Best Man to Lead Israel Police Was Betrayed by Amateurs

Gal Hirsch would have been an excellent police chief, but he was betrayed by people incapable of managing a convenience stand but are in fact running the country.

Nehemia Shtrasler
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister Gilad Erdan, 2014.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister Gilad Erdan, 2014.Credit: Alex Kolomoisky
Nehemia Shtrasler

Gal Hirsch, the retired army brigadier general whose candidacy as the next police commissioner has just been withdrawn, was fit to be the top cop. He was the right person at the right time. He would have shaken up that staid, antiquated, mismanaged organization known as Israel Police. He would have been the one to push through a series of reforms at this sickly agency and give it new norms of management and ethics.

Unfortunately, however, he found himself face-to-face with a bunch of amateurs who are incapable of managing a convenience stand but are in fact running the country. They have failed him, harmed him and ultimately also betrayed him.

They, in fact, are two people: Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Erdan messed things up from the beginning. He acted slowly, as if he had all the time in the world, despite the fact that appointing a successor to Yohanan Danino was highly urgent. And then, when things became pressing, he decided on Hirsch without examining the situation, without studying it and without proper planning. In the height of carelessness, Erdan didnt even gauge the strength of opposition that the choice of Hirsch would engender among all kinds of interested parties and ill-wishers, such as the club of former senior police officials.

They wanted to head off the appointment at the top of someone from outside the police who might damage their ties to the system and also, heaven forbid, clean up the smelly mess they left behind. After all, the ills of the police force are also their fault. The seven police major generals who resigned over the past two years over their alleged sexual or corrupt conduct – people in posts just below the top – would not have flourished if it hadnt been for an old, rotten foundation at Israel Police.

Gal Hirsch outside his house in Rosh Ha'ayin, August 2015.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

And thats not all. Erdan made another fundamental mistake when he allowed Netanyahu to deeply interfere in the appointment process. The prime minister interviewed the three internal candidates for the job, expressed his opinion about all the outside candidates and turned Erdan into a puppet, an errand boy instead of a minister, and this after humiliating Erdan with his last-minute appointment to the cabinet.

Everyone understands that the next police commissioner will participate in handling the police investigations relating to the complaints that have accumulated over the alleged conduct of the prime ministers wife, Sara. The prime ministers involvement in the appointment process for a new police chief is therefore particularly tasteless.

Its also worth reading the detailed letter that Maj. Gen. Shai Avital sent to the Turkel committee, the panel that passes muster on senior government service appointments. It was Avital who appointed Hirsch, a reservist, as his deputy to help establish a new army command, the Depth Command. The letter praises Hirsch for how he functioned and for the seriousness with which he dealt with his responsibilities. Avital adds that in light of his acquaintance with Hirsch, he believes Hirsch would be an excellent police commissioner.

Among the many letters of reference sent to the committee in support of Hirsch, notable is the long, highly complimentary seven-page letter from former Supreme Court Justice Mishael Cheshin, who passed away last week, as well as one from retired Judge Eliyahu Winograd. It also merits noting that the Turkel committee members were impressed by Hirsch after a two-hour session with him. They concluded that he was a trustworthy, articulate person of value. But the moment that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said he was looking into the appointment, they stepped aside.

It is particularly appropriate to take to task all those detractors who view Hirschs private business dealings as a mark against him, because he made money. They are inventing all kinds of claims that he paid bribes, laundered money and illegally won bids for jobs, stories out of thin air when there have been no complaints filed against him and no blot on his character. Those who go into the private sector, where they are judged by their real talents and value rather than their connections and PR, should be praised for doing so.

And one also cannot help commenting on the attorney general, who has specialized in inaction and foot-dragging. His approach is dragging things out, investigating endlessly, not presenting conclusions or filing indictments, but in fact sowing suspicions until the person in question breaks down and resigns or is pushed aside.

Hirsch could have continued on in life without this headache. He knew he was entering a hornets nest, but chose to do so out of a sense of mission and valor. I believe him when he says I am a soldier of the People of Israel. Its a shame that his ill-wishers have prevailed.