Gal Hirsch, controversial army figure, enters Knesset race

Gal Hirsch was an IDF commander in the 2006 Lebanon war. Suspicions later of unlawful business dealings prevented his appointment as police chief.  

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Another security figure has thrown his hat into the election campaign, announcing his run in the April Knesset ballot at a news conference on Wednesday.

Brig.-Gen (res.) Gal Hirsch says that socio-economic issues, not just security, are important to him. “What is right for the nation is to be a right-wing nationalist on security but also [to show] concern and compassion because I always think about minorities, the elderly and the status of the other,” he stated.

In 2006, Hirsch was a commander involved in a number of serious battles during the Second Lebanon War.

The 54-year-old Hirsch did not say with which party he would run. He has the support of the Likud’s Gilad Erdan, an influential figure in Netanyahu’s party, who holds several Cabinet-level posts.

“Gal is a courageous, moral and worthy officer who worked his whole life for Israel’s security, and to my dismay, an injustice was done to him that prevented his nomination as police commissioner,” Erdan wrote on Twitter. He said that he asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reserve a spot for Hirsch on the Likud list for the upcoming election instead of requiring him to compete in the Likud primary, which sets the list.

Erdan, public security minister, had chosen Hirsch in 2015 to become police commissioner. But soon after the announcement, media reports emerged that the FBI and Israel Police had been conducting an undercover corruption investigation into defense-related businesses linked to Hirsch.

Erdan withdrew the nomination after the attorney general said that Hirsch could not be appointed until the conclusion of the investigation.

Earlier this year, the prosecution announced that the corruption allegations against Hirsch in one of the probes into his business activities were baseless and that it was closing the case against him. However, investigators continue to look into another issue involving his dealings in Georgia.

At his news conference on Wednesday, Hirsch acknowledged that the file remained open even as he pursues a political career, but he argued that the case was a fabrication.

Hirsch is considered a complex individual.  He left the IDF after the 2006 war, during which his performance came under question. However, he was praised for his service in the 2002 IDF Operation Defensive Shield against terror groups in Judea and Samaria. His critics said that his personality lost him many friends. His supporters counter that he has been the victim of character assassination.

Hirsch’s support does not come only from the Likud. Earlier this year, opposition MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) wrote an op-ed article in the Jerusalem Post titled “Stop the Abuse of Gal Hirsch.”