Erdan to meet bereaved families over controversial police chief pick

Erdan to meet bereaved families over controversial police chief pick

Relatives of soldiers killed under ex-army officer Gal Hirsch’s watch vow to take case to High Court if minister ‘doesn’t change his mind’

Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, July 31, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan during a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, July 31, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Friday was set to meet with several bereaved parents of soldiers killed during the Second Lebanon War, who were objecting to the appointment of a controversial ex-army officer as the next police commissioner.

A once-promising senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces, Gal Hirsch was forced out of active duty in the wake of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, amid criticism over his failure to prevent the kidnapping and killing of two soldiers that led to the conflict. Hirsch’s appointment to the top police post was announced by Erdan on Tuesday, drawing fierce criticism from both the bereaved families and dozens of former senior police officials.

Some eight families were expected to attend Friday’s meeting in Tel Aviv to voice their opposition to Hirsch’s appointment.

The families have also set up a protest tent outside Erdan’s home, and threatened to lodge a petition with the High Court of Justice.

“If the minister doesn’t change his mind, we won’t give up, we’ll turn to the High Court,” said Yoav Tzur, whose son was slain in 2006 under Hirsch’s watch, according to the Walla news website. “This is an inappropriate appointment and the prime minister knows it’s inappropriate.”

Defending his pick, Erdan said he was “surprised” by the intense criticism of Hirsch, according to a report in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily Friday.

“I accept the criticism, and I also expected it,” said Erdan. “But I am surprised at the intensity of it, and the style.”

Erdan said he had not changed his mind about Hirsch, saying: “Today, I am more convinced than ever that Hirsch is the right man in the right place.”

The deputy commander of the Israel Police agreed Thursday to remain in the force until the end of the year and help the new chief learn the post. But Benzi Sau’s act of loyalty to the force may not be necessary, since opposition to the appointment of retired IDF brigadier general Hirsch is growing, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Thursday night.

Sau, who has been serving as acting police commander in recent months, tendered his resignation when Hirsch was tapped for the post on Tuesday, but has now agreed to stay in the post until the end of the year, according to the TV report.

It added, however, that Hirsch’s path to the post is anything but guaranteed, with a vetting panel set to judge next Tuesday whether he has the necessary experience to run the force, and whether his post-army business dealings in any way compromise his integrity.

Gal Hirsch (screen capture: Channel 2)
Gal Hirsch (screen capture: Channel 2)

More than two dozen ex-police chiefs and other senior security officials held an unprecedented meeting Wednesday night at which they vowed to thwart the controversial appointment of Hirsch. They said they would appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the state comptroller, and the Turkel Commission, which vets such appointments, in their determination to prevent the move.

Vigorously defending the appointment, Erdan said Thursday that it was telling that there had been no such emergency meeting of ex-police chiefs when seven senior members have been forced to quit the force lately amid a welter of corruption and sexual-assault allegations.

“I don’t remember any such meetings” over those incidents, Erdan said dryly, reiterating his conviction that the police needs an overhaul that only an outsider can institute.

The 51-year-old Hirsch currently works as chair of the Israel Leadership Institute and CEO of Defensive Shield Holdings, a company that describes itself as a “provider of strategic, operational and tactical solutions for the defense, security and homeland security sectors around the world.”

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