Police brass said concerned over Ohana appointment as public security minister

Police brass said concerned over Ohana appointment as public security minister

Top law enforcement officials reportedly fearful Netanyahu ally will seek outside candidate to lead force, curtail investigation unit and oppose possible new probes into premier

Justice Minister Amir Ohana speaks at a ceremony at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, February 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Justice Minister Amir Ohana speaks at a ceremony at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, February 3, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Top police officials on Wednesday said they are fearful of the repercussions of Amir Ohana being appointed public security minister.

Israel’s new government is set to be sworn in on Thursday, with Ohana expected to receive the public security post, which oversees law enforcement, including the police, prison service and Fire and Rescue Authority.

Ohana, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has served as the interim justice minister since June of last year. During his tenure, he repeatedly attacked the justice system and those leading it as they pushed forward with criminal investigations, and eventually an indictment, of the premier.

Police brass told Channel 12 they fear Ohana as public security minister will seek an outside candidate to lead the force, while conferring with Netanyahu, despite the prime minister being required to stay out of the matter due to his trial.

They are also concerned Ohana could move to curtail the work of the Lahav 433 investigation unit, which focuses on fraud and corruption, and led the probes against Netanyahu.

And, they are worried about the repercussions should Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit decide on a new police investigation into Netanyahu.

President Reuven Rivlin, center, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz shake hands at the memorial ceremony for the late president Shimon Peres at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on September 19, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu officially announced Wednesday that he had succeeded in forming a new government, bringing to an end nearly 18 months of political gridlock.

Netanyahu made the announcement in formal letters to Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz in his capacity as the temporary Knesset speaker and to President Reuven Rivlin.

The new government, which, according to the coalition agreement, will see Gantz replace Netanyahu as prime minister after 18 months, is scheduled to be sworn in Thursday evening after lawmakers vote to approve it during a Knesset plenum session that will begin at 6 p.m.

The swearing-in of the new government will conclude the longest political logjam in Israel’s history, in which Netanyahu’s Likud party and Blue and White went head-to-head in an unprecedented three consecutive elections.

Under the coalition deal signed last month between Likud and Blue and White, the new government will initially have 32 ministers — divided equally between the Netanyahu- and Gantz-led blocs — before swelling to 36 in six months in what would be the largest government in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu on Monday announced that the current public security minister, Likud’s Gilad Erdan, would be appointed as Israel’s ambassador both to the United Nations and to the United States.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks at the 17th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 24, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Blue and White MK Avi Nissenkorn is expected to replace Ohana as justice minister in the new government.

Since assuming his post as justice minister, Ohana has slammed prosecutors over the premier’s indictment on graft charges and continuously feuded with Mandelblit.

Netanyahu’s trial was pushed off by two months until May 24, two days before the scheduled March 17 opening hearing, after Ohana declared a “state of emergency” in the court system in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mandelblit has come under fire in recent months from supporters of the prime minister over his filing of the indictments last year, which Netanyahu has decried as an “attempted coup” orchestrated by the media, the opposition, the police and the state prosecution hierarchy, led by Mandelblit.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends an event at the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem on February 6, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Over the weekend, Ohana launched a scathing attack against Mandelblit and called for an investigation into former state attorney Shai Nitzan, who led the investigations into Netanyahu. State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman on Monday turned down Ohana’s request for the probe.

In a Saturday Facebook post, Ohana wrote he was “worried” about the legal system, saying “many before me identified in the legal system a sickness, vengeance, lack of transparency, decay.”

“There are people in the system who recognize it, but there is a great fear and dread about making things public,” he said. “Anyone with eyes can see the unprecedented decline in public confidence in the prosecutor’s office and legal counsel.”

Mandelblit on Wednesday filed a complaint with police after receiving death threats and other harassing messages.

A statement from the Justice Ministry said Mandelblit provided testimony to police investigators and that the messages, many of which were sent to the attorney general’s cellphone over the past day, appeared to be part of an organized campaign.

The ministry did not indicate who may have been behind the harassment.

Among the other prominent ministerial appointments in the new government are Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi as foreign minister, Likud MK Israel Katz as finance minister and Likud MK Yuli Edelstein as health minister.

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