Furious parents of IDF soldiers who were killed during the Second Lebanon War attacked the nomination of Brig. Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch as police commissioner, saying Wednesday his failures during the conflict make him unsuitable for such a high-profile position.
Hirsch, a once promising senior IDF officer, was forced out of active duty in the wake of the 2006 war amid criticism of his management of the kidnapping of two soldiers that led to the conflict.
On Tuesday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan nominated Hirsch after a long and reportedly troubled search for a new police commissioner.
Tzvi Regev, father of Eldad Regev, one of the IDF soldiers who was kidnapped and killed by Hezbollah in an event that triggered the month-long conflict, said he blamed Hirsch for the death of his son, who Hirsch commanded as head of the Galilee Division.
“I see Gal Hirsch as responsible for the kidnapping of my son and of Ehud Goldwasser,” he told Army Radio, referring to the other soldier snatched during a deadly ambush on the Israeli-Lebanese border.
“When I heard of his appointment I was disappointed. I have a feeling that the bereaved families are not being taken into consideration in the decisions and I don’t know if that is good or not,” Regev said. “He commanded the war in which we had very bad losses.”
Hirsch, a former commander of the Israel Air Force’s Special Forces unit, Shaldag (kingfisher), came under intense criticism in the wake of the abduction of the two soldiers, and was castigated by some for giving incomprehensible orders during the subsequent fighting.
The bodies of Regev and Goldwasser were eventually returned to Israel in July 2008 in exchange for five captive Hezbollah and Palestinian fighters and the bodies of about 200 Lebanese and Palestinian fighters killed by the IDF.
Moshe Nissan, who lost his son Yinon Nissan on the last day of the war, told the Hebrew-language Ynet website of his similar dismay at the appointment.
“My son was killed because of him,” he said. “This appointment opened up wounds for us and is eating us up. They aren’t taking us into consideration and they are asking our opinion. I don’t understand this behavior. This man is not suitable to fill a senior position in the police.”
Nissim charged that because of Hirsch’s “failure” during the war he is not suitable for the top police position and added that along with other bereaved families he plans to protest against the appointment.
David Einhorn, whose son Yehonatan fell in Lebanon in 2006, told the Walla news site that he was dismayed by Erdan’s decision.
“Nine years have passed since I lost my boy in the Second Lebanon War, and it looks like Gilad Erdan has a short memory and forgot the bitter failure of the commanding echelon during the war,” Einhorn said. “I have only to be sorry for the short memory of those who pull the strings. After they whitewashed all of them – the then-IDF chief and the four brigadier generals who served during the war, they continue this whitewashing. Two of these brigadier generals have since been promoted to major generals and now brigadier general Hirsch is also given a prize and appointed chief of police.”
The Winograd Committee, established by the government after the 2006 war to examine its failures and draw lessons for the future, said that Hirsch needed to draw “personal conclusions” from some of the failures in his command, but said he was not responsible for the IDF’s key failures in that conflict.
The decision to tap Hirsch was met with praise from political leaders, but senior Israel Police officials past and present told Channel 10 that they considered the appointment of a non-police official “a spit in the face.”
Israel’s police force has recently been hit by a series of high-profile corruption and sexual harassment scandals, and Erdan previously indicated that he might seek to appoint a figure from outside the Israel Police as Yohanan Danino’s successor when he stepped down.
A number of other senior IDF officers previously turned down the position, according to a Haaretz report.
Erdan told Army Radio Wednesday that he had expected some of the criticism over the appointment of Hirsch, especially from the police.
“It is understandable that there are objections from within the organization when you bring someone from the outside,” he said, without directly addressing complaints over Hirsch’s conduct in 2006.
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 “provider of strategic, operational and tactical solutions for the defense, security, and homeland security sectors around the world.”