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Police chief slams MKs who clashed with police: ‘We’re not part of a political game’

Shabtai mentions recent cases of Joint List MKs hitting a police officer and helping a suspect escape police custody, says he ‘won’t abide’ the harming of officers

Chief of police Kobi Shabtai attends a ceremony honoring Israeli security forces, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Chief of police Kobi Shabtai attends a ceremony honoring Israeli security forces, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai on Tuesday tacitly criticized two Joint List MKs who recently clashed with Israeli Police, stressing that the “police cannot become part of a political game.”

Addressing the Knesset plenum during an event held in honor of Israeli security forces, Shabtai said he will not allow violence against police officers to become the norm.

“I will not abide an agenda of blatantly and forcefully harming police officers who are doing their job on behalf of the state and for its citizens,” the police chief said.

“Certainly not on the part of those who are supposed to serve as an example and model of law-abiding behavior for their constituents,” he said, without naming the lawmakers in question.

“The police and police officers cannot become part of a political game and a target for provocations,” he said.

Police on Monday submitted a request to the attorney general to formally investigate Joint List MKs Ofer Cassif and Ahmad Tibi over their recent behavior.

Cassif was filmed hitting a police officer on Friday after security forces blocked his vehicle as he tried to reach a protest in the West Bank.

The video shows a police officer attempting to halt Cassif’s vehicle. The car bumps into the officer, who approaches Cassif and shouts at him to move his vehicle away.

“Move your car. You’re not getting in,” the officer shouts.

“I didn’t touch you,” Cassif yells back, as the two draw closer to each other. Cassif is then seen hitting the officer on his head and accusing him of hitting his face.

A day earlier, Tibi was accused of obstructing police and helping a suspect escape during an attempted arrest in Jerusalem.

Police officials said MK Ahmed Tibi had abused his parliamentary immunity and should have been arrested himself when he got between cops and a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem they were trying to detain.

Police said they were attempting to detain a “young man” suspected of throwing an unspecified object in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina when Tibi intervened.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett later condemned Cassif and Tibi, writing on Twitter: “I strictly condemn the dangerous and inciteful behavior of Ahmad Tibi and Ofer Cassif. They are cowardly hiding behind their immunity, disrupting officers from doing their jobs and assaulting them with no shame. Immunity is meant for serving the country, not as means of harming it.”

During his speech on Tuesday, Shabtai also addressed an incident that involved the head of the Joint List party, Ayman Odeh, who last month caused outrage when he said Arab Israelis serving in the security forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were “humiliating” their own people and called on them to throw down their weapons and quit.

Joint List party leader Ayman Odeh speaks in a video in which he calls on Arab Israeli police officers to quit, saying they ‘humiliate’ their people on April 10, 2022. (Screencapture/Facebook)

The lawmaker’s comments sparked calls to investigate him for inciting violence amid the deadliest wave of terror attacks seen in Israel in years.

“Israeli police officers won’t throw their weapons away — that includes the Muslims among them,” Shabtai said.

“They know they have commanders behind them who will back them up. [Backing them up] is my responsibility as the person leading this organization and it’s the responsibility of all of us as citizens and as decision-makers in the Israeli parliament,” he added.

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