Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has issued a serious warning against the government’s proposal to form a national guard that reports directly to the Ministry of National Security, warning that the separation of the new force from the police will seriously harm public security and create chaos in law enforcement.
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara also sounded the alarm on Sunday, telling the government that there is a “legal obstacle” to the current version of the proposal and that the police can deal with the challenges they face without having a competing body. need them.
It was decided that the cabinet will decide on Sunday the fate of the proposal, which will include 2,000 service members who will report directly to far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, and will be tasked with combating “nationalist crime”. and terrorism, and “reform. governance where necessary.” A timeline for creating such a force is unclear, although it is likely to take months.
A chorus of former senior police commanders have warned against the plan, including former police chief Moshe Karadi who said Ben Gvir could use it to launch a “coup”. Similarly, civil rights groups and opposition politicians have expressed serious concerns about the proposal to bring such a force under the direct control of a government minister, arguing that it could politicize policing and undermine the principle of equality in law enforcement.
In a five-page letter written by Shabtai last week and published in the media on Sunday, the police chief detailed his objection to the “unnecessary” initiative, warning of “disastrous consequences”.
Writing to Ben Gvir, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu among those copied on the letter, Shabtai said “the interest of the guard is not clear and could even cause serious operational disasters.”
He said there was no reason to establish a new body with powers and areas of authority similar to the Israel Police, adding that no concrete benefits have been outlined although the move could have “very heavy costs that could harm make the personality of the citizen. security.”
Warning that the new situation would lead to a lack of clarity regarding the sharing of authority between the companies, Shabtai said that the step “is just a waste of resources, doubling the number of headquarters, and betting on a model that has not been implemented. created and is of no use.”
Shabtai asked to attend the cabinet meeting to present his view that the move would “critically harm” the police, but reports said he was nevertheless not invited to Sunday’s discussion.
The cabinet meeting, however, heard the opinion of the attorney general, according to a draft of the proposal that was to be submitted for a cabinet vote later on Sunday.
Baharav-Miara’s office informed the ministers that it was her opinion that “so far, there is a legal obstacle to moving the current draft forward,” according to Hebrew media. She also said that the police must and can deal with security problems without the need for an additional body.
Ben Gvir’s office dismissed Shabtai’s letter on Sunday in a statement.
“There are senior officers in the police who do not want a national guard because of ego wars,” the statement said. “The minister gave the police three months to present serious plans [for a national guard under the police] but really, there is no progress.”
Ben Gvir claimed that the “police bureaucracy” was holding back the plan and that separating the new force from the police was his way of speeding up the transition.
“If the police present a serious plan, we will consider in good faith the option of doing so through the police. If not, the guard will work under the Ministry of National Security,” the office said.
The Haaretz news site reported on Sunday, citing unnamed security officials, that the head of the Shin Bet internal security service, Ronen Bar, has also opposed in closed meetings the formation of the national guard.
The cabinet on Sunday also decided to approve across-the-board cuts to the ministry’s budget to fund the new national guard. The 1.5 percent cut to the budgets of all ministries – giving Ben Gvir’s ministry about NIS 1 billion ($278 million) – angered some ministers, and Welfare Minister Yaakov Margi even said he would vote against it .
The reduced budget “will force us to cut activities to rehabilitate and save high-need populations and professional bodies,” Margi said. “We need to strengthen social security and not harm it. The government must do it so that the welfare budget is never harmed.”
One of the candidates who is in charge of the national guard, according to Haaretz, is Col. Recently retired Avinoam Emunah, who was filmed last year telling soldiers before an operation near the Gaza Strip: “Most of the time you will see them fleeing, kill them as they flee.”
Ben Gvir has repeatedly been directly involved in the policing of the massive demonstrations against the government’s judicial reform program, including telling the police which highways to ensure are left open during the protests, methods discuss crowd dispersal, and visit police command centres. performances were taking place.
Channel 12 reported on Saturday that within the ranks of the police, the plans for a national guard are seen as a “disaster.”
The national guard unit established by the previous government in 2022 is currently under the authority of the Israel Police and consists of only a few hundred personnel mostly derived from the Border Police, which is itself a gendarmerie force.
The proposal says the new national guard force will consist of “dedicated, regular forces and tactical brigades” spread across the country.
The draft resolution was published days after Netanyahu promised to give it a vote on Sunday in Ben Gvir’s ire to agree to the suspension of the Main Legislature for a judicial shakeup after mass protests, strikes, and riots against the plan. The government is currently in talks with the opposition to try to reach a negotiated compromise on the matter.