Vetting panel rejects police chief nominee Edri, but ministers want him anyway

Erdan and Shaked reject recommendation of government commission, which says the former Jerusalem top cop would damage public trust in the police

Moshe Edri attends a launching of the new National Headquarters for the Protection of Children Online in Jerusalem on November 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Moshe Edri attends a launching of the new National Headquarters for the Protection of Children Online in Jerusalem on November 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A government vetting panel shot down the appointment of Maj. Gen. Moshe “Chico” Edri as Israel police chief early Friday, throwing the nomination of the government-backed candidate under heavy doubt amid questions over his past conduct.

The Senior Appointments Advisory Committee, popularly known as the Goldberg Commission, announced just after midnight Friday it could not recommend Edri for the police commissioner post, saying he “would damage public trust in the police.”

However the decision itself was also in contention, with the panel having been split down the middle in its decision, and its head using his tie-breaking vote to reach a verdict.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who had nominated Edri, said he would seek to change the committee’s position and, if he failed, push ahead with the appointment anyway. It was unclear whether Edri could gain the government’s approval without the panel’s okay in pocket.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also indicated the government could vote to approve Edri, saying it was not the panel’s right to decide who gets to be police chief. “Nobody is perfect, but the government needs to appoint the best candidate,” she said.

With current police chief Roni Alsheich slated to retire on Monday, it is likely the police will be forced to promote an acting chief until a permanent commissioner can be found.

Jerusalem District Police Commander Moshe Edri at the scene where a stabbing attack took place near Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 10, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Edri, the current director general of the Public Security Ministry and a former police commander of the districts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, had won wide backing in the government, beating out Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevi, who was considered the front-runner for the position, and current Tel Aviv police chief David Bitan.

But questions have been raised over his past conduct and tenure as Jerusalem’s top cop.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, right, and Israeli Police Chief Roni Alsheich at Police headquarters in Jerusalem on April 26, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last week, Edri underwent a lie-detector test the appointments committee had ordered he take as part of its vetting process, due to the sensitive nature of the commissioner position, the fact that there were complaints against him regarding unspecified inappropriate behavior, and the fact that other contenders for the job had already undergone the test.

According to the Goldberg Commission announcement, the decision to put the kibosh on the nomination stemmed from a meeting Edri had during the vetting process with the lawyer of a complainant, Tax Authority whistle-blower Rafi Rotem, who has accused police under Edri of harassing him.

Though Edri claimed the meeting was not about Rotem, the commission wrote the very fact they met at such a sensitive time was “a failure of behavior and of discretion that leads to inappropriate conduct.”

“Public trust in the police to a large degree comes from who the commissioner is,” the commission wrote. “The cloud hanging over the meeting would follow the candidate all his years in the job, if he were picked, and thus harm public trust in the police.”

The committee also noted a State Comptroller report that found fault in Edri’s conduct while serving as the head of police’s Traffic Department.

The four-member panel voted 2-2 on Edri, with two committee members saying they did not believe the concerns justified striking down the nomination, but retired Judge Eliezer Goldberg used his powers as head of the commission to break the tie and torpedo the nomination.

The committee had held several discussions on Edri’s appointment and interviewed Erdan, Alsheich, and Edri himself.

Various reports have claimed that Alsheich has sought to thwart Edri’s nomination over the past few months.

Speaking to reporters Thursday night, he denied having any role in the panel’s delay in deciding on the nomination.

A farewell ceremony for outgoing chief of Police Roni Alsheich,center, at the national police academy in Beit Shemesh, on November 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

After it called on the public to submit information that could help in the vetting of Edri’s candidacy, the committee said it had received many responses, mostly supportive. However, some members of the public complained about “inappropriate behavior,” it said, without elaborating.

A report last week by the Kan public broadcaster said one of the complaints involved alleged behavior that has in the past caused other police officers to be dismissed. Other complaints said Edri was in conflict of interest due to ties to business people that he didn’t report.

LGBT rights groups had slammed Edri’s nomination in light of a deadly stabbing at the Jerusalem pride parade that took place when the nominee was the city’s top officer.

Edri received a reprimand over the 2015 attack, in which ultra-Orthodox extremist Yishai Schlissel stabbed to death 16-year-old Shira Banki and wounded five others.

Yishai Schlissel pictured as he walks through a Gay Pride parade and is just about to pull a knife from under his coat and start stabbing people in Jerusalem, Thursday, July 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Despite intelligence warnings Schlissel and others were planning acts of violence against the marchers, Jerusalem police under Edri’s command did not take any measures to monitor the stabber, who had been previously imprisoned for a similar but not-fatal attack at the 2005 gay pride parade.

Edri’s nomination had drawn widespread praise from politicians in Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “fitting appointment” and called the nominee a “good and experienced officer.”

Alsheich is to end his term after four years in office. Erdan, who has clashed with the outgoing commissioner, declined to extend his tenure by an additional year.

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