Police chief candidate backs tough approach toward ‘thuggery’ of overhaul protesters

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Yoram Sofer, a candidate to be the next Israel Police commissioner, indicated in an interview on Sunday that if selected, he would adopt far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s tough approach toward protesters against the government’s judicial overhaul.

“With me, they won’t shut down roads. They did, but I dealt with it forcefully,” the Coastal Region Police Commander said in an interview with Channel 12 news that was slated to be aired in full on Monday night.

Asked why he felt a need to react forcefully, as he did recently when anti-overhaul protesters blocked roads near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Caesarea, Sofer responded: “Because thuggery is thuggery.”

“Whoever attacks officers is attacking the State of Israel, not me personally. Whoever spits on officers is spitting on the State of Israel and therefore if we need to arrest them, we’ll arrest them. If we need to disperse them, we’ll disperse them,” he said.

“Why do you need to allow eight months of the same harm to the public?” Sofer added, referring to demonstrations against the judicial overhaul, which have been held every week for the past six months.

The officer was also asked whether he would be able to say “no” to Ben Gvir if he gets the post.

“What do you mean? Why do you need to say ‘no?’ You need to understand the minister’s view more or less. Up until now, I’ve never seen a minister tell me once [to] ‘do something,’” he said.

Sofer has come to public attention due to police conduct at protests outside Netanyahu’s residence in Caesarea. At a protest there earlier this month, 17 demonstrators were arrested and others were injured.

A photo circulated by police on June 2, 2023, shows officers at an anti-government protest outside the private home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Caesarea. (Israel Police)

Earlier Sunday, the High Court of Justice issued an interim injunction against a controversial law granting National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir increased powers over the police.

On Thursday, Hebrew media reported that Ben Gvir had decided not to extend the term of Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai by an extra year, as is common.

The decision, leaked to the media,and not formally announced or conveyed to Shabtai, sparked an outcry, coming with the police chief overseas attending a family medical emergency.

Earlier in the week, it was reported that Ben Gvir had been holding a series of meetings with top police commanders, sounding them out as he seeks a new commissioner.

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