Cabinet votes in Roni Alsheich as new police chief
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Cabinet votes in Roni Alsheich as new police chief

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

Shin Bet deputy chief, Roni Alsheich, tapped to become Israel's next chief of police, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, October 01, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Shin Bet deputy chief, Roni Alsheich, tapped to become Israel's next chief of police, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, October 01, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The cabinet unanimously approved the appointment of Shin Bet number two Roni Alsheich as Israel’s next police commissioner on Sunday morning.

Alsheich is expected to start his three-year term on November 11, when he will replace stand-in commissioner Bentzi Sau, and will hold office until 2018. As a police outsider, Alsheich will begin an intensive period of study over the next month alongside Sau.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan lauded Alsheich’s credentials and the knowledge he has gained during his time with the country’s internal security service.

“Roni is a senior commander with much experience in the war on terror and a close acquaintance with police work,” Erdan said. “Roni is a professional who advanced many security reforms, and I am confident that his professional abilities, along with the values that he brings with him, will enable him to lead the Israel Police forward and to deal with every challenge it is presented with.”

Alsheich passed the vetting process of the Turkel Commission for senior public appointments with flying colors. The commission said earlier this month that 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 of Alsheich 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 commissioner.

Erdan had eagerly 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 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 its 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.

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