Cops vs. soldiers
Hebrew media review

Cops vs. soldiers

A controversial pick for police commissioner has a bunch of ex-top police officials staging a ‘rebellion’

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Former IDF Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
Former IDF Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Just when it appeared the impossibly corrupt Israel Police could not possibly face another scandal, outrage over the appointment of a controversial new police commissioner Gal Hirsch brings the troubled police force back to the headlines on Thursday.

Retired top police officials organized a meeting to oppose ex-IDF commander Hirsch on Wednesday, and the story leads headlines in all three Hebrew newspapers on Thursday.

Both Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth brand the unified opposition to Hirsch by 30 former police officials and five former police commissioners “a rebellion” in their headlines.

“In conversations among them, the senior police officers called the appointment of Hirsch ‘ludicrous’ and criticized Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan who, they said, gave a ‘resounding slap in the face’ to the institution they served in, and ‘took a crazy gamble on questions of human life and public safety.’ Officially, they refrained from explicitly criticizing the appointment of a man who didn’t serve in the police, and focused on criticizing Hirsch specifically, but between the lines… one could see that the outside appointment in itself raised their ire.”

The former police officials were set to appeal the decision to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or the Turkel Commission, which must approve Hirsch for the job.

In a column for the paper, Sima Kadmon argues that Hirsch may not be a bad man, but he’s a bad man for the position.

“Hirsch is going to a bad place. A place that is not good for him, or for the police. Everyone knows that this organization is in the midst of an immense crisis, with a slew of the lowliest kind of corruption. The public security minister looked for a man from the outside. But the savior doesn’t always come from the outside,” she writes. “The decision to appoint Hirsch was seen in the police as patronizing. Disparaging. Disparaging to the police, and its officers.”

Still, Kadmon writes, the officers raising a stink ought to “sit quietly.”

“And before they throw stones, let them examine the glass house they’re in. It takes a shocking lack of self-awareness to speak about values and exemplary and model [behavior] from the position they’re in.”

Haaretz columnist Gidi Weitz elaborates on this last point further, in an article headlined “Look who’s talking.”

Among those opposing Hirsch is Moshe Karadi, whose “dubious” appointment prompted four top police officials to quit, and who was forced to resign two years later, he writes. Also: Aryeh Amit, a confidant of the scandal-ridden Rabbi Pinto; Shlomo Aharonishki, who after resigning as police commissioner, was forced to return hundreds of thousands of shekels he received unlawfully, and the list goes on.

In its editorial, Haaretz calls Hirsch “an outstanding officer” and maintains his ousting from the IDF over his conduct in the 2006 Second Lebanon War was “unfortunate.”

But, it notes, a “patrol car is not an armored personnel carrier, and a policeman is not a soldier.”

“Hirsch’s appointment is indicative of how Erdan perceives the police — as a military-security body, whose civilian assignments are secondary. But Erdan is mistaken: The police actually must improve the civilian aspects of their mission — preserving public order, serving the citizen, supervising traffic and above all crime. The new commissioner will be required to give his attention to issues like suspects’ rights, detention until the end of legal proceedings, dealing with demonstrations and other issues in the realm of human and civil rights.

“It’s doubtful whether a military commander, however talented, is suited for this,” it writes.

Meanwhile, in Israel Hayom, columnist Dan Margalit offers some rare criticism of Netanyahu.

“The next police commissioner should have been selected two months before Yohanan Danino resigned, in order to have the right amount of overlap, and give him time to visit the units and get to know the police. But the arm twisting of Benjamin Netanyahu and Gilad Erdan pushed off by an additional two months the announcement that the successor is Gal Hirsch. In the entire world, this would be considered problematic. In Israel, it’s the norm. Only in Israel.”

Margalit writes that choosing Hirsch was “wrong, but brave.”

Israel Hayom also reports that the Turkel Commission is expected to invite Hirsch for a hearing to explain the circumstances that led to his resignation from the IDF. The date for the meeting has not yet been set, it said.

With all the hullabaloo over the retired police officers’ protest, opposition by bereaved parents of IDF soldiers killed under Hirsch’s watch in the Second Lebanon War is sidelined. The parents plan to take up the issue with Netanyahu and submit their protest to the Turkel Commission as well, the dailies report.

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