Ministers Galore, but Israel Mustn’t Delay Choosing a New Police Chief

New public security chief Yariv Levin modestly says he only has the job until fellow Likudnik Gilad Erdan returns to the cabinet. That smacks of procrastination.

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Israel Police chief Yohanan Danino in the Knesset.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Israel Police chief Yohanan Danino in the Knesset.Credit: Emil Salman
Amir Oren
Amir Oren

The U.S. president, poor guy, has to suffice with 15 cabinet secretaries, as the number of cabinet positions is clearly fixed by law. These ministers serve at the president’s behest, with the threat of dismissal always hovering.

In the 2015 edition of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the prime minister is dependent on his ministers’ whims, despite his legal authority. And the line between the executive and the legislative branches is erased. Netanyahu can’t fire a single minister. He is dependent on each of them, on each and every vote.

This is where Isaac Herzog will be put to the test. Leading the opposition, he must always be ready to pounce — none of that clubby Knesset camaraderie. Herzog must work with Ayman Odeh, Yair Lapid, Avigdor Lieberman and Zehava Galon to forge a firm counter-alliance.

Netanyahu has turned Herzog into a scarecrow that lets Bibi leave the foreign ministry post open. While last time around, the prime minister surrendered to Lieberman and kept this job open until the corruption case against Lieberman was closed, this time Netanyahu is the instigator. He has the ludicrous pretext of waiting for Herzog — who even if were foolish enough to come over, wouldn’t do so alone. The cards would be scattered all over the floor.

The quality of our newest ministers is a bit dismaying, but there’s no need to wax nostalgic for the past. Wheeler-dealers have always wormed their way into the government. The situation has gradually deteriorated so that now a minister is often no more than an upgraded MK, a coach traveler upgraded to business class.

Netanyahu may have reserved that double bed up in the sky, but his loyalists can’t get comfortable for long. Ofir Akunis gets to stretch out a bit as communications minister, but in a year he’ll have to make room for fellow-Likudnik Tzachi Hanegbi.

It’s an original method, but not a new one. Netanyahu registered the patent back in his 1996 government, when he gave another quasi-portfolio, science, in rotation to Michael Eitan and Silvan Shalom, who had to wait patiently as deputy defense minister in the meantime. Shalom may have gained some honor, but nothing of substance.

After 67 years of artificial separation, Netanyahu finally merged intelligence with transportation, and public security with tourism. Yisrael Katz will be responsible for intelligence at Egged, and Yariv Levin will oversee the tourism police.

Levin modestly says he has only been entrusted with public security until Gilad Erdan is assuaged and returns to the cabinet. But it’s a very bad thing that Levin is the minister responsible for the police, even temporarily, because we shouldn’t delay appointing the next police commissioner.

Before the election, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein refused to let outgoing Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch complete the appointment process (which yielded two final candidates: Maj. Gen. Shahar Ayalon and Maj. Gen. Bentzi Sau; also under consideration are Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovich and Maj. Gen. Yoram Halevy, and a couple others).

Now we have a government, but not a permanent minister. But naming Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino’s successor is not something that can wait for Erdan to come around.

Without Weinstein’s consent, a new commissioner won’t be appointed, no matter who’s minister. So it’s best that Weinstein and Netanyahu seal an understanding on the matter immediately.

At the same time, it’s vital to refresh the Turkel Committee, which will consider the candidate’s fitness for the post. Former minister Moshe Nissim, former MK Gila Finkelstein and weak Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dayan, who can’t even supervise what’s happening under his nose in the Prime Minister’s Office, should make way for others to screen appointments.

In each of his governments, Netanyahu appointed senior officials, only to see the appointments revoked — the attorney general the first time around, the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff the second time, and the Bank of Israel governor the third time (twice). This mustn’t repeat with the appointment of a police commissioner.

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