Ex-general Gal Hirsch, a probed almost-police chief, enters politics

Hirsch, whose 2015 bid to lead force was nixed over criminal suspicions, says he’ll join right-wing party with social agenda; police minister wants Likud spot reserved for him

FILE: Former IDF brigadier general Gal Hirsch gives a press conference in Tel Aviv announcing his entry into politics, December 26, 2018. (Flash90)
FILE: Former IDF brigadier general Gal Hirsch gives a press conference in Tel Aviv announcing his entry into politics, December 26, 2018. (Flash90)

A former general whose 2015 nomination to be Israel Police commissioner was sunk over suspicions of illicit business dealings announced Wednesday he would enter politics ahead of early Knesset elections in April 2019.

At a press conference in Tel Aviv, Gal Hirsch said he would run with a party that has both a social agenda and a hawkish stance on security.

“What is right for the nation is to be a right-wing nationalist on security but also [to have] concern and compassion because I always think about minorities, the elderly and the situation of the other,” he said.

Hirsch did not say which party he would join, but media assessments linked him to a yet to be announced party or the ruling Likud.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who nominated Hirsch for police chief, said he asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to reserve a spot on the Likud’s electoral list for the former brigadier general.

“Gal is a courageous, moral and worthy officer who worked his whole life for Israel’s security and to my sorrow an injustice was done to him that prevented his nomination as police commissioner,” Erdan wrote on Twitter.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks at an event at the Ministry of Public Security in Jerusalem on November 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hirsch was nominated for the position of police commissioner by Erdan in August 2015, but shortly after his nomination was announced, media reports surfaced saying that the FBI and Israel Police had been conducting a two-year undercover corruption investigation into businesses linked to him.

Hirsch’s nomination was revoked a month later by Erdan after then-attorney general Yehuda Weinstein said that he could not be legally appointed until the conclusion of the investigation against him, a process that Weinstein said at the time could take months.

Police had enlisted a state’s witness against Hirsch, and part of the evidence he provided reportedly included the bank account information of a disgraced minister of Israeli origin in the Georgian government to whom Hirsch’s company Defense Shield Holdings allegedly paid bribes as part of a deal to siphon money from Tbilisi.

Though prosecutors informed Hirsch earlier this year that one of the probes into his business activities was closed, investigators continue to probe his business dealings in Georgia.

Hirsch, who has denied wrongdoing, addressed the police investigation in his speech Wednesday.

“I am torn that there is an open but manufactured case against me. However, something happened — there was a dirty act here that prevented me from serving the public,” he said.

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

After leaving the IDF under a cloud of controversy following his performance during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Hirsch became CEO of Defensive Shield, which describes itself as a “provider of strategic, operational and tactical solutions for the defense, security and homeland security sectors around the world.”

Defensive Shield was also the name of the 2002 IDF operation against terror groups in the West Bank, in which Hirsch was praised for his conduct.

A once-promising senior officer who seemed bound for greatness in the IDF, Hirsch was forced out of active duty in the wake of the 2006 war, amid criticism over his failure to prevent the kidnapping and killing of two soldiers in the Hezbollah cross-border attack that triggered the conflict.

Shortly after his name was removed from contention for the top police spot, Hirsch said that “a systematic series of mudslinging incidents and efforts to blacken my name” were responsible for derailing his candidacy, while also saying he never actively sought the job.

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