Israel’s much-discussed and formally “top secret” new police commissioner Roni Alsheich limped down the aisle Thursday to receive his insignia from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.
Alsheich, 52, was the dark-horse candidate in the race for the job. His name was never spelled out in releases to media until the final choice was made due to his position as deputy director of the Shin Bet. In his acceptance remarks, he said that it was “just as well that I’ve broken my left leg, so that I can start the job with the right foot forward.”
The father of seven and grandfather of seven fell and broke his leg three weeks ago while leaving his house in Givat Shmuel, forcing the ceremony to be delayed. But the wry comment was also a reference not only to the tension that accompanied his selection to the post, but also to the parade of scandals that has wracked the top echelon of the nation’s police force.
Alsheich was properly admonished within hours at a cozy post-ceremony meeting at the president’s residence. Seated together with President Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli leader’s wife Nechama told the new commissioner: “I think you’re going to need both feet for this job.”
Alsheich became a deputy commander in the Paratroopers’ Brigade during his service in the IDF and then joined the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) in 1988. He served as the agency’s commander of the Judea and Samaria District and the Jerusalem District. In 2014 he became the agency’s deputy director.
He enters as head of the Israel Police at a time when its leadership has been torn apart with scandals ranging from various forms of corruption to sexual offenses.
The Israeli public has lost its trust in the sincerity and honesty of the higher echelons in the force; nor do many Israelis trust most of the rank-and-file police officers who are sworn to protect them, having too often experienced incidents to the contrary.
Not only will Alsheich be busy with sorting out the wreckage of the past, and contending with the security challenges of the present: he will undoubtedly also be called upon by his peers from abroad, seeking advice on how to improve the safety of their citizens as well.
Numerous senior officers have resigned over the past year. Those who remain are faced with protecting the public while working to restore faith in the force, while saluting a man who didn’t come up through their ranks, and whose very name may never have been known to them.
Can Roni Alsheich inspire the right confidence in those he will now lead?