Israeli Police Chief Nominee Must Take Polygraph, Search Panel Rules

The committee, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, made its demand after receiving complaints from the public about Moshe Edri. The complaints accused him of unbecoming conduct and conflicts of interest

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Nominee for the next Israeli police chief, Moshe Edri.
Nominee for the next Israeli police chief, Moshe Edri.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The committee that vets senior civil service appointments announced Wednesday that it won’t approve the government’s nominee for police commissioner unless he takes a polygraph test.

“The candidate must take an occupational polygraph, as is the norm in the Israel Police,” the panel said in a statement.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan later said the nominee, Moshe Edri, had agreed to take the test. Had he not agreed, it would have been equivalent to withdrawing his nomination.

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The committee, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, made its demand after receiving complaints from the public about Moshe Edri. The complaints accused him of unbecoming conduct and conflicts of interest.

Legal sources said the committee received no information that wasn’t already in the possession of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and is relying on Mendelblit’s conclusion that there’s no legal barrier to Edri’s appointment. Erdan had sought Mendelblit’s opinion on this issue before nominating Edri.

Nevertheless, the committee said in its statement, it wants the polygraph in order “to prevent gossip against the nominee, if he is appointed to the job, as if he had something to hide. No such cloud should hang over the police commissioner’s head.”

Several of the complaints came from former policemen who accused Edri of acting improperly, in violation of police regulations, back when he served as commander of the Yarkon subdistrict. The complaints charged that Edri’s improper conduct hadn’t previously come to light because he never took a polygraph, as the other two candidates for the commissioner’s job had to do.

Edri avoided a polygraph because he had already retired from the force when the current commissioner, Roni Alsheich, instituted periodic polygraph tests for officers. The other two candidates are Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevy and Tel Aviv police chief David Bitan.

Alsheich also criticized Edri’s conduct in his own appearance before the committee.

Last week, the public broadcasting company Kan reported that one complaint against Edri accused him of improper conduct for which other officers have been ousted from the force in the past.

The conflict of interest complaints related to his ties with businessmen during his time as a district police chief and as director general of the Public Security Ministry. According to the complaints, he never reported these ties.

Transcripts of wiretapped conversations made during a police investigation into corruption in the Yisrael Beiteinu party show that Edri had close ties with MK Faina Kirshenbaum, who has since been indicted for bribery.

In another transcript, Amos Dahari, a crony of party chairman Avigdor Lieberman, said, “You don’t know how important it is that [Edri] is our guy and knows us all. He knows exactly what the party is.”

The need for a polygraph is likely to delay the appointment of a new commissioner. Alsheich’s term ends December 2, and Erdan has said he won’t extend it under any circumstances. Thus it may be necessary to appoint an acting commissioner until the new commissioner is approved.

The committee’s statement also said that after examining the complaints, it asked two of the complainants to testify.

On Monday, Rafi Rotem, a former senior Israel Tax Authority official, told the panel that Edri harassed him when he sought to testify against Ruth David, a former Tel Aviv district attorney who was later charged with corruption.

On Sunday, a former policeman appeared before the committee. He complained of improprieties in Edri’s conduct as commander of the Yarkon subdistrict and demanded that he undergo a polygraph test.

In Alsheich’s testimony to the committee, which recapitulated the claims police had made in a letter to Mendelblit about the candidates, he drew attention to the fact that Edri hadn’t taken a polygraph. The standard police polygraph that Edri is now being asked to take includes many questions about possible conflicts of interests and ties with criminals, businessmen and politicians.

Despite the important Alsheich attaches to polygraphs, as of the start of 2018, more than half the police’s senior officers hadn’t taken one. Some received medical exemptions, while others were exempted because they had taken polygraphs as part of a security check, even though that polygraph relates primarily to information leaks.

Since February, however, 223 officers have undergone polygraphs, according to data the police gave to the Hatzlaha organization.

The Public Security Ministry said, “We have no intention of commenting in the media about every smear or piece of gossip sent to the Goldberg Committee in a transparent attempt to thwart ... Edri’s appointment. It should be remembered that false, hurtful, slanderous reports violate the libel law. This harms Edri’s reputation and is liable to constitute serious libel that justifies legal action.”

Knesset Interior Committee Chairman Yoav Kish termed the Goldberg Committee’s demand for a polygraph “illegitimate” and said it should be rejected. “The process of appointing senior officials ought to take place transparently, through a public hearing in the Knesset,” he said. He also charged that Alsheich’s appearance before the Goldberg Committee “polluted the process.”

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