ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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TA police chief refuses to discuss transfer with commissioner: ‘An invalid procedure’

Ami Eshed sends letter to Kobi Shabtai via attorney claiming his summoning for an interview for another position is a thinly veiled effort to remove him from the force

Tel Aviv District Chief of Police Amichai Eshed is greeted by protesters during a rally against the government's judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv on March 11, 2023. (Erik Marmor/ Flash90)
Tel Aviv District Chief of Police Amichai Eshed is greeted by protesters during a rally against the government's judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv on March 11, 2023. (Erik Marmor/ Flash90)

Israel Police’s Tel Aviv District Commander Amichai Eshed penned a letter to Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai on Monday, in which he claimed that the top cop’s decision to summon him for an interview for another position was “politically motivated” and a thinly veiled effort to remove him from the force entirely.

“This is an invalid and illegal procedure… and Eshed has no intention of taking part in it,” read the letter written by the Tel Aviv district commander’s attorney.

In March, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir announced that, at Shabtai’s recommendation, he was transferring Eshed to a new position, after slamming Eshed’s handling of the mass protests against the government’s judicial overhaul push. The move was swiftly frozen by Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, who also raised concerns that the transfer was politically motivated.

Both Shabtai and Ben Gvir have insisted that Eshed’s removal had been planned in advance. But Ben Gvir also said his decision to make the move now was tied to the commander’s handling of the protests in Tel Aviv, where police have largely shown patience with demonstrators, even when they block roads and the major Ayalon Highway.

Shabtai approved Eshed’s removal, apparently in light of longstanding tensions with the top officer, but later admitted that taking the step at the current time had been an error.

In the Monday letter, Eshed’s attorney Amichai Mager argued that Shabtai’s decision to interview him for the position of head of the police’s training department was effectively a decision to oust him, since the new job has a lower ranking.

Israel Police Chief Kobi Shabtai at a security exhibition in the South Sharon Regional Council on March 21, 2023. (Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Shabtai’s “considerations are personal, political, and contrary to the instructions of the attorney general,” the letter stated.

“I would like to emphasize that any attempt to remove my client from his position at this time is tantamount to a firing on personal and political grounds, with all the implications that entails. My client does not intend to take part in this improper conduct,” Mager wrote.

The letter stated that Shabtai has refused to allow Eshed to present his case and dispute the claims against his conduct.

Israel has been rocked by mass demonstrations since early January, when the government unveiled its far-reaching plans to neuter the judicial system. Protesters have warned that the proposals would weaken Israel’s democratic character, remove a key element of its checks and balances and leave minorities unprotected. Supporters claim it is a much-needed reform to rein in an overly activist court.

President Isaac Herzog is currently hosting talks between the coalition and the opposition’s Yesh Atid and National Unity parties in an effort to reach an agreement on judicial reform after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was pausing the overhaul legislation.

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