LGBT rights groups slam choice of new Israel Police chief

Organizations criticize Moshe Edri over fatal stabbing of marcher Shira Banki, 16, at Jerusalem pride parade when he was the city’s top cop

Jerusalem police chief Moshe Edri at the scene of the pride parade stabbing in Jerusalem on July 30, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Jerusalem police chief Moshe Edri at the scene of the pride parade stabbing in Jerusalem on July 30, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

LGBT rights groups on Friday slammed the announcement that Moshe “Chico” Edri was nominated as the next Israel Police commissioner in light of a deadly stabbing at the Jerusalem pride parade when the nominee was the city’s top officer.

Edri, who also formerly served as Tel Aviv police commander, received a reprimand over the 2015 attack at the march in Jerusalem, in which ultra-Orthodox extremist Yishai Schlissel stabbed to death 16-year-old Shira Banki and wounded five others.

Despite intelligence warnings Schlissel and others were planning acts of violence against the marchers, Jerusalem police under Edri’s command did not take any measures to monitor the stabber, who had been previously imprisoned for a similar but not-fatal attack at the 2005 gay pride parade.

The Jerusalem Open House, a gay rights group in the city, expressed concern over Edri’s appointment in light of the “grave failures” on his watch during the 2015 parade.

Jerusalem Pride Parade marchers carry a poster commemorating 16-year-old Shira Banki, murdered by an ultra-Orthodox extremist in a pride march in the capital in 2015, taken August 2, 2018. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

“The number one police officer must serve as a personal example. The failure of the police at the march, under Edri’s responsibility, is a deep stain on the appointment,” Eran Globus, the group’s head, said a statement.

Globus said Jerusalem Open House would hold an emergency meeting to discuss how to respond to Edri’s appointment.

“Our security must upheld by the most appropriate people to do so,” he said.

Globus’s criticism of the nomination was echoed by The Agudah, another LGBT rights group, which said it was disappointed with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan for choosing Edri and would work to prevent the “absurd appointment.

“The LGBT community and its members deserve personal security just like every other citizen of Israel. It is hard to say that in his former role Edri protected our security,” it said in a statement.

The statements came as Channel 10 news reported those wounded in the parade stabbing are weighing different measures to block Edri’s appointment, including an appeal to the High Court of Justice.

Despite this, the nomination drew widespread praise from politicians in Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “fitting appointment” and called the nominee a “good and experienced officer.”

Coalition chairman David Amsalem, a Likud MK, who has sharply criticized police amid a series of corruption investigations into the prime minister, also welcomed Edri’s nomination and wished him “much success.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (R) and then-Jerusalem police chief Moshe Edri (L), at a press conference at the Russian compound in Jerusalem, on October 7, 2015 (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

In his first public comments on his nomination, Edri thanked Erdan and said he would “do everything in my powers to lead the Israel Police forward.”

Edri, 51, beat out Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi, who was considered the front-runner for the position, and current Tel Aviv police chief David Bitan.

Erdan’s announcement of Edri’s nomination came hours after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ruled that there was no legal impediment to proceeding with the appointment of a replacement for Roni Alsheich, despite the existence of a police document said to contain sensitive and “embarrassing” information about Edri and Halevi.

The document, which Hadashot TV news and the Haaretz newspaper said was provided to Mandelblit by Alsheich, reportedly detailed problematic conduct by Halevi, and related to a polygraph test he took in March.

The document was drafted by police legal council Ayelet Elisher and police said it was handed over to Mandelblit as demanded by law.

A senior judicial official told Hadashot that the document contained information that amounted to no more than “gossip and hearsay.”

Edri’s appointment still needs to be approved by a vetting committee, as well as the cabinet.

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich speaks at a press conference at the police headquarters in Jerusalem, April 17, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Alsheich is to end his term in December after four years in office. Erdan, who has clashed with the outgoing commissioner, declined to extend his tenure by an additional year.

On Friday, Alsheich congratulated Edri for his appointment and vowed to assist him in any way possible.

Erdan was originally required to provide the vetting committee with the name of his preferred candidate by Thursday, but delayed due to the document.

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