After controversy, Moshe Edri withdraws police chief candidacy

Announcement comes after it emerges the nominee met polygraph examiner before test, failed to disclose the fact to vetting committee, and follows his rejection by the committee

Moshe Edri, director general of the Ministry of Public Security, at a press conference launching the new National Headquarters for the Protection of Children Online, at the Ministry of Public Security in Jerusalem on November 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Moshe Edri, director general of the Ministry of Public Security, at a press conference launching the new National Headquarters for the Protection of Children Online, at the Ministry of Public Security in Jerusalem on November 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police Maj. Gen. Moshe Edri on Wednesday announced he would withdraw his candidacy for commissioner after he was rejected by a vetting committee and following new questions regarding his conduct throughout the nomination process.

In a letter to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on his decision, Edri wrote that “numerous forces” had worked to “thwart my nomination, to slander and sully my good name as well as my family.”

He noted that two members of the vetting committee who voted to approve him said they felt that “there is an effort to hurt the candidate’s nomination at any cost.” He did not say why he believed such efforts had been made.

“In recent days and as the process progressed the slander campaign crossed every line and sullied my good name, through no fault of my own.”

It was the second time Erdan’s first choice for police chief has fallen through. In 2015 Erdan’s candidate Gal Hirsch, a former army general, was dropped after over some of his company’s dealings abroad ere brought into question. Erdan instead nominated Roni Alsheich, who departed this week at the end of a three-year term marked by ongoing corruption investigations of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who chose not to give him a customary fourth-year extension.

Erdan said later Wednesday that “a terrible injustice” had been done to Edri.

Hadashot TV news reported that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had made clear in recent days that he could not defend the appointment of Edri if it was appealed to the High Court, and that he no longer backed the appointment.

Two other candidates considered by Erdan are also unlikely to be offered the post, the TV report said, so the hunt for the next commissioner will have to start over. In the meantime, an interim commissioner, Motti Cohen, has appointed.

Edri’s announcement came after new questions were raised Wednesday about his conduct after a report surfaced that prior to undergoing a polygraph test as part of the nomination process, Edri had met with the woman who administered the test.

The Walla news site reported that Edri met with polygraph examiner Hava Yodfat but failed to disclose this fact to the state vetting committee, which eventually rejected his candidacy.

The report raised the possibility that Edri, a former Jerusalem and Tel Aviv police chief who is currently the director-general of the Public Security Ministry, had met Yodfat in order to coordinate his behavior or prepare for the test in some manner.

In a response to the report, Edri confirmed he met Yodfat but said he did so before she was chosen for his test and only in order to inquire as to whether a medical condition from which he suffers could create problems with the test.

Yodfat, a former police worker who is considered a trusted professional, did not disclose the meeting to the committee either.

Following the report, Mandelblit was looking into Edri’s conduct in the matter and his failure to report the meeting to the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, on September 13, 2018. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

On Friday the panel, also known as the Goldberg Committee, announced that it could not recommend Edri as the next commissioner. It cited a meeting he held during the nomination process with the lawyer of a Tax Authority whistleblower who has accused Edri of harassing him, as well as a State Comptroller report that questioned his conduct while serving as head of the Traffic Department.

The decision itself was contested, with two committee members voting for Edri and two voting against, and committee chair Eliezer Goldberg, a former Supreme Court judge, using his position to break the tie.

At the time Erdan vowed to push ahead with the nomination regardless of the committee’s position, and several ministers had said they would back Edri. But it had remained unclear whether it would be legally viable for Erdan to sidestep the government-appointed vetting committee. A cabinet approval of Edri despite the committee’s objections would have likely led to legal petitions and a High Court battle.

During the nomination process Edri underwent a lie-detector test at the request of the appointments committee due to the sensitive nature of the commissioner position and the fact that there were complaints against him regarding inappropriate behavior, and as other contenders for the job had already undergone the test.

Eliezer Goldberg, former Supreme Court judge and current ombudsman for judges, speaks at a press conference at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on February 19, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

On Wednesday Walla broke the news that Edri, prior to undergoing the test, met with examiner Yodfat.

The Public Security Ministry said in response: “Well before the committee decided to demand a polygraph test and before the attorney general determined which polygraph test center to use, [Edri] reached out [to Yodfat] to consult regarding his medical ability to undergo the test, should he be required to, in light of his medical record.

“The consultation did not include any preparations for the polygraph test and, contrary to the claims in the [Walla] story, Edri did not coordinate or request anything of the examiner.”

It added that Edri was prepared to undergo a new test by any other examiner, and claimed the report was “part of a coordinated attempt to smear Edri’s good name.”

Edri’s nomination had initially drawn widespread praise from politicians in Israel. Netanyahu said Edri was a “fitting appointment” and called him a “good and experienced officer.” Edri beat out Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi, who was considered the front-runner for the position, and current Tel Aviv police chief David Bitan.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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