police officials thwarted the appointment of Deputy Commissioner Yoram Halevy as police chief, adding that the same thing happened with Gal Hirsch in 2015.

Nir, who addressed the issue during a Knesset Interior Committee hearing Monday, said that three years ago he was at a meeting with senior police officials, among them former head of the 433 fraud squad unit, Roni Ritman, in which “it was shamelessly said – Yoram Halevy will not be police commissioner.”

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Nir, who testified at the behest of committee chairman MK Yoav Kish, told members how the police used information to prevent the two appointments. “They sit in the most sensitive places in the investigations branch, in intelligence and in Lahav 433, and they have access to invasive tools,” he said.

Nir stated that the day after the announcement of Hirsch’s appointment and after a series of discussions with the head of the investigations and intelligence wing, Meni Yitzhaki, “I went to an event of some friends, and I couldn’t hold it in.” He recalled, “I told my friend, ‘The police commissioner in Israel was foiled.’” He said Hirsch was a “victim of a targeted hit” and that in his investigation “state attorney officials relied on faulty information.”

He stressed, “Throughout the whole process of the inquiry, they never contact me, as one who has evidence.” He added, “Call it a junta, I call it the method.”

Nir said that there are officials in the police who collect intelligence about public figures, contrary to guidelines. “When the intelligence tools are in the wrong hands, they are liable to constitute a clear and present danger,” he remarked. “Intelligence and investigative officials who secretly keep a wealth of information about public figures become very powerful, and power is liable to corrupt.”

The investigation against Hirsch, who is suspected of bribery and a range of money-laundering crimes, was launched three years ago, shortly after Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced that he had chosen him as the candidate to be the police commissioner. In July, it was reported that the police were expecting to decide that there was insufficient evidence to indict him. However, the investigation has since continued, and the police say it will end in a few months.

Halevy was deemed one of the leading candidates to replace Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, before Moshe Edry was chosen for the position. In the weeks preceding Erdan’s announcement, it was reported that Alsheich was trying to foil Halevy’s appointment, in part by providing a document with sensitive information about Halevy to the attorney general.

Nir has been on involuntary leave the past three years, following claims of disciplinary infractions. He is now facing a police disciplinary tribunal, which could have him fired.