Top cop farce may have happy ending
FOR 48 hours, the media in Israel was allowed to name the nation’s next chief of police only by his first initial — R. That did not change the fact that anyone could easily find his name on Wikipedia, which was quick to prepare an entry on the man.
Only when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave official authorisation to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan could the name Roni Alsheikh — the deputy chief of the Shin Bet — be revealed.
Meanwhile, for an entire weekend, users of social media had fun with a picture of a rather portly man, his luxuriant moustache just visible despite the pixelation. It was a suitable farce with which to end what had been a gruesome appointment process.
Israel’s police has been rocked by scandals over the past two years. Senior officers, some of whom had been considered candidates for the top job, have been forced to resign over allegations of sexual and financial misconduct.
In addition, public trust in the force is at an all-time low. There was criticism of its slow response to an emergency call from one of the three teenagers
Police on patrol in East Jerusalem; and ( who were kidnapped and then murdered by Hamas in June 2014. The police also came under fire over the lack of attention paid to Yishai Shliessel, the man who attacked the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade a decade ago and, despite threatening to do so again, was allowed to carry out the murder of Shira Banki this summer.
Despite this dismal record, Inspector-General Yochanan Danino was
new chief Roni Alsheikh allowed to remain in his post and complete an extended term. Even when he finally retired, a replacement was still not appointed.
Bentzi Sau, the interim commissioner, had been hoping to land the job but Mr Erdan decided to go outside the force in search of a new broom.
After interviewing a long list of serving and former generals, he settled upon Gal Hirsch, a maverick brigadier-general who left the army under a cloud nine years ago, after the Second Lebanon War.
Days after the appointment was announced, however, allegations of tax irregularities relating to Mr Hirsch’s private defence consultancy emerged and the attorney-general ruled that these would have to be investigated first. Forced to back down, Mr Erdan returned to one of his original candidates.
Mr Alsheikh, a veteran agent-runner and interrogator, had originally turned the top cop job down as he was already slated to become the next Shin Bet chief. It took a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who appealed to his sense of patriotism, for him to agree to take over the troubled police force.
While some far-left commentators have criticised the appointment of a man who lived for most of his life in West Bank settlements (though today he lives in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givat Shmuel) as the head of law enforcement, the 52-year-old grandfather of seven is widely being hailed as an impeccable public servant and a suitable choice.
Whether or not spending 27 years in the shadows has prepared him for a job that, above all, entails regaining the public’s trust, remains to be seen.