Former police commissioner candidate Gal Hirsch slammed what he said were efforts to tarnish his reputation,and said he never asked to be the nation’s top cop, on Thursday morning, a day after his nomination for the post was withdrawn following weeks of backlash over his appointment.
In his first public statement since Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan withdrew his support, Hirsch also thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Erdan for supporting him as his suitability was called into question.
Speaking to reporters outside his home in central Israel, Hirsch thanked his close friends for standing by him during what he called “a systematic series of mudslinging incidents and efforts to blacken my name.”
“In 30 days, I learned an important lesson about the nation, and I come out of it deeply worried, with questions about the bad blood that is among us, and wondering about the national backbone, governance, the state of our democracy, the rule of law, values and the lack thereof, power players and interest groups that were not chosen by the people, but who in fact run our lives.”
Erdan pulled Hirsch’s candidacy Wednesday night after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said that determining whether all dealings of Hirsch’s private company were aboveboard would take months.
Hirsch’s candidacy had been called into question over some of his company’s dealings abroad, including a deal struck with a now-disgraced minister of Israeli origin in the Georgian government.
“Last night the situation became clear to me: that this appointment process will take longer and longer and that bringing it to approval is not on the horizon,” Hirsch said. “It was clear to me [Netanyahu and Erdan] cannot realize their wish to appoint me and that I must continue on my way and wish the best to another candidate, who will lead the police.”
Hirsch said he never asked for the nomination, which came after the police was left without a leader when police chief Yohanan Danino stepped down following a four-year term.
“I am a soldier of the people of Israel,” he said. “I did not seek to become police chief but when I was called for the position – I came. And when I was told it cannot be done – I saluted.”
The appointment of Hirsch, an IDF brigadier-general who never served in the police, also raised hackles among senior police officers who opposed the nomination of somebody outside their ranks.
Erdan had said he wanted to look outside the force for a new chief, following years of graft and sexual abuse scandals that have given the police a black eye.
An officer regarded as brilliant by his IDF mentors but hounded by bereaved families who hold him responsible for the deaths of their loved ones during the Second Lebanon War, Hirsch stepped down from the army and went on to establish a private security firm in 2006.
Hirsch earlier accused some police officers of stashing information about the questionable business dealings for “an opportune moment” and then using it against him.
Their so-called conspiracy worked: Weinstein announced that he could not place a time frame on examining whether the Georgia deal was not tainted and Jacob Turkel, head of a committee on the appointment of persons to senior public positions, said earlier this month he could recommend neither for or against the appointment.
On Thursday, Hirsch thanked his “dear family for withstanding these waves.” He thanked Netanyahu and Erdan for their “trust, their leadership, their honesty and their brave standing by me in this tough month for me and my family.”
Hirsch promised to continue serving the nation in his own way and wished the police his best.
On Wednesday, Erdan said in a statement clarifying the decision that “Gal Hirsch is not suspected of anything and nobody has filed a complaint against him.”
“He’s a guiltless individual and remains untainted,” Erdan said.
“Unfortunately, in the State of Israel investigating candidates is limited in time and in recent days it was clear to me that the process will continue an unknown amount of time, weeks at the very least.”
Netanyahu said in a statement following the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday that “Hirsch is the right man for the job of commissioner — I have thought so in the past thus I think so now, too.”
“But the process of appointment is difficult, prolonged and damaging, and doubtless merits reexamination,” he said.
“The good name of Gal Hirsch’s has already been harmed by critics over the past month.”
Erdan may be forced to appoint a chief from among police ranks – something he seems loath to do. But according to Hebrew website NRG, the public security minister may ask Maj. Gen. (ret.) Tal Russo, who served as OC Southern Command before leaving the army, to accept the role.
Erdan asked Russo before nominating Hirsch and Russo rejected the offer.
According to NRG, the assessment is that if Netanyahu lent his weight to a renewed overture to Russo, he would accept the offer.
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