Police chief to A-G: Ben Gvir sought to interfere in policing, stop protection of Gaza aid convoys

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

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai at the scene of a fatal shooting attack in Re'em Junction, on February 16, 2024. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai at the scene of a fatal shooting attack in Re'em Junction, on February 16, 2024. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has sought to repeatedly interfere in operational police matters in recent months, a letter by outgoing Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai to Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara reveals.

According to the letter from May 27, Ben Gvir told senior police officials behind Shabtai’s back that he did not want police providing protection for humanitarian aid convoys crossing through Israel from attack by Israeli extremists.

In another incident, Shabtai alleges that Ben Gvir intervened with other senior police officials to have police officers who were involved in violent conduct on Mount Meron on May 26 suspended.

In January, the attorney general told the High Court that the national security minister could set policy, but not instruct police on specific enforcement after activist groups petitioned the court to prevent Ben Gvir from giving orders on how to police protests. The court ruled that the minister had violated a decision by the court last year that said he was not permitted to issue such orders.

According to Shabtai’s letter to the attorney general, Ben Gvir held a conference call with the deputy police commissioner and the police commander of the southern district in January after the IDF chief of staff had spoken with Shabtai about police protection for the convoys.

“The national security minister gave instructions that it was his policy that [the police] should not help on the issue of [aid convoy protection] since it is the IDF’s responsibility,” Shabtai said he was told by the head of the southern police district. He added that he had however told Ben Gvir that this was a police function, and that the minister had threatened “consequences” as a result.

Then in May, Shabtai said Ben Gvir protested the police protection for the convoys to Shabtai again.

“I made clear to the minister that the police is carrying out and will continue to carry out its job on this issue,” Shabtai told the attorney general.

Regarding Ben Gvir’s alleged interference in the disciplining of border police officers after the Meron incident, Shabtai said that he had become aware after the events that “the minister spoke with the commander of the northern district and with the commander of the Border Police and concluded with the Border Police commander on the suspension of some of the officers involved.”

Wrote Shabtai: “Neither the minister nor the Border Police commander have the authority to suspend the police officers, certainly not before an investigation of the incident.”

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