Kobi Shabtai says he will not let politics interfere with the police

Police chief Kobi Shabtai sent a letter to law enforcement agencies on Friday, assuring them that politics will not be allowed to affect the force’s operations, as the new government prepares to pass a law that would extend the powers of far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir. police as the next Minister of National Security.

“Political winds will not penetrate the Israeli police as they have so far,” Shabtai wrote. “We will stand guard to ensure that the Israeli police continue to be strong and their independence is not compromised,” he said.

“This is our duty as a police officer. This is my duty as the commissioner of the Israel Police, and I intend to fulfill it. »

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However, the letter was sent a few hours after Shabtai attended the event bat mitzvah Some critics are hopeful the next coalition will pass, criticizing it as yet another attempt by the police chief of one of Ben Gvir’s daughters in Kiryat Arba to get closer to a lawmaker who could be his boss in the next government.

According to a copy of the motion published on Thursday, the bill introduced by Ben Gvir could profoundly change the relationship between police and politics, giving the minister responsible for policing more powers than ever before.

Ben Gvir is a candidate for the position of Minister of National Security in the future government, ministry ad hocmore powerful than the previous Secretary of Homeland Security, with full authority over the police and border police in the West Bank, currently held by the military.

Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir, left, and police chief Kobi Shabtai during the bat mitzvah of Ben Gvir’s daughter in the West Bank town of Kiryat Arba on December 8, 2022. (Credit: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

The Bill provides that the Minister will set general police policy to the detriment of the Chief Constable, who is entrusted with the role of administrator responsible for the implementation of that policy.

Currently, it is the chief of police who determines the general policy of his units in consultation with the minister. The changes proposed by the new text will have the effect of giving severally convicted far-right activist Ben Gwir power over the police services, with which he has long had a (very) stormy relationship.

They will also give the Minister broad powers to decide which matters merit investigation and/or stronger enforcement action.

This text provides that the minister cannot impose the opening or closing of certain investigations, for example, investigations into politicians suspected of wrongdoing, but will make policy in terms of investigations.

Upon learning of the draft law, Shabtai told his relatives that he would not become “anyone’s puppet” and would not allow the independence of the police to be encroached upon. The officers said that due to the objections of Ben Gvir, who asked the commissioner to wait until he started his post as a minister. Ha’aretz.

But Shabtai decided to participate bat mitzvah One of Ben Gvir’s daughters has exposed him to criticism within the police, from officers who argue he should not be allowed such honors to a lawmaker who is not yet a minister, especially when the MP in question is determined to tip the balance. said that the police have power Ha’aretz.

Far-right agitator Ben Gvir was often accused of inciting violence by visiting certain areas of East Jerusalem, particularly by police chief Kobi Shabtai.

Itamar Ben Gvir, Otzma Yehudit MP, at the scene of the explosion in Jerusalem on November 23, 2022. (Yonathan Sindel/Flash90)

Ben Gvir, a disciple of the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, long displayed a photo of the author of the 1994 Tomb of the Patriarchs massacre in his home before abandoning it as he crossed the national political landscape.

In 2007, he was convicted of supporting a terrorist organization and inciting racism, although he claims to have moderated considerably in recent years.

News of the bill sparked protests, and on Friday Ben Gvir urged his political opponents to moderate their opposition, saying they risked igniting an “intifada,” or Palestinian uprising.

“I call on the resigned Prime Minister Yair Lapid and ministers Benny Gantz and Omer Barlev to stop stirring up nerves. God forbid, you may cause an intifada. »

“It’s good that there are criticisms. “I am one of those who think that the minister is the one who determines the policy in a democracy,” he said, urging them to resolve their differences “politely”.

Lapid’s Yesh Atid party reacted angrily to his comments.

“A convicted felon, terrorist supporter and Shin Bet target who has never served a day in the IDF cannot teach us national responsibility. The appointment of Ben Gvir as the Minister of National Security is the surest way to ensure the third intifada and international catastrophe,” the party’s statement said.

The new Likud-led coalition, which will include two other far-right factions and two ultra-Orthodox parties along with Otzma Yehudit, is expected to press ahead with the new government to quickly pass a bill giving Ben Gvir broad powers over the police. he swears.

On Thursday, Netanyahu asked for a two-week extension of his mandate to form a government, which normally expires on December 11.

Likud will use this delay, which President Isaac Herzog may grant, to pass the bill and a number of other texts necessary to fulfill the coalition’s commitments.

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