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Top cops quit Israel Police following new commissioner pick

Two senior officers step down, reportedly saying they ‘no longer feeling challenged,’ in what some suggest is first in wave of high-level resignations from force

Commander of the Jerusalem District Police, Doron Yedid (C) seen in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim as police close shops and disperse public gatherings, March 30, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Commander of the Jerusalem District Police, Doron Yedid (C), seen in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim as police close shops and disperse public gatherings, March 30, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Two senior officers in the Israel Police said Monday that they will be leaving the force, in what some suggest is the first of a wave of resignations over last week’s nomination of Border Police chief Yaakov (Kobi) Shabtai to serve as the next commissioner of police.

Superintendents Yossi Bachar and Einat Gil-Tzubari informed interim police chief Motti Cohen of their intention to resign, due to “no longer feeling challenged,” Channel 12 reported.

Cohen, who himself said last week that he would leave the force within days, agreed to their retirements.

Bachar, 50, has served as the head of the Planning and Organization Division in the Israel Police since the beginning of 2019. During his time in the force, he has also served as deputy commander of the Tel Aviv District and head of the Operations Division.

Gil-Tzubari, 51, currently serves as head of the human resources department at the police. She previously served as a spokeswoman for the police.

Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana and Acting Israeli Police Chief Motti Cohen, during a visit at the Corona National Enforcement Administration, in Tel Aviv, on December 1, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

In addition to Cohen, and now Bachar and Tzubari, three other senior officers — Jerusalem District Commander Doron Yadid, Tel Aviv District Commander David Bitan, and Deputy Commissioner Alon Asor — have been reported to be planning resignations.

Without naming them, Channel 12 said that several other officers may also be planning to resign in the coming weeks.

In a letter to the force regarding Public Security Minister Amir Ohana’s decision to nominate Shabtai, Cohen last week lamented the political calculations that led to the delay in the appointment of a permanent police chief for two years. He also claimed that unnamed forces were intervening in the police’s work.

Shabtai, 56, had not been seen as a frontrunner in recent weeks, with many analysts speculating that Ohana would tap Yadid or one of Yadid’s predecessors, Yoram Halevi. Before taking on the role of Border Police chief, Shabtai served in the Yamam police counter-terrorism unit in addition to commanding an undercover combat force in the Gaza Strip. He had not served as district commissioner, a typical prerequisite for police chief candidates.

Kobi Shabtai, commander of the Border Police, on September 28, 2017. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The announcement from the public security minister came less than a week after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered him to name a candidate for permanent police commissioner by the end of the month. Mandelblit’s instruction followed an injunction from the High Court of Justice ordering the government to fill the position, without providing a deadline.

The Israel Police has been without a permanent commissioner since December 2018, when Roni Alsheich’s term ended. Around the same time, new elections were called, leading to an extended period of instability that saw three elections over the course of a year. As the government during this time was a caretaker-transitional one, it could not appoint a police chief.

Israel, however, has had a permanent coalition since May.

Alsheich was a key figure in Netanyahu’s criminal probes and is one of the figures the premier and his Likud colleagues have claimed without evidence were involved in an attempted coup against Netanyahu. Cohen has been acting police chief since Alsheich’s departure and has had his tenure extended several times.

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