High Court refuses to hear police chief’s position on minister’s expanded powers

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai at the Independence Day ceremony at the Israel Police National Headquarters, Jerusalem, May 9, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai at the Independence Day ceremony at the Israel Police National Headquarters, Jerusalem, May 9, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice refused a request by Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai to address the court during the crucial hearing for petitions against a law that granted the national security minister, who has authority over the police, broad powers to determine police policy.

The representative for the Attorney General’s Office Aner Helman said that Shabtai’s insight into the dangers the law poses to the politicization of policing was crucial, but the court declined the request, telling Helman to submit Shabtai’s comments in writing.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who demanded the law be passed before entering the government, recently sought to fire Shabtai from his post after the latter wrote to the attorney general complaining about repeated interference by the minister in operational police matters.

“I came here due to a heavy concern for the future of the Israel Police as a professional and apolitical police force without different [forms of] interference,” says Shabtai outside the court room,” adding he would deliver this message in writing instead.

Earlier, Ben Gvir said outside the court that he felt like an “ornamental plant” as minister, and couldn’t determine anything within his ministry.

The minister said that when he arrived in the ministry he was told that the police doesn’t carry out enforcement on things such as protection rackets, illegal construction in the Negev or bigamy — issues affecting Arab society in Israel.

“I came and said ‘Gentlemen, these games are over, I will outline general policy,” said Ben Gvir.

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