Vetting panel approves appointments of new chiefs of police, prisons service

Public security minister says he’ll now submit nominations of Kobi Shabtai, Katy Perry for immediate cabinet approval

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

A committee for vetting senior appointments on Wednesday approved Border Police chief Yaakov (Kobi) Shabtai’s nomination as the next police commissioner.

The panel, known as the Goldberg Committee, also approved Katy Perry’s nomination to head the Israel Prisons Service.

A statement from the committee found there were no “deficiencies” in the candidates’ “integrity,” nor in Public Security Minister Amir Ohana’s decision to nominate them.

The decision to greenlight Perry’s nomination was unanimous, but not Shabtai’s, according to the statement.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana holds a press conference in Jerusalem, on July 15, 2020. (FLASH90)

The appointments must now be approved by the cabinet to take effect.

Ohana, whose ministry oversees the police and prisons service, hailed the committee’s approval of the nominees.

“I’ll immediately bring a proposal for government approval and I expect all members to approve them without delay,” he wrote on Twitter.

Ohana also said Shabtai was facing “burning, difficult and urgent problems to deal with” as the designated police chief, without giving further details. The approval of Shabtai’s nomination came amid frequent clashes between police and protesters on a number of issues, including the death of a young settler in a car crash last week while fleeing police after allegedly throwing stones at Palestinians.

Israel Prisons Chief Katy Perry. (Israel Police)

Ohana announced Shabtai’s nomination earlier this month after being ordered by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to name a candidate for permanent police commissioner by the end of December. 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 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. Motti Cohen has been acting police chief since Alsheich’s departure and has had his tenure extended several times.

After Ohana named Shabtai as his candidate for police chief, Cohen said he would soon leave the force and several other senior officers also resigned.

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 01, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Shabtai, 56, had not been seen as a frontrunner for the position, with 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.

The prisons service, meanwhile, has been without a permanent chief since 2018, when Ofrah Klinger ended her tenure, and has since been led by an acting head, Asher Vaknin.

Perry, 56, last year became the first-ever female district commander in the organization.

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