Kan 11 News on Monday night offered a glimpse of the upheaval within the senior echelon of Israel Police, with the leaked content of a stormy argument involving the Head of the Investigations and Intelligence Division Yigal Ben Shalom, and Deputy Police Commissioner David Bitan.
According to individuals who were “exposed to the content of the meeting,” Ben Shalom declared that the government’s judicial reform was “a threat to the justice system,” to which Bitan disagreed. And then, this followed:
Ben Shalom: “The reform is a threat to the judicial system. We must guard the judicial system at all costs and uphold the court system’s policy.”
Bitan: “You got confused. There is a minister, someone elected the minister, and someone elected the government. Their policies must be implemented. I am happy that someone finally came with policies and initiatives and brought money.”
Both officers have served in one capacity or another in the country’s security system all their adult lives. Can it be that one of them is so ignorant on the crucial issue of who should give him his orders? The answer is, of course, that the senior officer’s confusion was borne by aggressive propaganda generated by a rebellious, well-funded, group that has no boundaries regarding the damage it is inflicting on the country.
Yigal Ben Shalom’s former position was as commander of the legendary (some now say infamous) Lahav 433 investigations unit, fighting against national and international major crime, organized crime in Israel, and public corruption. From his unique vantage point, he views elected officials––most notably PM Benjamin Netanyahu who is facing three criminal indictments––as potential suspects, while the courts, relying on his good work, are the knights in shiny armor saving Israeli democracy.
But with all the sometimes angry and brutal bruhaha over the changes in an otherwise defective and anti-democratic justice system, this senior police officer has forgotten who rules and gives the orders––to him, to the IDF Chief of Staff, to the entire security apparatus.
There may be corrupt politicians in Israel, and they must be rooted out, but it’s the lawmakers, and not the courts, who are our elected leaders.
Prime Minister Netanyahu set things straight Monday afternoon, declaring at the start of a meeting of the Likud Knesset faction: “In any proper democracy, the elected government is responsible for the army, the police, for law and order.” He added that “it is enshrined in the law,” and that “it is inconceivable for anyone other than the elected government to be in charge of the fight against Iran and against terrorism.”
He reassured his fellow MKs, and hopefully the Israel Police brass: “The reform of the judicial system will not make Israel undemocratic. A sovereign parliament is the norm in a democracy.”
Meanwhile, a new clash erupted between Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, after the commissioner forbade his senior officers from having any direct contact with the minister, any contact with the minister will be made only through the commissioner’s office. “If the minister contacts you, he should be directed to me,” Shabtai ordered.
This followed several conversations between Ben Gvir with the head of the police traffic department and the chief of the central district on last Thursday’s “day of resistance” when protesters blocked traffic on Ayalon highway. According to reports, the minister scolded the two senior officers for their lackluster approach to these major disruptions.
The commissioner also apologized to Inspector Ami Eshed for the manner in which he had been dismissed last Thursday. Eshed responded: “Apology not accepted.”
Should we say here that Minister Ben Gvir has lost control of the situation? That he is losing every political fight in which he engages, while the job for which we elected him, bring back personal safety, is left untended? So far, it’s been a huge disappointment – and we are on his side.