Former Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich said the government’s failure to appoint a permanent replacement for him over the last nine months had “seriously damaged the vital independence of the force.”
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 balked at appointing a new permanent police commissioner, leaving an acting chief instead with a more limited mandate.
“The independence of the police is absolutely central to Israeli society. In order for there to be independence, there needs to be a permanent commissioner. It’s unthinkable for us to have gone nine months without a permanent commissioner while everyone is silent,” Alsheich said at Channel 12’s Influencers Conference in Tel Aviv.
“There are many candidates from within the police who can fulfill the role. The elections should not delay the appointment of the police commissioner,” he added.
The police has been led by interim chief Motti Cohen since December 2, when Alsheich ended his term, after Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s candidate for the post, Moshe Edri, withdrew his candidacy amid a public scandal over his conduct. Since then, the dissolution of the Knesset and the calling of two separate elections have delayed the appointment of a permanent commissioner.
As a general rule an interim government, such as the one in office sine January, is not permitted to make permanent appointments to senior positions like police chief. However, Erdan could conceivably appeal to the attorney general to approve such an appointment due to the exceptional circumstances of a second election being held within months of the last.
Alsheich, who ended his term as Israel’s top cop last year, oversaw the three police investigations into Netanyahu, which ultimately all yielded police recommendations of indictment for bribery and other charges. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has since announced that he plans to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing, for the charges.
Alsheich’s four year term ended after Erdan, who often clashed with the commissioner, declined to extend his tenure by the customary additional year.
Netanyahu, 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.”
Alsheich has said it is difficult for him to envision a scenario in which Netanyahu is not indicted for bribery in the corruption cases against him.