Deputy Shin Bet chief tapped as new police commissioner
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Deputy Shin Bet chief tapped as new police commissioner

Nominee, identified only as R., awaits committee approval; announcement comes 2 days after Erdan drops Gal Hirsch nomination

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (L) speaks with Deputy Police Commissioner Bentzi Sau in Jerusalem on September 7, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (L) speaks with Deputy Police Commissioner Bentzi Sau in Jerusalem on September 7, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced Friday that the deputy chief of the Shin Bet security agency is the new candidate for police commissioner.

The appointment of R., whose name is under gag order due to the sensitive nature of his job, is pending the approval of the Turkel Commission, headed by former justice Jacob Turkel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had approved Erdan’s pick earlier this week, according to the Israel Hayom daily, even before he and the public security minister announced they were dropping the nomination of former army commander Gal Hirsch.

Following Erdan’s decision, police’s southern district chief Yoram Halevy — once thought to be a leading contender for the job — was said to be considering retirement.

On Friday Netanyahu called R. “an accomplished and talented man, who has contributed greatly to Israel’s security and who will contribute greatly as chief of police.”

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has also given R. his key backing, saying there is no legal obstacle to his appointment.

R., a former IDF paratrooper, has served in the Shin Bet since the late 1980s, upon his release from the army.

The 52-year-old held several senior roles within the Shin Bet before his promotion to second-in-command. He holds a BA and MA in political science, and is married and father to seven children, a statement from Erdan’s office said. He was formerly a resident of the West Bank settlement of Kochav Hashachar.

The new nomination came two days after Erdan announced that he would rescind the nomination of Hirsch as the next Israel Police Commissioner.

Erdan said in a statement clarifying the decision that “Gal Hirsch is not suspected of anything and nobody has filed a complaint against him.”

“He’s a guiltless individual and he’s untainted,” Erdan added. “Unfortunately, in the State of Israel, investigating candidates is limited in time, and in recent days it was clear to me that the process will continue an unknown amount of weeks, at least.”

Netanyahu said in a statement Wednesday, following the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday, that “Hirsch is the right man for the job of commissioner — thus I’ve thought and thus I think today, too.

Gal Hirsch (screen capture: Channel 2)
Gal Hirsch (screen capture: Channel 2)

“But the process of appointment is difficult, prolonged and damaging, and doubtless worthy of reinvestigation,” he said. “Already Gal Hirsch’s good name has been harmed anew by critics for a month.”

Erdan had vehemently sought to appoint Hirsch, a former IDF officer and police outsider, as the next police chief, filling a gap in a police brass plagued with scandal. Senior police officers opposed the appointment from outside the force, and others also questioned Hirsch’s record during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

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