Retired Top Officer Blasts Police Force's 'Mafia Behavior'

The criticisms follow a long-running feud between between Police Brig. Gen. Meir Bokbuza and Police Commissioner David Cohen, in which Bokbuza was labeled as 'mediocre' and 'embittered.'

"The Sicilian Mafia is practically a yeshiva compared to what's happening in the police," Police Brig. Gen. Meir Bokbuza, who recently retired from the service and the National Security Council, told Haaretz this week.

The comments come after a long-running feud between Bokbuza and Police Commissioner David Cohen, which has led to allegations of nepotism and corruption in the senior ranks, and counter-accusations labeling Bokbuza a "mediocre" and "embittered" man.

Meir Bokbuza, retired police officer
Moti Milrod

Two years ago, after 34 years' service in the police, Bokbuza went to the Supreme Court to challenge Police Commissioner David Cohen and launched an attack against the service's officer promotion policy - which operated, Bokbuza claimed, against regulations and benefited Cohen's consorts and yes men.

"David Cohen wanted a commanding cadre that would be like dashboard puppies, nodding all the time," Bokbuza alleges. "He promoted people to major general who were supposed to have retired from the police, just because they were close to him. Even the state comptroller criticized Cohen for his involvement in the promotion of his brother, Brigadier General Motti Cohen. This is Mafia behavior, there's no other word for it."

Bokbuza joined the police in the 1970s and served in a variety of roles - including chief of the Negev district, deputy head of intelligence and deputy commander of the Judea and Samaria and Central districts.

He is not a typical mud-slinger leaving because he didn't get promoted: When Cohen informed him in August 2008 that he would not be promoted, Bokbuza fought to stay in the police until retirement, and served until a few weeks ago as the police representative on the National Security Council.

Bokbuza says Cohen told him that he should retire from the police to make way for younger senior officers, as Cohen wanted to make the commanding officers younger. But when he looked around him, Bokbuza said, he saw that "Cohen's friends" were given two year extensions beyond retirement age. A few months later, similar extensions were granted to four more major generals.

The aggrieved officer also found that several brigadier generals were promoted despite being ranked beneath him in senior officers' evaluations and being less experienced. In 2009, he petitioned the Supreme Court against Cohen and against the Public Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch.

Bokbuza was appealing specifically against Cohen's attempt to send him on early leave. He presented the justices with the praise he received from his superiors, including Major General Ilan Franco, and former Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi, who praised him for his role as commander during the eviction of the Amona outpost.

Then, as now, he points an accusing finger at Cohen, who he believes wanted to see him out of the police service for personal reasons which contravened regulations.

And Bokbuza's confrontations with Cohen go back years. When Cohen was deputy head of intelligence and Bokbuza headed the gathering department of the intelligence force, Bokbuza's opinions and comments were preferred whenever the two would clash, he claims.

As an example, he recalls that when Cohen was head of the southern district and Bokbuza was deputy head of intelligence, he demanded to stop the work of two undercover agents, who operated in Be'er Sheva under the guise of students and purchased drugs from dealers. The agents were exposed in a local newspaper; Cohen suggested simply moving them to Ashkelon and Ashdod, while Bokbuza argued this was a clear and immediate risk to the agents. Bokbuza's opinion won the day.

When asked how he explains that, despite police claims of rejuvenating the command, veteran major generals were allowed to remain, Bokbuza states: "Cohen's entire point was to create a situation in which in a year or two all the major generals will have to retire, and then there will be no choice but to promote his brother, Brigadier General Motti Cohen, and other close associates, to major generals."

The police spokesman said in response that Bokbuza's claims "are not worthy of comment. The achievements of the Israeli police in recent years are thanks to the thousands of policemen, and to them alone."

A senior officer in the police force also told Haaretz that Bokbuza was "a mediocre officer who was promoted beyond his personal and professional qualifications. The decision to stop his promotion was made together with the ministry and him being frustrated and embittered does not add respect to him or to the organization that he served for decades."