Tel Aviv top cop quits, says he’s paying price for refusal to ‘break bones’ at rallies

Police's Tel Aviv District Commander Amichai Eshed holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, on July 5, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Police's Tel Aviv District Commander Amichai Eshed holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, on July 5, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Tel Aviv police chief Amichai Eshed announces his resignation from the force at a press conference, saying he has been removed from his post due to “political considerations” and that he is paying “a terrible cost for my choice to prevent civil war.”

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai had recently informed Eshed he would be moved to lead a police internal training center, widely viewed as a demotion. Shabtai and Eshed had long had a rocky relationship, while National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir had been outraged by Eshed’s refusal to use greater force against the months-long demonstrations against the government’s judicial overhaul plans.

Ben Gvir and Shabtai said last week that Southern District Commander Deputy Commissioner Peretz Amar will replace Eshed in Tel Aviv. Shabtai, who also has a troubled relationship with Ben Gvir, revealed at the time that he would end his term in January and not seek an additional year in the role.

Both Shabtai and Ben Gvir have insisted that Eshed’s removal had been planned in advance. But Ben Gvir also said his decision to make the move at the time was tied to the commander’s handling of the protests in Tel Aviv

Eshed assails Ben Gvir at the press conference, saying he “could not live up to the expectations of the ministerial echelon, which included the breaking rules and process and a clear interference in the professional decision-making.”

Says Eshed: “I could have easily used disproportionate force and filled the ER at Ichilov [Medical Center] at the end of every demonstration in Tel Aviv. We could have cleared Ayalon [Highway] within minutes at the terrible cost of cracking heads and breaking bones, at the cost of breaking the pact between police and the citizenry.”

He adds that “as a commander I taught generations of policemen to recognize the limits of force, to safeguard our contract with the public… Unfortunately, for the first time in my three decades of service, I was met with the bizarre reality that calm and order are not the desired goal, but rather the opposite is.”

Police’s Tel Aviv District Commander Amichai Eshed holds a press conference in Tel Aviv, on July 5, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Eshed says his refusal to follow Ben Gvir’s demands led to “a well-oiled poison machine being turned against me online, leading to significant threats to my life and to my designation as being under the highest level of threat, but this did not dissuade me. At all times I saw before me one roadmap, one compass: checks and balances, the Israeli law book, and the rules of morality and justice.”

Eshed urges police not to be cowed by his ostensible ouster, saying commanders must “stand firm as a rock, adhere to the values of the organization and rise above the momentary personal consideration. A policeman is a public emissary, a public servant… The ‘Ami Eshed precedent’ must not terrorize police commanders. A district commander must not avoid stating their opinion, must not bend their values.”

He says he paid the ultimate professional cost for standing by his principles, with “33 years of service in uniform — in the final stretch for a run for commissioner — going down the drain. And all for a simple reason: I demanded that my policemen follow the law.”

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