Netanyahu: Embattled nominee Hirsch ‘best man’ to head police

Netanyahu: Embattled nominee Hirsch ‘best man’ to head police

Cabinet approves 45-day extension for acting police commissioner Sau, as outrage over new pick persists

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on August 16, 2015 (Abir Sultan/AFP/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on August 16, 2015 (Abir Sultan/AFP/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday backed Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s candidate for the position of police commissioner, pushing back against fierce criticism over nominee Gal Hirsch’s conduct during the Second Lebanon War and his business dealings.

Meanwhile, the cabinet approved a motion to keep Deputy Police Commissioner Bentzi Sau as acting police chief for 45 days amid the public outcry over the new candidate for police commissioner.

Hirsch, a former IDF commander forced to resign in the wake of the 2006 war, is “the best man for the job,” Netanyahu said. “He is the right man, in the right place.”

The prime minister said Hirsch had the “skills to effect change, and contribute to the governance of the Israel Police.”

Hirsch on Monday was set to be questioned by the so-called Turkel Commission, a vetting body that must approve his appointment headed by former jurist Jacob Turkish.

The nominee has faced criticism from within the police force over the fact that he comes from outside the body; from bereaved parents who blame him for the deaths of their sons during the 2006 Lebanon war; and over the fact that the American FBI and Israel Police have been probing Hirsch over his links to defense companies allegedly engaged in corrupt activities.

Prior to the hearing, Hirsch wrote on Facebook that the “slander campaign and various leaks to the media harm my good reputation, which I am sensitive to, which is why there was the outrage.”

Gal Hirsch (screen capture: YouTube)
Gal Hirsch (screen capture: YouTube)

“I have expressed willingness to take up this position out of appreciation and love for the Israel Police, and recognition of the organization’s great importance,” he wrote.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Sunday gave his blessing to the extension, Israel Radio reported. The 45-day process could be shortened if no impediments to Hirsch’s appointment are found, but was expected to continue at least until mid-October.

Sources close to Hirsch said he was not intending to wait through a long inquiry, and said that “he will take action” if the process drags on, Channel 10 reported.

Meanwhile, police sources said that the delay in the nomination was causing significant damage to the organization, Channel 2 reported. Former senior police officers had slammed the Hirsch pick even before the revelations of suspected wrongdoings.

The Haaretz daily reported earlier Sunday that the police had spent two years sitting on files from the FBI about alleged corruption, without pursuing an investigation into Hirsch.

Details of the investigation, which apparently centers on a business linked to Hirsch, only came to light after his candidacy was presented to Weinstein last week.

The attorney general is set to review the information and then form a legal opinion on Hirsch’s nomination.

Hirsch insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing, and claims the accusations of corruption are intended to scupper his nomination. “My business activities are legal and supervised,” Hirsch reportedly told associates last week. “They are telling tales about me.”

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