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Elections 2019

Launching campaign, failed top cop candidate says he wants to be police minister

Former police chief-designate Gal Hirsch, under investigation for tax evasion, says he will restore force to former glory

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

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

Launching his new party’s election campaign Monday evening, retired IDF brigadier general Gal Hirsch, a controversial former candidate to be the country’s top cop, said that his goal in entering politics was to finally take control of Israel’s law enforcement authorities by becoming the minister in charge of the police.

“With all my security and social experience, I will aim to serve in the next government in the key role of public security minister,” Hirsch said in his speech at the Yemenite Heritage House in the central Israeli town of Rosh Ha’ayin, officially kicking off his Magen Israel, or “Shield of Israel,” party campaign.

“Unfortunately, I was deprived of the right to serve you, and that hurts me the most. I could not fulfill the task that was imposed on me by the prime minister three and a half years ago,” he said. “When Magen comes to the Knesset and I am public security minister, I will take care of you from there, because security forces, rescue and emergency forces are a necessity for all of us. The police are an important body that affects every citizen’s life.”

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.”

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

Hirsch has faced numerous controversies in recent years linked to his business interests — concerns that torpedoed his nomination for police commissioner in 2015. Police and the Israel Tax Authority are expected to recommend indicting him on tax evasion, Hebrew media reported earlier this month, two days after he announced he would run for Knesset.

Hirsch reacted angrily to those reports and called them a “predictable response” to his announcement.

On Monday, defending his right to run for office despite the allegations, Hirsch also gave a de facto backing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently implicated in three separate graft probes in which he is accused of bribery.

 

“As long as the person is not convicted, he is a legitimate and legal candidate,” Hirsch said.

“There is such a thing as the presumption of innocence and you know that I know what I am talking about when I talk about leaks and field trials in the media,” he added bitterly, in reference to allegations both he and Netanyahu have leveled against their respective accusers.

Hirsch was nominated for the position of police commissioner by current Public Security Minister Gilad 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.

Gal Hirsch, a former IDF brigadier-general who had been tapped to be the next head of the Israel Police, arrives to testify before the Turkel Committee vetting his appointment at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on September 1, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police had enlisted a state’s witness against Hirsch, and part of the evidence this witness 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.

On Monday, Hirsch promised the gathered crowd that as public security minister, he would restore the police to being an “excellent, high-quality, strong and proud force,” but that he would also make sure that “all the security and law enforcement agencies are subject to appropriate checks and balances.”

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