Bereaved families suspend protest against controversial new police chief
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Bereaved families suspend protest against controversial new police chief

After meeting with public security minister, relatives of soldiers killed under ex-army officer Gal Hirsch’s watch believe Erdan will think again

Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, July 31, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, July 31, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bereaved families of soldiers killed in the Second Lebanon War said Friday that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan pledged to reevaluate the appointment of a controversial ex-army officer as the next police commissioner, and suspended their protest.

A once-promising senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces, Gal Hirsch was forced out of active duty in the wake of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, amid criticism over his failure to prevent the kidnapping and killing of two soldiers that led to the conflict. Hirsch’s appointment to the top police post was announced by Erdan on Tuesday, drawing fierce criticism from several bereaved families and dozens of former senior police officials.

Some eight families met with Erdan in Tel Aviv on Friday to voice their opposition to Hirsch’s appointment. After the meeting, the families announced they were satisfied that Erdan would examine the allegations against Hirsch carefully and called off their protest until further notice.

The families had set up a protest tent outside Erdan’s home, and had threatened to lodge a petition with the High Court of Justice.

Chaim Tzemach, the father of slain IDF soldier Oz Tzemach, told Channel 2 that Erdan was receptive to their criticism. “He listened intently. He is willing to weigh our claims against Hirsch,” he said.

Moreover, Tzemach said Erdan would meet with IDF generals Yoram Yair and Doron Almog, who had castigated Hirsch for his conduct during the 2006 war.

“He will listen to what they have to say,” Tzemach said. “The minister was very positive; there was a good feeling [at the meeting].”

“Because Erdan is an ethical man, we believe that he will get the right answers,” Tzemach continued. “We won’t continue our protest, we’ll see where this goes.”

Hours earlier, Erdan had defended Hirsch, saying he was “surprised” by the intense criticism, according to a report in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily Friday.

“I accept the criticism, and I also expected it,” said Erdan. “But I am surprised at the intensity of it, and the style.”

Before Friday’s meeting with the bereaved families, however, Erdan said he had not changed his mind about Hirsch, saying: “Today, I am more convinced than ever that Hirsch is the right man in the right place.”

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

More than two dozen ex-police chiefs and other senior security officials held an unprecedented meeting Wednesday night at which they vowed to thwart the controversial appointment of Hirsch. They said they would appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the state comptroller, and the Turkel Commission, which vets such appointments, in their determination to prevent the move.

Vigorously defending the appointment, Erdan said Thursday that it was telling that there had been no such emergency meeting of ex-police chiefs when seven senior members have been forced to quit the force lately amid a welter of corruption and sexual-assault allegations.

“I don’t remember any such meetings” over those incidents, Erdan said dryly, reiterating his conviction that the police needs an overhaul that only an outsider can institute.

The 51-year-old Hirsch currently works as chair of the Israel Leadership Institute and CEO of Defensive Shield Holdings, a company that describes itself as a “provider of strategic, operational and tactical solutions for the defense, security and homeland security sectors around the world.”

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