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Motti Cohen’s term as acting police chief ends after 2 years

After stormy tenure in shadow of political crisis, deputy commissioner Alon Assur to take over on interim basis until Kobi Shabtai’s nomination approved by government

Acting Israel Police Commissioner Motti Cohen visits a temporary checkpoint in Jerusalem, on September 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Acting Israel Police Commissioner Motti Cohen visits a temporary checkpoint in Jerusalem, on September 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Motti Cohen’s term as acting police commissioner ended Thursday night, after serving for more than two years in an interim capacity as Israel’s top cop due to an unprecedented political crisis.

Cohen will be succeeded by deputy police commissioner Alon Assur, who will be acting chief until Border Police commander Yaakov (Kobi) Shabtai’s nomination as full-time commissioner is approved by the government.

Police said Shabtai would begin shadowing Assur in the coming days before taking over.

After Public Security Minister Amir Ohana announced Shabtai as his pick for commissioner earlier this month, Cohen announced his resignation, saying political calculations had led to the delay in the appointment of a permanent police chief. He also claimed that unnamed forces were intervening in the police’s work.

“It seems that the decision not to appoint a permanent commissioner for such a long time was not without ulterior considerations,” Cohen wrote in a letter to officers, in an apparent swipe at the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kobi Shabtai, commander of the Border Police, on September 28, 2017 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The Israel Police has been without a permanent commissioner since December 2018, when Roni Alsheich’s term ended. Around the same time, new elections were called, leading to an extended period of instability that saw three elections over the course of a year. As the government during this time was a caretaker-transitional one, it could not appoint a police chief.

Israel has had a permanent coalition since May.

Alsheich was a key figure in Netanyahu’s criminal probes and is one of the figures the premier and his Likud colleagues have claimed without evidence were involved in an attempted coup against Netanyahu. Cohen has been acting police chief since Alsheich’s departure and has had his tenure extended several times.

On Wednesday, a committee for vetting senior appointments approved Shabtai’s nomination as the next police commissioner, clearing it for cabinet approval.

The panel, known as the Goldberg Committee, also approved Katy Perry’s nomination to head the Israel Prisons Service.

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