Erdan seeking to appoint heads of police, prison despite interim government

Minister notes to attorney general that while it’s unusual for transitional government to make permanent appointments, ongoing cycle of elections is exceptional circumstance

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks at the Israel Police Independence Day ceremony at police headquarters in Jerusalem on May 5, 2019. (Flash90)
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks at the Israel Police Independence Day ceremony at police headquarters in Jerusalem on May 5, 2019. (Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to examine whether appointments can be made for the positions of police chief and prisons chief despite the fact there is a transitional government, given the exceptional circumstances of a third election being held within a year.

As a general rule, an interim government, such as the one in office since January, is not permitted to make permanent appointments to senior positions such as police chief.

“In the past, I decided not to nominate candidates to these positions in light of the dissolution of the Knesset and the expectation that a new government would be formed following the elections,” Erdan wrote to Mandelblit.

“However, in light of the significant and changing circumstances of the election period and the start of another election campaign, from which there is still no certainty a government will emerge, I would like to bring before the government the question of approval of candidates for permanent office,” Erdan wrote.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit holds a press conference at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem, November 21, 2019. (Hadas Parush/FLASH90)

The police department has been led by interim chief Motti Cohen since last December after Erdan’s candidate for the post, Moshe Edri, withdrew his candidacy amid a public scandal over his conduct.

Commissioner Asher Vaknin was appointed acting chief of the Israel Prisons Service last December as well, following the conclusion of chief commissioner Ofrah Klinger’s three-year term.

Since then, the dissolution of the Knesset on two occasions and the calling of three elections have delayed the naming of permanent appointments to the two roles.

Former Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich left the police force last year after a term marked by public feuds with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior politicians, but the transition government has so far balked at attempting to appoint a new permanent police commissioner, leaving the acting chief instead with a limited mandate.

Alsheich in September said the government’s failure to appoint a permanent replacement for him over the previous nine months had “seriously damaged the vital independence of the force.”

“There are many candidates from within the police who could fulfill the role. The elections should not delay the appointment of the police commissioner,” he said at Channel 12’s Influencers Conference in Tel Aviv.

Former Israel Police commissioner Roni Alsheich speaks during a Channel 12 TV conference in Tel Aviv on September 5, 2019. (Flash90)

Alsheich’s four-year term ended after Erdan, who often clashed with the commissioner, declined to extend his tenure by the customary additional year.

Alsheich, who ended his term as Israel’s top cop last year, oversaw the police investigations into Netanyahu. The prime minister, who orchestrated Alsheich’s appointment to the post, had made little secret of his dislike for the police chief over recent years, accusing him of leaking information from the investigations to the press and of conducting a “witch hunt.”

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