Photo Credit: Keren Perelman/TPS
Itamar Ben-Gvir (left) now Minister of National Security, with Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai at the bat mitzvah celebration of Ben-Gvir's daughter in Kiryat Arba on Dec 8, 2022.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir is holding consultations with police brass with a view to tapping a new commissioner.

Current top cop Kobi Shabtai’s term expires in January, and he is not expected to be offered an extension, with the two men having regularly clashed since before the inauguration of Benjamin Netanyahu government.


Among those being considered to succeed Shabtai are Border Police Commander Amir Cohen, Jerusalem District Police Commander Doron Turgeman and Coastal Region Police Commander Yoram Sofer.

The rift between Ben-Gvir and Shabtai seemed to peak in March when the former moved to replace Tel Aviv District Police chief Ami Eshed over disputes on how to deal with anti-judicial reform protests.

At the time, Shabtai said that he had “made a mistake” in approving the removal of Eshed from his post and indicated he mulled resigning but decided to stay.

In an interview, Ben-Gvir suggested that Shabtai was “under several types of pressure. The radical left is pressuring him, and I hope he doesn’t surrender. There is a policy of the Israeli government, and the police commissioner needs to implement the minister’s policy.”

Ben-Gvir and Shabtai are also at odds over the Cabinet’s approval in April of the creation of a National Guard under the auspices of Ben-Gvir.

The exact responsibilities of the force are being determined by a professional committee composed of members of all of Israel’s security agencies, the National Security Council and relevant government ministries. It will deal with national emergencies, including intercommunal violence like that which erupted between Israeli Arabs and Jews in May 2021 war during a military operation against Hamas.

Shabtai sent a letter to Ben-Gvir warning the minister that the National Guard as a separate entity from the police force “could cause heavy damage to the operational capabilities of the internal security systems in the country due to damage to the unity of command and, above all, a lack of clarity regarding the commanding entity that bears overall responsibility in a territorial area.”

In December, the two men engaged in a public argument during a Knesset hearing over the so-called “Ben-Gvir Bill,” which shifted significant powers from the commissioner to the minister who oversees the police.


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