Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan yesterday unveiled former Israeli army Brigadier General Gal Hirsch as the country’s new chief of police.
Hirsch is the founder and chair of Defensive-Shield Holdings Ltd, a “provider of strategic, operational and tactical solutions for the defence, security, and homeland security sectors around the world.” But until 2006, Hirsch was a rising star within the Israeli military.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Hirsch had considerable combat experience, including in senior commanding positions. In 1988, for example, he was part of ‘Operation Law and Order’ in Lebanon, when Israeli forces attacked and destroyed Maidun village.
During the height of the Second Intifada, meanwhile, he served as Chief of Operations at the Israeli army’s Central Command, giving Hirsch a senior role in the brutal response to the uprising. This included measures of collective punishment that Hirsch himself claims to have overseen.
“I turned Route 443 into a highway for Israelis only,” [Hirsch] said with satisfaction, emphasising that it was his call. “I blocked all the exits to Palestinians.”
Hirsch is also proud of having “led the planning stages” prior to 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield, when Israeli forces occupied Palestinian urban centres, killing dozens of civilians and causing massive destruction of infrastructure. For Hirsch, the offensive was “both very proportionate and surgical.”
But his army career came to a juddering halt when, as commander of the Galilee Division, he was widely criticised for his actions in the Lebanon War. In December 2006, the then-Chief of Staff Dan Halutz forced him out.
Hirsch returned to the army in 2012, but not before he had been busy elsewhere. As a private contractor, he played an important role in the 2008 Georgia-Russia war as advisor to the Georgian army, giving “various courses in the fields of combat intelligence and fighting in built-up areas.”
A man with such a resume seems an odd choice for the chief of police, and is surely a damning indictment of the quality of the available candidates. Gilad Erdan, at least, clearly believes that the “norms and standards” of the military are what is required to get the police up to scratch.
But what will that entail exactly? In 2014, Hirsch urged the army to embrace “surprising” new rules to deal with asymmetric warfare. More recently, he justified the killing of 17-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Kasbeh by an Israeli colonel.
Kasbeh was shot from behind as he fled, after throwing a stone at occupation forces. For Hirsch, he was a “terrorist”, and, he added, “terrorists must be shot.” Israel’s police, already known for brutality and political repression, are now under Hirsch’s command.
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