Cabinet to vote on Roni Alsheich as new police chief
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Cabinet to vote on Roni Alsheich as new police chief

Shin Bet number-two seen as outsider appointment meant to shake up top ranks of ailing force

Shin Bet deputy chief Roni Alsheich, a candidate for Israel police commissioner, arrives at the Prime Minister's Office, October 1, 2015, to testify before the Turkel Commission on senior public service appointments. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Shin Bet deputy chief Roni Alsheich, a candidate for Israel police commissioner, arrives at the Prime Minister's Office, October 1, 2015, to testify before the Turkel Commission on senior public service appointments. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The cabinet is slated to vote Sunday on the appointment of Shin Bet number-two Roni Alsheich as Israel’s next police commissioner.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan will bring the motion to the cabinet, along with a request to extend the service of current interim commissioner Bentzi Sau until November 11. As a police outsider, Alsheich will begin an intensive period of study over the next month alongside Sau.

Alsheich’s appointment is expected to pass the cabinet vote, having already passed with flying colors through the vetting process of the Turkel Commission for senior public appointments. The commission said earlier this month it had “found no obstacles” to hold up the appointment, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement October 1.

Officials are hoping the appointment will bring an end to a tumultuous era for the police, which has been without a permanent chief since July, and has been rocked in recent years by a string of corruption and sexual harassment scandals.

Erdan’s pick was approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in late September, days after the prime minister and public security minister announced they were dropping the nomination of former Israel Defense Forces general Gal Hirsch.

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

After weeks of controversy and reports of misconduct, Erdan announced that he would rescind the nomination of Hirsch as the next Israel Police Commissioner.

Erdan had vehemently sought to appoint Hirsch, a former IDF officer he hoped would carry out deep reforms in the ailing police force, but Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said it would take months for him to investigate questions arising from Hirsch’s private business dealings.

Some senior police officers opposed the appointment from outside the force, while others questioned Hirsch’s record during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Alsheich, 52, is married and a father of seven. He lived for many years in a settlement not far from Ramallah, but several years ago moved to a religious community in central Israel.

Alsheich served in the Paratroopers Brigade, rising to command the brigade’s elite combat engineering company. By coincidence, his successor in that role was Hirsch.

In the late 1980s he joined the Shin Bet, rising quickly and serving in several key roles. He has been deputy chief of the agency for the past year.

Alsheich was nicknamed “the Fox” for his operational capabilities. He was thought to be a frontrunner in the race to replace current Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, whose five-year term at the helm of the service ends in May 2016.

Alsheich was reportedly convinced by Netanyahu to take the police job after being told that the Shin Bet was also expected to see an outside appointment for its next chief.

Erdan is also expected to announce his candidate to replace outgoing Prisons Service Commissioner Aharon Franco in the coming days.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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