In Blow to Public Security Minister, Committee Opposes Police Chief Nominee

Committee opposes nomination after learning Moshe Edri met with lawyer of man set to testify against him ■ Public Security Minister Erdan: The committee’s justifications are inadequate. It is the cabinet that appoints the police commissioner

Josh Breiner
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Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Moshe Edri, November 2018
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Moshe Edri, November 2018Credit: Gil Cohen Magen
Josh Breiner

The committee that vets senior civil service appointments announced Thursday that it won’t approve the government’s nominee for police commissioner, Moshe Edri, saying his appointment would "harm the public's trust in the police."

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said he refused to accept the committee's decision and that he still intends to bring Edri's appointment to the government cabinet for a vote.

Erdan, who appointed Edri, said earlier he would like to appear before the committee in order to convince them to reverse their decision. Edri currently serves as the ministry's general director.

The chief consideration noted by the committee to oppose the appointment was a meeting Edri held with Pini Fishler, an attorney representing police corruption whistleblower Rafi Rotem, prior to their testimony before the committee.

The committee learned of the meeting between the two only after Fishler testified, as Edri did not initially report it.

Earlier this month, 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.

After discussing the subject for ten hours, the committee members were split in their vote: Retired Justice Eliezer Goldberg and Prof. Talia Einhorn were opposed to Edri's appointment, while Moshe Teri and Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkovitz were in favor. Goldberg used his prerogative to decide in case of a stalemate, and determined against the appointment.

"Even if [Goldberg and Einhorn] prefer the nominee's version that in their meeting they did not discuss Rotem," said the committee's statement, "They consider the having the meeting with an attorney representing someone who filed a complaint against him [Edri], while the committee deliberates, specifically the same complaint, as a behavioral and judgmental failure which leads to improper conduct, and not simply as a 'mistake' as defined by the candidate."

 The two added that the meeting will "follow the nominee throughout the years of his tenure, if appointed, thus harming the public's trust in the police."

Additionally, Goldberg and Einhorn cited conclusions from the State Comptroller's 2016 report regarding Edri conduct.

The 2016 report states that while serving as head of the police's traffic department, Edri decided to cancel six speeding tickets issued to then-Jerusalem Border Police commander – despite presenting no evidence the violations were committed in the line of duty. Some of the documents Edri put forth even proved the opposite.

In light of this, Goldberg and Einhorn said Edri adopted a conduct that does not align with the standards of police integrity. Hershkovitz and Teri, who once headed the Israeli Securities Authority, said "there is nothing to the meeting of the nominee with Fishler to change the initial impression the entire committee had that it should recommend to appoint the nominee [Edri]."

The meeting focused on Fishler's criticism of the Israel Police and did not pertain to Rotem's testimony before the committee, Teri and Hershkovitz's statement said. "They did not consider the meeting an action indicating a flaw in integrity."

The two also said the state comptroller's report "did not determine there was a flaw in the nominee's integrity." They deemed Edri's conduct unscrupulous and a failure to meet proper professional etiquette, and noted his justification for cancelling the traffic reports as insufficient, "but clearly not an infringement on integrity."

Erdan says he made his decision to continue with Edri’s appointment because of the tie vote.

“The committee’s justifications are inadequate to establish ‘a normative, ethical blemish or fault in integrity in the actions of Maj. Gen. Edri and there is nothing in the explanations to prevent Edri’s appointment” as police commissioner, said a statement released by the ministry on Erdan’s behalf.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked came out in support of Erdan’s position and Edri’s appointment.

“It is the cabinet that appoints the police commissioner based on the recommendation of the Internal Security Minister – and not two members of the Goldberg committee,” said Shaked, adding that the opinion of the other two members is simple and logical.

“Edri is an excellent officer. No one is perfect. The cabinet must appoint the most appropriate candidate,” said Shaked.    

Erdan said in an interview with Army Radio on Friday morning that he had read the decision carefully and did not understand the reason for Edri’s rejection, who had expected the nomination to be approved.

“Suddenly, based on a meeting in which they did not discuss his candidacy at all, the committee decided not to recommend [Edri]. I think this is something very, very strange,” said Erdan.

The job of the committee is to advise and not to determine whether Edri will be the next commissioner, said Erdan.

“If the committee that was established to advise has a tie vote, and there are legal authorities that think as I do that there is no real reason here to cancel [the appointment], I do not intend to accept the committee’s position, I will bring [the appointment] to the cabinet for approval despite the decision,” he said.

In a tweet on Friday morning, Erdan wrote: “Retired major general Moshe Edri passed an occupational polygraph test successfully according to the committee’s request. No candidate for any position [is required] to take such a test about their past. Not a Supreme Court justice, not the State Prosecutor and not the head of the Shin Bet security service. I will fight against the injustice they are doing for the second time (after Gal Hirsch) to an officer who served his entire life.”

Last week, Edri was required by the committee to take an occupational polygraph test, during which claims regarding his personal conduct were examined. The committee unanimously said Edri had successfully passed the test.

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.”