Ben-Gvir Imposes Appointment on Police Chief, Senior Israel Police Officials Say

Senior police officials say that Israel's Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai was caught by surprise, adding that he did not oppose the appointment but had preferred another officer

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai.Credit: Emil Salman
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Senior police officials said that Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir's first major police appointment of secretary for security matters on Sunday was imposed on the police chief, counter to statements made earlier by the police spokesman, according to which Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai had recommended Brigadier General Kobi Yaacobi for the job.

Yaacobi's role will be to coordinate between the minister and the police, the Prisons Service, and other law enforcement agencies.

A police source said that Ben-Gvir summoned Shabtai on Sunday and informed him of his decision. The source added that Shabtai was caught by surprise, since Yaacobi had just been promoted last May to brigadier general and is now serving as the commander of the Zion Region within the Jerusalem District. He is now expected to be promoted again, to major general.

After their meeting, the police and ministry spokesman issued a statement which said that Ben-Gvir had approved Shabtai’s recommendation. Such joint statements have become common since Ben-Gvir assumed office.

Senior police officials said that Shabtai did not oppose the appointment, but he had preferred another officer. “Ben-Gvir doesn’t take Shabtai into consideration,” said a senior police officer to Haaretz. “The commissioner repeatedly bows his head before the minister, not sticking to his positions or backing other officers.”

This is the first police appointment for Ben-Gvir, who has a large round of appointments ahead of him, including the posts of deputy commissioner, and probably the command posts of the Jerusalem and Southern districts.

The organization is worried that Ben-Gvir will impose these appointments too, in contrast to the current custom whereby the commissioner makes the recommendations. In cases of dispute, the matter goes to the minister. A senior police official said that “Apparently, Ben-Gvir understands that there are extraneous reasons behind the appointments of the commissioner.”

As commander of the Moriah Station in Jerusalem two years ago, Yaacobi commanded the police forces during the protests in front of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence. Some leaders of the protests were sharply critical of him, alleging that he used disproportionate force against them during the demonstrations.

Yaacobi, a well-regarded police officer, has served in the past at the security secretariat under ministers Gilad Erdan and Amir Ohana. In February Shabtai told senior commanders of his decision to promote Yaacobi. The move surprised the commanders, who said that he had not brought the issue up for discussion before making a decision.

In April, Yaacobi confronted Ben-Gvir who was trying to enter Jerusalem’s Old City through Damascus Gate, in contravention of an order by then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Over the past year he was awarded the exemplary conduct medal due to his actions during the evacuation of a hospital near Jerusalem that had caught fire.

In response, the police said that they had refrained from saying that Shabtai had recommended Yaacobi, adding that the commissioner had agreed to the appointment. “Yaacobi is an exemplary officer and his appointment is seemly and was made with the consent of the commissioner. Any other statements are the responsibility of their makers, an ugly attempt to ruin the relations between the commissioner and the minister for national security.”

Ben-Gvir’s office said that “not only does the minister stand behind his words that it was the commissioner who made the recommendation, so does the police spokesman. It seems that this is but one more failed attempt by Haaretz to disseminate a lie and fake news. If you spread such a lie we will have to defend our reputation and file a lawsuit.” They added that the secretary’s job is an appointment based on personal trust, which does not require the commissioner’s approval.

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