Cabinet set to okay Kobi Shabtai as permanent police chief on Sunday

Meeting called after Gantz demands Shabtai’s nomination be approved even without Netanyahu’s agreement; Israel has been without a permanent commissioner for 2 years

Kobi Shabtai, commander of the Border Police, on September 28, 2017 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Kobi Shabtai, commander of the Border Police, on September 28, 2017 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Ministers are expected to approve Kobi Shabtai’s appointment as police commissioner when the cabinet meets next week, multiple Hebrew media outlets reported Thursday.

The decision to call Sunday’s meeting came after Defense Minister Benny Gantz demanded the cabinet secretary convene the government to okay the nomination.

“The appointment of a permanent police chief for the Israel Police at this time is a national need. We need to put the disagreements aside and approve the appointment immediately,” Gantz said in a statement.

The cabinet had been set to approve Shabtai’s appointment on Tuesday, but the meeting was canceled. Netanyahu called off the meeting after Gantz gave a campaign speech calling on center-left parties to unite against the premier in the upcoming elections, according to the Haaretz daily.

Shabtai entered the post of acting police chief at the beginning of the month, after his planned appointment on a permanent basis was held up by disagreements between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White. Katy Perry, who was tapped to head the Israel Prisons Service, has also been serving on an interim basis since then.

Shabtai took up the post after Motti Cohen’s term as acting police chief ended after two years, following multiple extensions.

Then-Acting Israel Police Commissioner Motti Cohen visits a temporary checkpoint in Jerusalem, on September 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israel Police has been without a permanent commissioner since December 2018, when Roni Alsheich’s term ended. Around the same time, new elections were called, leading to an extended period of instability that saw three elections over the course of a year.

A new permanent government was formed in May, but also suffered ongoing dysfunction, and collapsed last month over a failure to pass a state budget.

After Ohana announced Shabtai as his pick for commissioner last month, Cohen announced his resignation, saying political calculations had led to the delay in the appointment of a permanent police chief. He also claimed that unnamed forces were intervening in the police’s work.

“It seems that the decision not to appoint a permanent commissioner for such a long time was not without ulterior considerations,” Cohen wrote in a letter to officers, in an apparent swipe at the government led by Netanyahu.

Alsheich was a key figure in Netanyahu’s criminal probes and is one of the figures the premier and his Likud colleagues have claimed without evidence were involved in an attempted coup against Netanyahu.

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